Is There Any Statue at Stamford Bridge?


Ever since its birth well over a century and a half ago, soccer has had many notable players whose on-pitch contributions have catalyzed its growth into arguably the most popular sport in the world. To attempt to adequately list these players and their achievements in a single piece of literary work would not only be impossible but a disservice to them. It is for this reason that top clubs like those in the English Premier League (EPL) have resorted to erecting statues of their legendary players at their home grounds as one of the many ways to recognize their years of service. Five-time EPL champions Chelsea has not been left behind in this endeavor.

Is there any statue at Stamford Bridge? Presently, there is only one statue at Stamford Bridge – a tribute to legendary striker Peter Lesley Osgood who played at the club over two stints from the mid-1960s to the late 1970s during which the Englishman scored 105 goals in 289 appearances. Many football historians opine that Osgood was a man ahead of his time and a blueprint for present-day strikers and the Blues strikers who came after him like four-time EPL champion Didier Drogba.

Early Bloomer

Osgood’s love affair with soccer started at a tender young age. As a youngster, Clewer-born ace naturally excelled at most sporting activities throughout his primary and secondary years. He also had the leadership “gene” and was subsequently appointed captain in many sports.

Like many young men from the blue-collar Berkshire county he hailed from, Osgood valued working with his hands and took to working as a bricklayer as he sharpened his football skills with his hometown club, Windsor.

In a past interview, Osgood revealed that during that time, he secured a trial with top-flight side Arsenal but subsequently the papers of the offer they had made him because he preferred playing for Windsor and continuing his trade to the commute he would have been subjected to.

Recognizing his undeniable talent, Osgood’s uncle contacted Chelsea to inquire about a trial for the then-teenager that resulted in him being signed as a junior in February 1964. Osgood had an immediate impact and established himself as a reliable goal scorer netting an impressive 30 goals in 20 matches leading up to that December.

The then 17-year-old made his debut in a League Cup fixture against Workington AFC in mid-December netting a brace in a 2-0 victory. The performance fanned the flames of his already-growing legend and earned him a promotion to Chelsea’s first team.

Becoming the King of Stamford Bridge

In order to get some more experience, Osgood was included in the squad for a tour to Australia at the end of that season where he did not disappoint scoring 12 goals in 8 games. His next match with Chelsea’s first team came in September 1965 – a 4-1 demolition of AS Roma in the now-defunct Inter-City Fairs Cup (a predecessor to the UEFA Europa League competition).

His consistent performances continued to garner attention and earned him a call-up to England’s national football team for the 1966 World Cup. Osgood however never made the final squad. He thereafter sustained a serious leg injury in a League Cup match in October 1966 which sidelined him for a long spell including the entire 1967-68 season.

Upon his return to action, then-new Chelsea manager Dave Sexton first deployed Osgood in the midfield where he excelled before being ultimately moved to his natural position at center-forward. In his absence, the Blues had an opportunity to clinch their first FA Cup but lost 2-1 to Tottenham in a match where a marksman of Osgood’s caliber would have made the difference.

Osgood nevertheless made good of their second crack at the prestigious title in their 1969-70 campaign in the second of a two-parter against former powerhouses Leeds United. After the first FA Cup finals match ended in a 2-2 draw after extra time at Wembley, a replay was scheduled 18 days later at Old Trafford.

The match, which many regard as one of the greatest FA Cup finals in the competition’s history, attracted a record TV audience and was dubbed “the most brutal game in the history of English football” due to the bad blood that existed between the two sides.

In order to put the physicality of the match into context, a senior modern-day referee reviewed footage of the match and decided that at least 20 yellow cards and 6 red cards would have been handed out during the fixture.

Osgood scored Chelsea’s equalizer after going down 1-0 to the Peacocks before former teammate David Webb scored the winner in extra time. The goal – a picturesque diving header – made him the last player to date to score in every round of the FA Cup.

The talisman was also a key contributor to Chelsea’s 1970-71 European Cup Winners’ Cup victory against Real Madrid. Osgood scored his side’s only goal during the initial match which was held at the Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus, Greece on May 19, 1971.

Since the match ended in a 1-1 draw, a replay was held at the same venue two days later with Osgood scoring the second of two goals to hand Chelsea a 2-1 victory over Los Blancos. Unfortunately, the only chink in Osgood’s armor was his overindulgent lifestyle off the pitch, which ultimately cut short his stint at Stamford Bridge.

Immortalized in Stone

He moved to Southampton in a then club record £275,000 transfer in early 1974 where he stayed for three seasons including a short loan spell to Norwich City. The Wizard of Os nevertheless continued to enjoy success with the Saints scoring 28 goals in 126 appearances and winning another FA Cup in 1976.

Osgood returned to Chelsea in December of their 1978-79 season and even scored in his debut. He however only managed nine more appearances and one more goal before hanging up his boots in December 1979.

The former Southampton star continued his relationship with Chelsea and football after his retirement though not without incident. He passed on in March 2006 after having a heart attack during a family funeral.

Over 2700 fans and players attended Osgood’s memorial in October of the same year where his ashes were buried beneath the penalty spot at Stamford Bridge’s Shed End. The club thereafter commissioned a statue that was designed and created by renowned English artist Philip Jackson.

The nine-foot-tall statue was unveiled in a colorful ceremony on October 1 2010 in the presence of Osgood’s widow, Lynn, and club royalty like former captain John Terry and Blues all-time top scorer Frank Lampard.

James

I started watching football in the early 90s and was hooked. I fell in love with Chelsea and have supported them ever since.

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