Denmark: The big guns are troubled but the horses from Randers are happy

THERE’S a new name at the top of Danish football at the moment in the form of Randers FC from East Jutland, a club that has never before been champions of Denmark. Randers assumed the license of the old Randers Freja club that won the Danish Cup three times and reached the last eight of the European Cup-Winners’ Cup in 1968-69. Formed in 2003, Randers once had former England defender Colin Todd as their chief coach.

Randers are leading the Superliga and are unbeaten in their first 10 games. They’re from a town of around 60,000 people, so crowds of 5,500 represent a reasonable percentage of the local population. In a season where two of the modern heavyweights of the Danish game, FC Copenhagen and Midtjylland, have got off to less than perfect starts, Randers have taken advantage to head the table. Whether they can remain in front is a matter of great debate, but they have a side that is difficult to beat with a strong defence and an outstanding goalkeeper in Patrik Carlgren, a 30 year-old Swede. Randers also have some promising players who are enjoying themselves at the moment, notably the Norwegian midfielder Lasse Berg Johnson, who has been in fine form.

FC Copenhagen have been a major disappointment this season and have lost six of their 10 league games. They qualified for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League and have a tough fixture list that includes Borussia Dortmund, Sevilla and Manchester City. They were beaten 3-0 in Dortmund and were held 0-0 by Sevilla in the Danish capital. But a series of defeats cost coach Jess Thorup his job.

The 52 year-old was a popular figure, but the team he left behind lost more Superliga games in the opening weeks than they suffered in the whole of 2021-22. They were also beaten at home 3-1 by Randers, a game that underlined that the balance of power was shifting in Denmark. FC Copenhagen, despite discarding their man, were full of praise for Thorup: “We must offer a big thank you to Jess for his exemplary work, not least in connection with the major transformation that FCK has gone through over the past few years. With Jess the club has succeeded in winning a Danish championship and securing the first qualification for the UEFA Champions League group stage since 2016.” Jacob Neestrup, the club’s assistant coach has taken over from Thorup.

Equally, FC Midtjylland have not been at their absolute best and are languishing in seventh place. They are currently playing in the Europa League and recently thrashed Lazio 5-1 in Denmark. But in the Superliga, their form has been patchy although they beat FC Copenhagen 2-1 in a game that proved to be Thorup’s last in charge of the reigning champions.

Brøndby, who have struggled to keep pace with the financial power of FCK and Midtjylland, look like they are on the verge of being taken over. The club, which is listed on the stock market, saw its share price rise on rumours that US businessman David Blitzer, who has investments in other clubs such as Crystal Palace, Augsburg and ADO Den Haag, was looking to buy a major stake in the 11-times champions. Some fans are not happy about the prospect, as Blitzer is a senior executive at private equity firm Blackstone. He’s also been trying to buy a stake in France’s Saint-Étienne. The fan group Alpha believes that Blitzer, effectively a multi-club owner, would not be compatible with Brøndby.

However, there are some football followers who believe Brøndby actually need fresh investment and that in acquiring some of chairman Jan Bech Andersen’s 54.6% holding, Blitzer can move the club up a gear to become more competitive. At present, the club relies on selling talent into the market to generate income and lacks the muscle of some of its rivals. They recently changed their approach of only signing talent under the age of 27 and bought 33 year-old Daniel Wass from Atlético Madrid as well as other more mature players. Brøndby won the Superliga in 2021, but it was their first title since 2005.

Alpha have written to Andersen to urge him not to sell to Blitzer: “Brøndby IF must be owned, run and loved by people who respect the club’s DNA and have Brøndby IF as their first and only priority.” After the international break, the Superliga programme resumes, by which time, Brøndby’s future may be clearer.

Peter Osgood: 20 defining matches

PETER OSGOOD remains the king of Stamford Bridge. No matter how many big names come and go at Chelsea, “Ossie” is still considered to be the club’s greatest icon. He epitomised an era and was the talisman for a period in which the club’s first FA Cup was won, followed by the European Cup-Winners’ Cup.

When Osgood left in 1974, the heart of Chelsea was ripped out and a wonderful, ultimately underachieving team continued to fall apart. Osgood’s premature death in 2006 shocked many Blues fans who remembered the skill, the elegance and the chutzpah of one of their greatest heroes.

Today, his statue looks over the thousands of supporters who flock to each game and those that remember Osgood touch the feet of their hero. Osgood played 380 times for Chelsea and scored 150 goals. Selecting 20 games that reflect the contribution he made is a very difficult task.

1: December 16 1964 – Football League Cup – Chelsea 2 (Osgood 2) Workington Town 0
Less than 8,000 people saw 17 year-old Osgood make his first team debut for Chelsea against Workington in the last eight of the League Cup. His netted both goals in this replay, the first coming in the 82nd minute. Ossie had already netted around 30 goals in 1964-65 in youth and reserve team football.

2: January 22 1966 – FA Cup – Liverpool 1 (Hunt) Chelsea 2 (Osgood, Tambling)
Chelsea stunned the FA Cup holders at Anfield, coming from a goal down to win 2-1 in the third round. Hunt gave Liverpool a first minute lead, but six minutes later, Osgood headed home after Barry Bridges and George Graham had combined to send the ball into the area. Osgood played in a deep-lying centre forward role which caused Liverpool countless problems and was compared to the great David Jack by BBC TV’s commentator.

3: January 29 1966 – League – Burnley 1 (Angus) Chelsea 2 (Osgood 2)
Ahead of this game, AS Roma had suggested in the media that they would make a bid for Osgood and Blackpool’s Alan Ball. It came to nothing, but highlighted the impact Ossie was having. At Turf Moor, he scored twice, but it was the winner after 54 minutes that made headlines, a run from the halfway line that saw him beat three defenders before shooting past goalkeeper Adam Blacklaw.

4: October 5 1966 – Football League Cup – Blackpool 1 (Robson) Chelsea 1 (Houseman)
Until this game, Osgood looked destined to be capped by England before the end of the 1966-67 season. He had started the season in great form but then on a chilly night at Bloomfield Road, Emlyn Hughes tackled the 19 year-old and his right leg was broken. Ossie signalled for a stretcher, knowing that something bad had happened. “It was no-one’s fault. We were both going for the ball. He got it first and his boot was blocking the ball as I connected,” said Osgood the next day.

5: November 1 1967 – England under-23 – Wales 1 (Thomas) Chelsea 2 (Osgood, Rogers)
Osgood took time to regain his confidence after his broken leg but he finally got his first under-23 cap against Wales at Swansea. He scored, too, latching onto a John Hollins free kick and shooting left-footed into the top corner of the net, giving goalkeeper Mike Walker no chance. Don Rogers got the other goal.

6: December 21 1968 – League – Leicester City 1 (Stringfellow) Chelsea 4 (Osgood 2, Birchenall, Tambling)
In 1968-69, Dave Sexton shifted Osgood into midfield. There were some that believed the broken leg had robbed him of something, but there was no denying his skill. Wearing the unfamiliar number 4 shirt, he showed he had not lost any of his underlying talent, although this was not the Osgood everyone clamoured. His two goals at Leicester suggested he was on the way back to being at his best.

7: November 18 1969 – League – Ipswich Town 1 (Viljoen)  Chelsea 4 (Hutchinson, Osgood 2, Hollins)
Sir Alf Ramsey watched this game at his local club with Osgood one of the players he was checking out. Ossie had confessed in the press that he was desperate to play for England. He netted twice as Chelsea, who were moving into fine form after a slow start to 1969-70, tore Ipswich apart. Meanwhile, the crowd continued to chant “Ossie for England”, a movement that was gathering momentum by the week. Furthermore, Dave Sexton had stumbled across an ideal partner for Osgood in Ian Hutchinson, a short-lived but quite spectacular front-line pairing.

8: December 27 1969 – League – Crystal Palace 1 (Queen) Chelsea 5 (Osgood 4, Hutchinson)
Chelsea and Osgood were in a rich vein of form with Ossie having his most prolific spell as a goalscorer and the team now being considered title contenders. “Chelsea are now a real threat,” said Leeds United’s assistant manager. At Selhurst Park, Osgood ran riot against the Palace defence in the second half after the home team had taken a 17th minute lead. Ossie felt sorry for the Palace team: “By the time the fourth goal went in, I was feeling a bit embarrassed,” he admitted.

9: January 31 1970 – League – Chelsea 3 (Osgood 3) Sunderland 1 (Baker)
Chelsea had been put in their place three weeks earlier when Leeds won 5-2 at Stamford Bridge, although as a team they hadn’t played too badly. They had bounced back well, winning through to the fifth round of the FA Cup and they comfortably disposed of relegation-bound Sunderland. Osgood’s hat-trick helped cement his place in the England squad for the forthcoming game with Belgium. One report said Osgood has been as “swift as a cobra” as he snapped-up a chance.

10: February 25 1970 – International – Belgium 1 (Dockx) England 3 (Ball, Peters 2)
Osgood made his England debut in Brussels against a decent Belgium side that had qualified for the World Cup in Mexico. He was involved in England’s first goal, scored by Alan Ball, and Sir Alf Ramsey was delighted with his overall performance: “Osgood had a great first match for England,” he said. The media noted that Osgood showed an “impressive calm” throughout the 90 minutes.

11: April 29 1970 – FA Cup final replay – Chelsea 2 (Osgood, Webb) Leeds United 1 (Jones)
Although Peter Osgood’s 78th minute diving header from Charlie Cooke’s ball into the area is now part of Chelsea folklore, it shouldn’t be overlooked the part he paid in a very combative contest. Osgood had scored in every round up to the final but wasn’t on the scoresheet at Wembley in the 2-2 classic. At Old Trafford, a bruising battle if ever there was one, he became one of the few players to have found the back of the net in every round. In total, he scored eight goals in the competition, including a hat-trick at Loftus Road as Chelsea beat QPR 4-2 in round six.

12: March 24 1971 – ECWC – Chelsea 4 (Osgood 2, Baldwin, Houseman) Bruges 0
Osgood had a habit of getting booked in the late 60s and early 70s, often for dissent. By modern standards, this wasn’t excessive, but the FA disciplinary committee made an example of him and banned him for what amounted to 10 games. By the time he returned, Chelsea’s season had run out of steam and they were on the brink of elimination in the European Cup-Winners’ Cup after losing 2-0 in the first leg of the quarter-final to Bruges. Osgood was thrown into the second leg and scored twice in an incredible night at Stamford Bridge. It is a game that those who were present have never forgotten. The tie went to extra time and Chelsea added two goals to win 4-0 and go through to meet Manchester City in the semi-finals.

13: May 21 1971 – ECWC Final – Chelsea 2 (Dempsey, Osgood) Real Madrid 1
Osgood was nothing if not a man for the big occasion and in the two games in the Cup-Winners’ Cup final in Athens, he was the man Real Madrid feared. But Ossie had only played four games in four months and was far from full fit. The first game saw Chelsea denied in the final seconds after Osgood has given them the lead after 56 minutes, but in the replay, they went into a 2-0 lead, with Osgood adding to John Dempsey’s opener. Real pulled one back but Chelsea hung on to win the cup.

14: September 29 1971 – ECWC – Chelsea 13 (Osgood 5, Baldwin 3, Hollins, Webb, Houseman, Harris, Hudson) Jeunesse Hautcharage  0
Chelsea won the first leg of this first round tie 5-0 with Ossie scoring a hat-trick against the Luxembourg cup winners. He claimed he would break the individual scoring record over two legs, which stood at the eight netted by Jose Altafini of AC Milan. Against a team of butchers, bakers and candlestick makers, Chelsea won 13-0 to beat all aggregate records in European football. Ossie  scored five times, equalling Altafini’s haul.

15: March 4 1972 – Football League Cup final – Chelsea 1 (Osgood) Stoke City 2 (Conroy, Eastham)
Chelsea had been in excellent form leading up to the League Cup final at Wembley. But a week before, they had thrown away a 2-0 lead in the FA Cup at Orient and found themselves victims of a giant-killing. In the final, they fell behind to an early goal, dominated thereafter and equalised through Osgood, who scored his only Wembley goal laying on the lush turf. Stoke won 2-1 but Chelsea were left kicking themselves that they did not win their third trophy in a row. It was arguably the beginning of the end of the club’s most charismatic team.

16: October 9 1972 – Football League Cup – Chelsea 3 (Kember, Webb, Osgood) Derby County 2 (Hinton, McGovern)
In front of Sir Alf Ramsey again, Osgood scored a brilliant volleyed goal to clinch victory in what was a riveting cup tie. There had been calls for Ossie to be included in the England squad once more but when he scored, he ran to the stand and blew kisses in the direction of Ramsey. It is doubtful whether this impressed the reserved England manager. In 1972-73, Osgood played some of his best football for Chelsea, but it would be his last full season for the club.

17: November 10 1973 – League – Chelsea 3 (Baldwin, Osgood 2) Everton 1 (Kenyon)
Again, in 1973-74, the media pressured Sir Alf Ramsey to call on Osgood for the England squad. On November 10, he scored twice to secure his 100th and 101st goals for Chelsea and his performance in the autumn of 1973 certainly suggested that the mature Ossie was worth another stab at an England cap. At the end of the game, he received a personal ovation from the Stamford Bridge crowd.

18: November 14 1973 – International – England 0 Italy 1 (Capello)
Just a month after England were knockout of the World Cup by Poland, England recalled Peter Osgood to lead the line against Italy. It proved to be his last appearance for his country. It was also Bobby Moore’s last cap for England. Italy’s coach, Franco Valcareggi, was quite critical of England, claiming that the only player with any flair was Peter Osgood.

19: May 1 1976 – FA Cup final – Southampton 1 (Stokes) Manchester United 0
In 1974, after a dispute with Chelsea manager Dave Sexton, Ossie was transferred to Southampton for £ 275,000. It was a surprise destination as a number of bigger clubs had shown an interest in him. He always claimed that he was sold on the move because of Lawrie McMenemy and he also linked up well with Mick Channon. However, they were relegated that season and spent four years in the second division. In 1976, the Saints were surprise FA Cup winners and Ossie picked up his second cup winners’ medal.

20: December 18 1978 – Middlesbrough 7 (Burns 4, Proctor, Armstong, Cochrane) Chelsea 2 (Osgood, Bumstead)
With Chelsea struggling for their first division lives, they re-signed Osgood after he had endured an injury-stricken period in the US. While the crowd were overjoyed at their hero’s return, he was not the same player and he was unable to perform a miracle. In his first game, he headed Chelsea in front at Middlesbrough, but by the final whistle, the extent of the club’s problems was made very clear to Osgood as the Blues crashed 7-2 He left the club in September 1979 as they acclimatised to the first of five second division campaigns.