Us modern Chelsea fans have been blessed with an array of talent since the turn of the twenty first century. Roman’s arrival was the dawn of a Chelsea that bred a calibre of player unlike anything seen before. When asked who Chelsea’s greatest legends are, I and many others struggle to look further than the Frank Lampard’s, the John Terry’s and the Didier Drogba’s of the world; and with valid reason. However, it is possible that we are forgetting about a special player, one whom my Father was lucky enough to watch week in, week out when he was my age. The King of Stamford Bridge – a player that possessed such prowess and personality on and off the pitch during his time in blue, enough so to be recognised with his very own statue outside Stamford Bridge (although my Father tells me it is a failure in capturing a moment of sheer brilliance of which there were many to choose from). O is for Peter Osgood.
Osgood’s Chelsea career began in 1964. His Uncle had written to the club waxing lyrical about the seventeen year old’s unquestionable talent and ensured that a trial was to be had in the early months of the year for the there can belues. Needless to say it was not a difficult decision; Ossie impressed, even dazzled the Chelsea staff with his skill and style. He had an incredibly unique combination of pace and power, but also an outrageous ability on the ball – a complete forward, and this was at just 17.
30 goals in 20 Chelsea Reserve Team games led to his first team debut in December 1964, a 2-0 win over Workington AFC in the League Cup, both goals surprisingly scored by the boy wonder. He kicked on from there and established himself as a first team regular in no time. Moments of magic naturally followed Ossie wherever he went, including a 60-yard run from the edge of his own box, beating 6 or 7 men in the process and smashing home against Burnley in 1966.
Whispers began emerging about the inclusion of Osgood in the 1966 World Cup squad. Such assured performances during the 1965/66 First Division season, including 7 goals in 31 appearances, did not go unnoticed by the National Team set-up, and many labelled him as a wildcard choice for Alf Ramsey’s renowned side. A call-up in April 1966 indicated he was heading in the right direction, but as the squad was narrowed down to 22 instead of 40, he sadly missed out on inclusion. Certainly a ‘what could have been’ moment in Osgood’s career; his withdrawal from the tournament stands as a reminder of the lack of appreciation a player of his quality receives in the modern day. A true legend by every sense of the word for Chelsea fans, but not so much recognised as one of the greats by the remaining world of football. Had he been given the chance to appear in the most prestigious of World Cups for his nation, there is no doubt he would’ve elevated his status to that of an ‘all time great’ as opposed to just a ‘club legend’.
Despite the disappointment on a personal level for Osgood, he was still just 19 years old. However, the following season went from bad to worse. A horrific challenge by Blackpool’s Emlyn Hughes in October 1966 in the League Cup, meant that the season was all but over for the youngster, as he suffered from a broken leg. He would go on to miss Chelsea’s first FA Cup Final at the old Wembley, as we fell to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Sp*rs.
His return from injury was the true dawn of a spell that would see him leave Chelsea labelled as ‘The King of Stamford Bridge’. 105 goals in 289 games in blue saw him spearhead our frontline for years, terrorising opposing defences with his robust, yet elegant style, and vicious eye for goal. During the 1969/70 FA Cup campaign (which has just had its 50th anniversary), Ossie became only the 9th player of all time to score in every round of the FA Cup, and is to date, the last to do so. This astonishing contribution helped us to our first FA Cup Final victory; a replay against Leeds following a 2-2 draw – the first FA Cup final to require a replay since 1912.
One of Ossie’s special goals (and the one my Father believes should have been timelessly captured in the statue outside the Bridge) was in the replay of that game. A diving header from a Charlie Cooke chipped pass levelled the game at 1-1, and laid the foundations for a David Webb winner, two minutes from full-time. What’s so special about the goal is the brilliance of the Chelsea move, which led to a moment of pure genius and inspiration from Osgood. He threw himself at the ball with such aggression, diving through the air at pace, yet the majesty and the art of his technique whilst doing so is truly awe-inspiring. No surprise that ‘The Wizard of Os’ was a commonly used title for such a wonderful player.
Osgood went on to win the European Cup Winners’ Cup against Real Madrid in 1971, scoring in both the original tie, and the replay that followed. His goal scoring continued, despite Chelsea declining as a major european and domestic force, and his volley against Arsenal in 1972 was voted BBC goal of the season.
Always a controversial player for his lifestyle off the pitch, Osgood’s time at Chelsea came to an end following a series of feuds with Manager Dave Sexton over his wild nights out, gambling habits and general inability to stay out of the spotlight for too long; all of which were crucial in making him the character he was. He returned for a second stint at the club in 1978, again managing to score on his debut, despite a 7-2 loss to Middlesbrough. That year would prove to be his last in professional football, as he hung his boots up for good, retiring in 1979.
To this day Peter Osgood remains one of Chelsea’s all time greats. The man was a true icon during his playing days and gifted Chelsea fans with countless moments of brilliance over the many seasons in which he was involved in. He died on the 1st March 2006, after a tragic heart attack, aged 59. Ossie’s ashes lie under the penalty spot on the Shed End, and his statue stands tall looking out at the Fulham Road, for all to see, and appreciate.
Edited by: Dan