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.

Losers can be heroes, too

HOW often do you hear today, that somebody declares they deserve success because they want it so badly? Wanting something doesn’t mean you deserve to be rewarded, “want” is often a symptom of greed, of entitlement and more than a touch of arrogance. Success has to be earned and the problem for the aggressively-driven folk in society, they are up against similarly-minded people that also feel they “deserve” accolades because they crave the recognition. In a world where instant gratification, impatience and the need to win attention seems to dominate so many people’s lives, life has become a competition. It may have always been like that, but now we have the means to command and control that attention.

The Great Uncrowned can be bought here

Football is such a game of narrow margins that success balances on a tightrope. I always recall somebody, when referring to a club stalwart of an under-achieving club as a “born winner”. My response was, “how can he be, he’s played for this single club all his career and won nothing of significance. Don’t you mean, he wants to be a winner?”. Everyone in football wants to be a winner, from the humblest club to the behemoth that needs to win something every single season. It cannot be done, because one goal can change a match, a final, a season, a career. Simple fact: not everyone can be a winner, even if by making cup competitions more and more like leagues (a la Champions League) removes some of the uncertainty.

In recent times, we have seen two incredibly talented teams, Manchester City and Liverpool, slug it out at the top of the Premier League, thrashing minnows, winning game after game. It is Liverpool’s misfortune that City are that little bit better, hence denying them what would normally be a period of dominance. Although Liverpool haven’t won the Premier League more than once, their current team will be remembered forever as Champions League winners, but also as the team that ran City close.

It is getting harder and harder for “nearly men” to get the plaudits they deserve because the focus is on winning those prizes we deserve because we want them so much. This intense belief that only the word “success” will do extends beyond sport, where ludicrous expressions like “deferred success” are used to pacify and appease those that cannot reach the level they need. In corporate life, so often the real issues are kicked down the road because people just don’t want to tell someone they are not up to the task, they are underperforming or simply the wrong person for the job.

Somewhere we have lost the ability to see near-success as anything other than failure, the team that reached the final but ran out of steam or the over-performing side that just wasn’t good enough. Does losing the league title by one point or goal difference make the team that came top so much better? It’s true that league tables rarely lie, but they can also illustrate there is more than one very decent team.

Knockout competitions and World Cups are different, even if by making cup competitions more and more like leagues (a la Champions League) removes some of the uncertainty.

While leagues invariably deliver silverware to the best teams, cup competitions are exposed to the luck of the draw, the misfortune of the goalkeeper with oily gloves or the defender who slips up at a vital moment. A game of 90 minutes can change history – how would football have developed, for example, if teams like Austria 1934, Hungary 1954, Netherlands 1974 and 1978 and Brazil 1982 had triumphed instead of losing in heartbreaking fashion? The world wept with these losing sides, for they epitomised the beautiful game.

At Queens Park Rangers and Ipswich Town, clubs that have never had bulging trophy cabinets, their most revered teams are those that didn’t win the prize they coveted. Rightly so, for these teams played wonderful football that excited neutrals up and down the country.

Do we focus too much on winning and allow just a tiny fraction of teams onto the podium? Consider that there are 92 Premier/Football League clubs, a huge number. How many of these can be successful in any given season, and by that we mean, trophies and promotion?

If you count qualifying for Europe as a prize, and it should be, then 18 clubs of the 92 (20%) can look upon the 2021-22 season as a year of success. Others will consider staying in a division due to their circumstances as an achievement. Do we need more “winners” or does creating a community where, to quote the 1970s band Hot Chocolate, “everyone’s a winner, baby”, merely dilutes the essence of success?

The Great Uncrowned (ISBN: 9781801501774), published by Pitch Publishing, is the story of some of these footballing bridesmaids. It’s not meant to be definitive, although readers will recognise some of the very fine sides featured, but it is most definitely meant to be a tribute to the players and teams that should have been more decorated. To buy the book, click here