There is always plenty for the football fan to think about when news reaches you of the passing of another great from generations past. In Peter Osgood’s case, we might think of the swagger in the image of a young man that we never saw play, but understood that he was supposed to represent an idealised point in this city’s history, when everyone swanned down the King’s Road looking like Alfie or Twiggy. We might then think about how 59 is too young for a man to die and so we wonder about alcohol and it’s place at the very centre of our footballing culture, from very top to very bottom. And then, it might be natural enough to turn those thoughts to the club Osgood is most closely connected with (he did win an FA Cup with Southampton remember) and decide that rampant success is not enough to justify the erosion of what made people fall in love with Chelsea in the first place.
It’s easy to pontifcate though, and so maybe we should be more careful about deciding what it is that Peter Osgood meant. Judgements on him as a man should be left to those who loved him. Judegments on him as a footballer player might better be left to Chelsea
I stood at Victoria station yesterday evening waiting for my train back to the suburbs, watching the BBC news feed on the big screen that beams down onto the concourse. It feeds tired commuters the news headlines, the weather and streams of adverts featuring the likes of Beckham and Mourinho selling soft drinks and mobile phones; modern day icons of a glamourous game that Osgood arguably helped to create. But last night for just a few wonderful seconds in amongst the dark and mundane tales of politics and crime, it showed Ossie at his elegant, powerful best. It showed a tall, strong number 9 diving to head a legendary goal in one of the greatest FA Cup finals ever; it showed him leaving Bob Wilson clutching at handfuls of thin air and it showed him dancing through the Real Madrid defence to win Chelsea their first European trophy. Chelsea fan or not, you simply couldn’t help but stop and stare as his brilliance lit up another corner of London for a brief moment or two.
The accusation frequently leveled at the Blues in the Roman era is that we are simply a billionaire’s plaything without heart, soul or history. We post literally hundreds of pages of our thoughts on this great club, often defending Chelsea from all manner of fraudulent claims. Whether we convince or not is rather subjective, but in his autobiography the man himself delivers a more perfect riposte to these twisted arguments than any of us could ever manage, explaining what Chelsea meant to him and why so many have devoted their lives to the Blues in just a few passionate, spine-tingling words:
“I was so elated that I was back in the side and we were through that when I scored I carried on running, jumped the dog track and fell to my knees and saluted the human cauldron that was The Shed. In that moment, the fans and I were one, united in euphoria.” March 1971…v. Bruges.
And he didn’t even get booked for it.