Finally, I am done with my papers and can return to the writing I actually enjoy.
The day after the Hazard vs. ballboy incident, I was studying (sort of) in a bar on the North side of Chicago. I also happened to be wearing my Mata UCL kit, and that was enough to provoke the Irish Everton fan sitting at the bar to hurl veiled insults in my direction. I took his challenges in stride and demonstrated a more in-depth knowledge of the club (CFC) and the game than I believe he expected. He was impressed, and before I knew it, an Irishman had me drunk on a Tuesday at 3 in the afternoon.
So what's the moral of the story, you ask? Learn your history, so you can get free drinks from Irishmen in America. Also, wear your kit everywhere you go. But back to the first point.
When I began the process of becoming a
fan addict, I didn't know anything about Chelsea's or any other club's history. I got to know the team through its big names, who, at the time, were Essien, Drogba, Terry, and of course, my beloved Lampard. I didn't watch many games, because I didn't know how, and I only occasionally checked on the team's progress through the season (mostly through the now detestable ESPN), but boy did I play FIFA. As my interest grew, so did my involvement, and consequently, my allegiance.
Check out Frank eating an really big imaginary ice cream cone - via treeswingers.files.wordpress.com
Still, I had a limited awareness of the club's past. Names like Zola, Harris, and Osgood were tossed around, and I'd seen Bobby Tambling and Kerry Dixon doing speaking engagements for Chelsea. I was without a fundamental connection to the genuine identity of the club. I was the fan that "true fans" hated, Chelsea or otherwise. For the most part, people don't like our club. They don't like our money, our owner, our Mourinho, our cheating racist (I really don't know if he's anything other than a serious, serious competitor and a caring, fatherly type), the dives of Drogba, or any in a long list of complaints people have had. I didn't want to be a fan who knew nothing of the history, I didn't want to make Rafa's "plastic flag" comment an accurate one.
So I did what I do: I studied. And now, if you are like I was, you have the chance to benefit from that. Today I'll profile on one of the old-school icons. This, I hope, will be the first of many.
He's just practicin'. This is how many people showed up to watch him practice. - via www.diariosdefutbol.com
Who better to begin with than the King of Stamford Bridge? Peter "Ossie" Osgood, a man whose fierceness and physicality defied his true middle name (Leslie), was a Chelsea player from 1964-1974, appearing 279 times and scoring 103 goals. This was a golden age of sorts for Chelsea, their strongest side between the League-winning '55 squad and the group that brought back the FA cup in '97. It was also the era of some of the sweetest kits Chelsea have ever worn, to my knowledge.
Born on 20 February 1947 in Windsor, England, Osgood was not heralded upon his arrival to the world by a screaming comet or the appearance of a new supernova in the eastern night sky (although apparently a factory did explode halfway around the world in L.A.). He captained the Windsor side at Under-11s and then went on to captain the youth squad at Berkshire as well. He attended trials and scouts came to watch him score 50-60 goals in a season, but no senior side picked him up. After being turned down by Reading, young Peter lost hope. He recalls tearing up an invitation to trial at Arsenal, thinking he had no chance. Luckily, when Chelsea came calling, his brother had the sense to force him to go. Osgood, then still a schoolboy and with a cup game to be played later in the afternoon, was thrust onto the pitch.
He performed so well that Chelsea's youth coach, Dickie Foss, took him off after just a half an hour to sign his paperwork joining Chelsea. Before long, he had made a place for himself in the senior squad, joining up with other homegrown lads like captain Johnny Hollins, Terry Venables, and Bobby Tambling. Ossie made his debut in 1964 at the tender age of 17, and it was something special from the start. In the League Cup match versus Workington Town, the young man scored two goals, announcing his arrival like a King cloaked in royal blue.
Manager Dave Sexton, with Osgood (9, seated) and the rest of the squad - via i48.tinypic.com
"Osgood is good" they would say, and dear Auntie Mildred's steak and ale pie, was he good. Under the tutelage of Dave Sexton, who managed the club from 1967-1974, Osgood became one of the most dangerous center forwards in the game. He saw the field in ways
Fernando Torres some strikers today still can't see it. He'd drop deep to retrieve possession, and send the ball rocketing to the opposite side of the pitch, opening up play and putting a teammate in on goal. Just watch the Chelsea-Arsenal game of 1970 for evidence of this. He was spectacularly gifted with the mental aptitude to know just how to open up opposing defenses.
But of course, as with any good center forward, his true talent was scoring goals. The Wizard of Os timed his runs well and had a particular knack for scoring headers. At 6'1'' (185 cm) it was difficult to mark him, and he had the ability to put balls on target with power and finesse. By all accounts, he was quite something to watch. I'll quote a statement from a local paper here to give you a sense of how his style fit into his time and place.
"Tall, graceful and occasionally theatrical in his play, he seemed to embody the era when the boundaries between sport and showbusiness dissolved." - The Daily Telegraph
Not only was his style elegant and his scoring prolific, Ossie also had a uncanny ability to strike in crucial moments (like a certain dearly-departed Ivorian I know). In one of Chelsea's most high profile match-ups, Osgood scored an equalizer against Real Madrid to earn a replay, and then again two days later to ensure victory over Los Blancos. In the 1970 FA Cup win over powerhouse Leeds United, the only trophy to be brought home during that era of golden opportunities, he scored a diving header twelve minutes from full time to pull Chelsea level. It is perhaps one of the most iconic moments in CFC history, up there with Lampard's first goal against Bolton to win the League in 2005, and Drogba's late equalizing header and penalty to earn us the coveted Champion's League trophy.
The essence of beauty from Charlie Cooke's lofted pass - via i.dailymail.co.uk
Chelsea Football Club was something special in that time, and no one epitomized that more than The King of Stamford Bridge. He lived a legend larger than himself. A moment's walk from the King's Road, the Bridge was often graced by England's biggest celebrities. Osgood once described how after the game in which he'd scored his 100th and 101st goals for the club, he entered the dressing room expecting a massive celebration in his honor, but no one even noticed his arrival next to the awe-inspiring presence of film star Steve McQueen.
Raquel Welch, American actress and sex icon, visited the Bridge before a match and took quite a shine to Ossie. "Yeah, she did actually, yes," Osgood remembers with a devilish grin, in a televised interview some years later, "especially afterwards." Welch was later seen sporting a shirt that read "I scored with Osgood." Brilliant.
A tee shirt my girlfriend will inevitably receive for a holiday gift instead of the jewelry she actually wants. - via sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net
Perhaps some of his celebrity/legend status went to his head, as Ossie became known for carrying himself with a bit of arrogance that fueled an already hot temper. Osgood would eventually leave the team after a falling-out with the manager. He would then see his career begin to decline at Southampton, and when he returned to a troubled Chelsea in 1978, he was a mirror of the relegation-bound side, and a shadow of his former self. Still, he remains for fifth amongst the top goalscorers in club history.
Final Times and Farewell
Go see it. - via thechels.info
In later years, after a run-in with club chairman Ken Bates, Osgood was banned from the Bridge, but eventually, the ban was lifted, and Ossie resumed his duties as a "matchday host" under the Abramovich regime. He passed away in 2006 after a heart attack, and his ashes are buried under the penalty spot at the Shed End of Stamford Bridge. The statue above was erected within days, and stands by the West End.
I'll leave you with one of Osgood's goals, as that's how he'd want to be remembered. It was scored against Arsenal in the 72-73 season. BBC considered it a "goal of the season."
If you want to imagine yourself as a deaf person in the crowd as Osgood scored it, try this video, evidently shot from a 1970's cameraphone.
Anywho, that was longer than I thought it'd be, but I'm done now, so tell me what you think below!