IF THE publishers HarperCollins had not announced their decision to pay David Beckham pounds 3m for his latest stream of semi- consciousness, Peter Osgood, the old Chelsea star, would have had a fair claim to centre stage in the latest weekly edition of the wacky world of big-time football.
"Ossie," of beloved memory at Stamford Bridge for his thoroughbred grace, if not thoroughbred speed, still earns an honourable mention, however, for his straight-faced advice to John Terry and Jody Morris that, having survived their brush with their law, they must now "grow up and face their responsibilities."
Osgood, whose own approach to personal discipline during his time at Chelsea in the1960s and early 70s left his manager David Sexton in a state of more or less permanent rage, added: "They must realise they can't go out drinking at night and behaving like normal fans."
This, Sexton may have reflected upon with some feeling, was quite something coming from the spiritual leader of a dressing room which, though showered with football gifts, had achieved most distinction for its ability to drink the King's Road dry.
Osgood, Alan Hudson and Charlie Cooke were hugely popular among denizens of The Shed. They did thrilling things. Osgood was imperious in his authority around the box. As a teenager he once ran through almost an entire, and decent, Burnley team to score an unforgettable goal. Hudson at times suggested he could achieve anything. Cooke dazzled with his dribbling. But they were a coach's torment, and the situation was not eased when Tommy Baldwin arrived at the Bridge. A talented player, Baldwin also liked a drink - to the point of being christened The Sponge.
The position got so trying for the Jesuit-educated Sexton, whose father Archie was an excellent middleweight of the 1930s who took the formidably tough Jock McEvoy 15 rounds in his challenge for the British middleweight title, that he offered to lock his office door and throw away the key before settling his dispute with Osgood in the most basic way. Osgood, with rare wisdom, declined.
Still, Osgood can resort to the old standby that Terry and Morris should do what he says not what he did, which included being nicked for public drunkenness on one of those King's Road forays. He can also say that the rewards at Chelsea today, for the moment at least, make his old wages seem like a raid on the poor box.
Certainly Osgood's point was worth making - perhaps by chairman Ken Bates, who preferred to have a go at the police and the Crown Prosecution service for bringing the assault charges against Terry and Morris. At no point did he speculate on what some of his millionaire players were doing in some fancy drinking dive in the small hours of the morning. But then, all round, Bates has not been displaying the sharpest sense of what has been happening on planet football. Faced with a closing down of Chelsea's capacity to spend, spend, spend, he says that the situation will ask most of the skills of his coaches, especially Claudio Ranieri, the recipient of a long- term contract despite his failure to produce compelling evidence that he is the man to finally carry the club on to the highest ground. …