players

Great Partnerships: Osgood and Hutchinson – short-lived but sensational

CHELSEA fans will never forget Peter Osgood and Ian Hutchinson, they were, after all, two of the key figures in the club’s unforgettable 1969-70 FA Cup triumph.

These two players helped define an era, a swaggering Chelsea team that was fashionable, exciting, hard as nails at times and confident to the point of arrogance. But it is not always appreciated that their time together – their partnership – was very limited and was disrupted by injuries, suspensions, internal strife and, ultimately, by the break-up of Chelsea’s early-1970s team.

In short, the symbiotic relationship between the players was confined to that one season, 1969-70, a campaign that saw them score 53 goals between them. They would never go remotely near that total again as a partnership, largely because “Hutch” sadly, endured years of sidelining injuries.

Manchester United’s Nobby Stiles is helpless as Ian Hutchinson scores with a diving “header”. Photo: PA

Osgood was an established Chelsea player when Hutchinson arrived at the club from Cambridge United in July 1968. But “Ossie” was struggling to regain his “chutzpah” after the broken leg sustained in October 1966 against Blackpool in the Football League Cup. He was in excellent form at the start of 1966-67, but when he returned from his injury, he was heavier and seemed to lack something. In 1968-69, Chelsea manager Dave Sexton experimented by playing Osgood in midfield and although he still managed to score 13 goals, there was a sense that the club’s star man was not the same player. “Osgood was good, now he’s no good,” was the song often heard from opposition fans.

Hutchinson, who arrived at Stamford Bridge as a raw, gangling youngster, was blooded by Sexton in October 1968 in a Football League Cup tie at Derby. Chelsea were well beaten that night by Brian Clough’s emerging team and Hutchinson got little chance to shine. As the 1968-69 season began its home run, Hutchinson was introduced to regular first team action, scoring his first goal at West Bromwich Albion on March 1 as Chelsea won 3-0. He scored six goals in 11 games to stake a claim to lead the forward line. At that time, it seemed likely he would partner Alan Birchenall or Tommy Baldwin rather than Osgood, who was playing in an unfamiliar number six shirt. And of course, there was Bobby Tambling to consider.

Photo: PA

When Chelsea kicked-off the 1969-70 season, Hutchinson was in the side, but Osgood was still being employed deeper, wearing the number four shirt. In fact, after Chelsea lost their first two games, Osgood was relegated to the substitute’s bench. He returned to the team and scored twice at Southampton in a 2-2 draw – but if Hutchinson, who had broken his nose against West Ham a couple of days earlier, had been fit, “Ossie” might not have started.

It was not until November 8 that the familiar Osgood and Hutchinson – shirts 9 and 10 – really lined-up, a 3-1 win at Sheffield Wednesday. On a foul afternoon at Hillsborough, “Hutch” scored twice and Osgood once. The partnership was launched.

A couple of games later, Chelsea won emphatically at Ipswich Town, with Hutchinson and Osgood (2) on the scoresheet in a 4-1 victory. “Osgood for England,” was the chant as Sir Alf Ramsey watched from the stand. Another away win, at Manchester United, saw Hutchinson score both goals in a 2-0 success and suddenly, people were talking about the former non-league striker as a candidate for international honours.

What was so special about the 21 year-old? He was good in the air, brave, awkward to deal with on the ground and he had a long throw-in that added an extra dimension to Chelsea’s attack. He could also look after himself, and to some extent he was the catalyst for Osgood to find his mojo again.

Osgood was the main focus in terms of making the World Cup squad, but he had still to win his first England cap. When he scored four against Crystal Palace on December 27, his claim for recognition from Ramsey grew.

As Chelsea continued their impressive form, Osgood won his first cap, on February 25, 1970 against Belgium in Brussels, just four days after scoring a hat-trick against Queens Park Rangers to send Chelsea into the last four of the FA Cup.

There had been an air of destiny about Chelsea’s FA Cup run and both Osgood and Hutchinson were key figures as the Blues scored 21 goals on the way to Wembley.

Hutchinson scored Chelsea’s 86th minute equaliser in the first meeting with Leeds, boldly flinging himself at a free-kick and heading past Gary Sprake. In the replay, he was deeply involved in the combat as both teams fought aggressively for control.

Osgood, who had scored in every previous round of the competition, headed Chelsea level at Old Trafford and then in extra time, a “Hutchinson hurl” created the winning goal for David Webb. It is fair to say that without the goals of Osgood and Hutchinson (13 in total), Chelsea would not have won the FA Cup in 1970.

The 1970-71 season started slowly for “Ossie”, possibly a hangover from Mexico 1970. Chelsea had added Keith Weller to an already decent squad and the new man got off to a respectable start at Stamford Bridge. Hutchinson gave Chelsea an opening day win against Derby with two headed goals and also netted the club’s first in the European Cup-Winners’ Cup. He was also capped at England under-23 level. But problems were around the corner. Hutchinson injured his knee at Southampton in February in a 0-0 draw and in effect, this signalled the end of his career. It was certainly the end of his 1970-71 season.

To make matters worse, Osgood was serving a long suspension that forced him to miss 10 games. He returned for the second leg of the Cup-Winners’ Cup quarter-final, a legendary 4-0 win, but there was no Hutchinson to play alongside. Chelsea won the competition in Greece, beating Real Madrid and there were hopes that Hutchinson would be fit for the following campaign.

Osgood had another lack lustre start to 1971-72 and found himself on the transfer list after the first two games, both of which were lost. On the night Chelsea lost their opening home game, against Manchester United, Hutchinson suffered a major blow to his recovery when he broke his shin in two places in a reserve game at Swindon.

Osgood scored prolifically in 1971-72 and there was never any chance he was going to leave the club at this point. Chelsea were close to adding a third successive trophy but lost to Stoke in the Football League Cup final. It was not until December 1972 that “Hutch” returned to action, scoring twice in his comeback match against Norwich City. He had been out for 21 months.

Photo: PA

But in that period, Chelsea had declined and relationships within the camp were strained. In 1973-74, it all came to a head, resulting in the infamous “Osgood and Hudson affair”. By the end of the season, Chelsea had lost their star assets and the team looked a shadow of its former self. A lot depended on players like Hutchinson, but the injuries had taken their toll.

With Chelsea’s relegation and emphasis on youth, “Hutch” became one of the more experienced players in the camp for 1975-76, but on January 31, 1976, he played his last competitive game for the club. It was against West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge and “Hutch” had a goal ruled out with five minutes remaining. Chelsea lost 2-1 and within days, they had lost their brave, determined forward, who succumbed to a lengthy injury list. Less than six years after winning the FA Cup, Chelsea were immersed in second division mediocrity and Osgood and Hutchinson were gone.

Anyone who saw this partnership in its prime will know that Osgood and Hutchinson were a formidable force and if they had stayed together longer, Chelsea may have been more successful in the early 1970s. But their time was all too brief – Hutchinson died in 2002 aged 54 and Osgood passed away in 2006 at the age of 59. They really were brothers in arms.

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