Advantages The opportunity to praise a legend for the last time.
Disadvantages So sad to see the big man go.
Peter Osgood - King of Stamford Bridge
Although a typically snotty-nosed six year old kid with over-sized trousers and practically living in my elder brothers hand-me-down Spiderman T-Shirt, I was lucky enough to grace some of the greatest football stadia of the early seventies - Highbury, White Hart Lane, Anfield and my personal favourite, Stamford Bridge. Although I'd barely ventured out of the village where I lived, the wall outside my mates' house in Wantage Crescent, Wing was the venue of legends and I honed my silky skills from the moment I got out of bed in the mornings until my Mum called me in for tea when Dad got in from work around 6.
There was a time, long before a Russian Billionaire tore the soul out of my football club, that Chelsea were the most fashionable team in England. The London Borough of Fulham played host to one of the most exciting teams of a generation. Names like Bonetti, Cooke, Houseman, Hollins, Webb, Harris and Hudson were as famously revered as the Beckhams and Rooneys of today. And above them all, at Stamford Bridge at least, Stood Peter Osgood.Ossie epitomised everything that was fashionable in South-West London in those heady days, and the Kings Road set turned up in their thousands to see the great man play. I was fortunate enough to see Ossie play twice in his last season at Stamford Bridge before club politics saw him shipped out to Southampton. And he was everything I'd dreamed him to be. An awesome centre forward with immense strength, Ossie was also the most subtle, delicate player in a side that played football the way it should be. I absolutely adored the man.
For me, that moment came while sitting in my works van travelling down the A5 in Milton Keynes on the 1st of March this year. With the radio blaring away and with my head stuck in the sports section of The Daily Telegraph, my ears pricked at the mention of a "Footballing Legend" dying as the headlines were read. The name wasn't mentioned, but something inside just hit and I felt compelled to put down my paper and listen.After several insignificant news stories, the sports department led with a statement telling the world that Chelsea hero Peter Osgood, aged 59, had collapsed and died while attending a family funeral in Slough. There have been many players over the last 30 years who have worn the famous blue shirt of Chelsea and held a place in my heart. Jock Finnieston, Ray Wilkins, Kerry Dixon, Pat Nevin, Dennis Wise, Gianluca Vialli, Gianfranco Zola. All great players that I've grown to love with a passion.
But not one of them had the kind of magic that Ossie held for a six year old kid with snot on his Spiderman T Shirt all those years ago.
Sunday morning, and Chelsea are at home. I'm not in the best of moods, least of all because my wife and I have been arguing all weekend. Sick to death of carrying the responsibility for a bunch of the laziest work-shy idiots I've ever had the misfortune to know, I walked out of my job the previous Friday with no new job to go to, no wages and no more nice big shiny company car. My moral dilemma is insignificant to my wife's desire for money and I do what I always do when I'm in times of crisis. I put on my jacket and bugger off to football.The 1997/98 season was my last as a season ticket holder at Stamford Bride. Being out of work, albeit for only 3 weeks, meant I had no opportunity of renewing my subscription. On the Morning of the game I didn't even have the train fare into London, and decided to hitch my way to the ground from my home in Aylesbury. Last home game of the season against Sheffield Wednesday with nothing to play for and I really didn't fancy it but going to football is what I do, especially when I need a boost.
I picked up a lift from Aylesbury quite quickly, and got as far as Amersham, a typical Buckinghamshire town in the middle of nowhere and still 25 miles from Stamford Bridge. I didn't really rate my chances of another lift but was surprised to see a blue people carrier stop in the lay-by within seconds of sticking my thumb out. Having told the driver I was heading for West London, I was delighted when he informed me he was driving down for the match as well, and settled back in my seat knowing I was going to get to the game in plenty of time.As the journey progressed, I realised that I'd actually met the chap who picked me up several years earlier from when he ran branch meetings of his local Chelsea Supporters Club. His name was Mike and he was a little older than when I knew him but once the penny had dropped it was surprising I hadn't recognised him before. We mentioned a few old names, realised we knew a lot of the same people (including his son) and the time flew by as we simply talked Chelsea.
Walking to the round together, Mike asked where I normally sat. I told him I had a season ticket for the Matthew Harding stand and was taken slightly aback when he asked if I'd like to be his guest in an executive box for the afternoon. I'd be a liar if I said "free beer" wasn't the first thing to go through my head, but having never had the experience of watching a game from a box before I readily accepted. Although the box wasn't his, he did a lot of business with PowerDay, a waste-management company run by two brothers who absolutely bleed blue and white and was a regular in their executive suite.By 2.45 I was sat in the warm with a pint in front of me while looking over to my empty seat in the stands where the rain blew in on my regular crowd. Another drink eased down before kick off and I started my third pint as the whistle went to start the game. Perfect! I silently patted myself on the back for being a jammy little bugger and relaxed to watch to match.
After 15 minutes of the first half I noticed my glass was nearly empty and was wondering whether having another pint might be deemed as piss-taking or not. Before getting the chance to decide, Chelsea were awarded a pretty dodgy penalty which Frank LeBouef converted and all hell let loose around me. Doesn't matter if you're rich or poor, black or white, whatever. When Chelsea score the feeling is the same no matter what your background. This was turning into a really good day! Little did I know, but things were just about to get even better…As the commotion settled and the game restarted, I felt a hand on my shoulder followed shortly by a deep, cheery voice. "You having another there, Son?"
I turned my head while lifting my glass to get another beer and simply stopped mid-turn. Stood behind me, immaculately dressed in an almost-black suit and sporting a suntan that practically screamed "I've just spent the last two weeks swinging a golf club round in Spain" was the man I'd admired for the best part of 30 years. Peter Osgood was taking care of hospitality in the box I was in for the afternoon, and was actually going to get me more beer! I couldn't have dreamed up this scenario if I'd even tried and the whole thing had an air of surrealism to it. Even worse, I couldn't resist holding up my glass just before half-time to pick Ossie out again and cheekily wave it in his direction while calmly shouting out "Any chance of another when you've got a sec, Oz?" so EVERYBODY could hear it!I've met many footballers before, and been generally unimpressed with the indifference and arrogance they have towards supporters. Kerry Dixon was a huge disappointment to me, whereas Dennis Wise and Gustavo Poyet can sleep with my daughters any time they like. Top blokes!
Ossie though was something else. I'd seen him before a few times at the Bridge, standing outside the East Stand greeting dignitaries and their guests, but was always struck by the way he always had an eye on the passing crowds and would wave and smile as people called his name. It was clear to anyone and everyone that Ossie was as big a lover of Chelsea in his retirement as all those who had stood on the Shed chanting his name in the 60's and 70's.Sat in the executive box that afternoon, I was absorbed by the man's presence. The guy was just so much larger than life and filled the room with an openness and joviality that made everybody love him. The King of Stamford Bride was still well and truly on his throne and I was delighted.
The climax to my day, however, was nothing short of incredible. The game petered out into a typical end-of-season bore with no further score but my day had already been made and after the final whistle I sat happily alone at the bar. Chelsea TV was showing a piece about Gianfranco Zola and I sat glued to the screen while Mike swapped business cards with anyone who'd care to take one. Feeling slightly pissed and in a state of disbelief, I notice a glass appear alongside mine. Scotch I think. Straight. "He's some f*ck*ng player, ain't he?" came a voice.Here I am. Jobless. Skint. No idea of how I'm getting home 'cos Mike is clearly as pissed as a newt. And here I am sat alone at a bar with Peter Osgood sharing a drink while talking about the merits of a Sardinian footballing wizard. As I sat there, it went through my head about telling people what had happened during the afternoon and to tell the truth it sounded bloody ridiculous. But it was one of those days when everything fell into place, and if there'd have been a lottery draw that night I'd probably be a millionaire right now!
The one thing that stood out was just how easy the big man made me feel. He knew I was in awe of him but he never milked it one bit. Ossie was a man who shared a common love with me in the shape of a football team that he'd been talented enough to grace. In the short while he sat with me, I could have been in any one of a number of bars down the Fulham Road talking to another fan and the conversation would have been exactly the same. I would have loved to have told him about my years kicking that ball against the wall while screaming his name in a mock commentary every time I scored, but it wouldn't have been right. The reason everybody still loved Ossie after all those years was because he WAS one of us and loved Chelsea with every bone in his body. The only difference was that he was good enough to play for them as well.They say you should never meet your heroes for fear of disappointment. Peter Osgood was, and still is my hero. And the man didn't let me down one single, tiny bit.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Peter Osgood passed away on March 1st 2006-05-02
He played 380 games for Chelsea between 1964 and 1974, scoring 150 goals.Peter Osgood also scored 36 goals in 157 appearances for Southampton.
He rejoined Chelsea in 1978 but retired from the football shortly afterwards without playing a game for them.Peter Osgood made 4 International appearances for England, making his debut against Belgium in 1970.
Peter Osgood scored for Chelsea in the 1970 FA Cup Final AND the subsequent victorious replay against Leeds. He also scored in the 1971 Cup Winners Cup Final replay against the mighty Real Madrid.He was an FA Cup Winner again in 1976 with Southampton.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------God Bless, Ossie - The King of Stamford Bridge.
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