Osgood: the night I took home the FA Cup - and slept with it

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The Independent Football

The name of Peter Osgood will always be inextricably associated with the FA Cup, not merely because he secured a winners' medal with both Chelsea and Southampton, but also because he was the character who so admired the old trophy he took it home with him.

The name of Peter Osgood will always be inextricably associated with the FA Cup, not merely because he secured a winners' medal with both Chelsea and Southampton, but also because he was the character who so admired the old trophy he took it home with him.

More mischievous recollections of that particular escapade will, no doubt, be forthcoming from the Saints' former striker, now a genial after-dinner speaker, as he embarks on his hospitality duties at St Mary's on Saturday when Southampton attempt to arrest an unwelcome trend in their FA Cup quarter-final.

Saints' FA Cup record against Manchester United is abject. A solitary victory from 11 attempts (ignoring the fourth-round win on penalties in 1992), conveys just how bad. Yet that one outright success in the 1976 final - a triumph of Second Division resolve and quality from some wily veterans, allied to Lawrie McMenemy's cunning, against celebrated First Division opponents - provides a degree of optimism for Osgood. He may have been the undisputed ruler of Chelsea's King's Road for the majority of his mercurial career, but during the autumn of his playing years became a doyen of The Dell, too.

So what was the truth about those post-final celebrations? Did Osgood really take the trophy home with him? "I did - but not that night," he says. "It was about three months later. We were all at a casino, attending a big function. I was a bit bored, so I said to Peter Rodrigues [the Southampton captain], 'I bet you a bottle of champagne I can take the Cup home and sleep with it'. He said, 'You're on'. Me and Steeley [the defender Jim Steele], went outside, and I said to a security guard, 'We're going to have our photo taken with the FA Cup'. He said, 'No problem'. So, off we went with it, put it in the car and I drove home with it. I slept with it that night. I've slept with worse, I tell you..."

He adds: "The next day, I woke up and thought, 'Bloody hell, what have I done here?' Anyway, I left it outside Lawrie's office door. I got a right good ticking off, but he laughed in the end."

"The Bobby Stokes Final", as it has become known, is an apposite memorial for a player who dispatched the sublime 83rd-minute winner past United's goalkeeper, Alex Stepney. Stokes died in 1995, aged only 44. "United battered us for about 15 minutes, but then, all of a sudden, we got into the game, and we could see the strain getting to them," says Osgood. "When Bobby scored the winner I was the first one to him. I roomed with him, and I wouldn't have wanted anyone else to score."

He adds: "When we went out on the pitch, we looked at their side and they were drained, they were nervous," says Osgood. "As the underdogs we were just happy to be there. We didn't have to prove anything. We had belief in ourselves. We thought we'd win it."

He continues: "We had a great skipper in Peter Rodrigues, old heads like Mel Blyth, Jim Steele, Jim McCalliog and myself, and Mick Channon, of course. He was different class, absolutely fantastic. All right, he was a greedy bastard sometimes with the ball, but nobody ever had a bad word for him.

"And then there were the young herberts: lads like Peachy [David Peach], [Paul] Gilchrist, [Nick] Holmes, and that lovely little fella, Bobby [Stokes]. We had a good balance. The youngsters in midfield, Holmes and Gilchrist, would be running their backsides off. They listened and looked up to us. They were our 'legs', prepared to do our running for us."

And then, of course, there was "the gaffer", McMenemy. "Lawrie was brilliant, because he could handle big players. That's why so many of us went down to Southampton: myself, Charlie George, Peter Shilton and Kevin Keegan. Lawrie would be made for this game of ours today.

"The build-up to the final was fantastic. We were at a hotel in Croydon, and did our normal training, and on the Thursday, Lawrie said, 'If you want to go out for a beer, do that. Do whatever you want to do'. That's what some did, and it was so relaxed. But only a couple of drinks, mind you. He was spot-on, Lawrie. He knew how to take the pressure off us. It was a tribute to him we felt right out there."

In these times of meticulous preparation, including food and drink intake, it is unlikely that the current Saints' manager, Harry Redknapp, will be similarly liberal before this weekend's confrontation with United. "They're the top form side at the moment, aren't they?" says Osgood of Sir Alex Ferguson's men. "Better than Arsenal and Chelsea. It's going to be a tough game for the boys, it really is.

"But the truth is, I don't mind if we lose that one, as long as we stay in the Premiership. I think Southampton can go forward again if they do."

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