Peter Osgood was a brilliant player who has died prematurely, the sadness all the more because - as with George Best - you’re left with the feeling that there was something unfulfilled about his career.
He should have had that little more glory. So, he didn’t, and that was mostly down to him.
It has been pointed out that he only won four England caps, but it is a wonder he won those. He fell under the spell of his manager at Chelsea in the first half of the Sixties, Tommy Docherty, who, with the club, was enjoying a good run of form. Docherty started to spout off about England having no chance of winning the 1966 World Cup, while for years England manager Alf Ramsey had been saying the contrary.
Ramsey was just about the only one in the country saying so, virtually till England beat Argentina in the quarter finals, but it just sounded like Docherty was jeering at him. Fair enough for a Scot, but then Osgood, who was pretty young and very full of himself having been told he was the greatest talent in the land, allowed himself to say what his manager was saying, and ended up looking pretty stupid.
He made it to the 1970 England squad, which was some credit to Ramsey. He didn’t much like players getting lippy, and it was a mark of how good Osgood was that Ramsey felt persuaded to play him at all.
He made his Chelsea first team debut at 17 on December 16 1964, scored twice and otherwise played brilliantly against Workington, then a league team, in the League Cup.
He had come straight up from the Colts. The furore his arrival on the scene caused was akin to the hysteria that greeted Wayne Rooney a couple of years or so ago.
On the Saturday that week the Orient junior team was playing Chelsea at their training ground and we had to pass through the home dressing room to get to ours. They hadn’t arrived yet but a shirt had been hung up on the peg marked ‘Osgood’. Chelsea would have marked their pegs with their players’ names; Orient certainly wouldn’t. We were spooked at the idea that he was playing.
It turned out he wasn’t and we got a 2-2 draw, possibly the highlight of my goalkeeping career. At home two weeks later we won 5-4 but no doubt wouldn’t if Osgood had been playing.
But then nor would we if Ronnie Wigg hadn’t been playing for us. Ronnie scored a hat-trick, one early on as we went 3-0 up at half time. Chelsea came back with four goals (not least because of miserable goalkeeping). Wigg took offence at this and single-handedly turned the game round, scoring twice in the last few minutes.
He went on to professional terms, first under Dave Sexton at the Os (much because of that game) then with Ipswich. Had Sexton, when the later manager of Chelsea, been able to match Ronnie’s application with Osgood’s natural talent, the product would have been a player for the World Cup team of 1970 - and, at somewhere more than maybe, a possible winner of that tournament.
Alas Ronnie died even more prematurely than Osgood, in 1997 at the age of 48.