Just about like every other Chelsea fan over the age of 40, I was stunned and devastated at the news of Peter Osgood’s untimely death this afternoon. I read the rumours that were posted on the official Chelsea website while eating my lunch and a couple of hours later it was officially confirmed – Ossie, King of Stamford Bridge had collapsed and died at a family member’s funeral.
What makes it particularly shocking, coming so soon after the deaths of Chelsea fan Tony Banks MP, Chelsea author Scott Cheshire and Ron Greenwood (member of the 1955 title-winning squad) was that Peter had been is apparent good health. He only turned 59 a few days ago.
Ossie was the centre forward of the star-studded Chelsea team of the early 1970s which I fervently supported as a boy. He scored in every round of the 1969/70 FA Cup tournament (an unequalled record to this day) which Chelsea won, beating Leeds after a replay at Old Trafford. Ossie scored again in the final of the European Cup Winners Cup against the mighty Real Madrid, which Chelsea again won after a replay. He was a true boyhood hero, his Shoot! Magazine centrefolds sellotaped onto bedroom walls, his bubblegum cards hoarded.
Sadly, he was often overlooked by Alf Ramsay and won only four caps for the England team. But he was otherwise universally acknowledged as a cultured footballer, with pace, two excellent feet, supremely skilful, a natural goal scorer, and could ‘put himself about a bit’ when necessary. No Chelsea fan from that era could forget Ossie and Billy Bremner kicking lumps out of each other in the Cup Final replay.
I was heartbroken when he and other members of that glorious team were sold off in 1974, some say as a result of falling out with manager Dave Sexton, some say due to the increasing debt the club found themselves in after the building of the state-of-the-art East Stand at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea got relegated from the top division and a turbulent time followed. Ossie returned to the Bridge for a brief playing period in 1978-79, but more recently he has played a large part in the club’s Centenary celebrations and was due to make a further appearance on Saturday night with his old team-mate ‘Chopper’ Harris.
He played 380 games and scored 150 goals, making him Chelsea’s third highest ever scorer (only Bobby Tambling and Kerry Dixon scored more). Ossie was a fantastic footballer, an entertaining and funny speaker and Chelsea through and through. He was one of the very few people in this world that I would like to have met, just to tell him how much pleasure he had given me. On hearing his death confirmed and the glowing tributes from people like Tommy Docherty and Frank McLintock on Sky Sports News this afternoon, tears welled in my eyes.
My girlfriend bought me a Chelsea t-shirt from the club shop as a Christmas present a couple of months ago. On the back, in yellow, is printed ‘OSGOOD.’ Below that, a large number ‘9.’ I’ll be wearing that this weekend in Napoli. Rest in Peace, Ossie.