by Roy Dalley.
History was the buzzword that accompanied Didier Drogba on his return to Chelsea, and it had little to do with the distressed denims and flatcap he wore while putting pen to paper on a new one-year contract with the club.
Certainly the Ivorian centre-forward has become a dab hand at signing his name into football’s history books. No less than 10 major titles during his first eight year spell at Chelsea is ample proof of that.
Manager Jose Mourinho dropped the H word a couple of times when welcoming Drogba back to the club, stressing: “He’s not protected by history or what he’s done for the club previously. He is coming with the mentality to make more history.”
Yet in another sense Chelsea fans of a certain vintage will be hoping history doesn’t repeat itself.
It is said one should never go back in love and in football; think Thierry Henry and Arsenal. Or Paul Scholes and Manchester United. Their returns only served to wipe away more than a little sheen from their glittering reputations.
Step back a few years and Chelsea fans will recall another comeback that hardly lived up to their hopes or expectations…
Peter Osgood was the original King of Stamford Bridge; quite an accolade when your rivals for the crown included Alan Hudson, Charlie Cooke, Bobby Tambling and Peter Bonetti.
And with good reason. During his first spell at the club Osgood scored 148 goals in 370 appearances, including strikes against (the then mighty) Leeds to help win the FA Cup and (the perennially mighty) Real Madrid to land the European Cup Winners Cup.
He also scored in the League Cup Final, though it wasn’t enough to prevent Stoke from winning what remains their only piece of silverware.
But goalscoring was only a part of what made Osgood great. Tall, lithe, two-footed and graceful in the era of muddy pitches and ruddy centre-halves, he played the game with a smile and even a wink for the ladies. Indeed his magnetism prompted Hollywood film star Raquel Welch to wear a T-shirt bearing his name after they were introduced on a matchday at Stamford Bridge.
The slogan said, rather succinctly: I scored with Osgood.
It was probably inevitable he would go west to America in the autumn of his career following spells at Southampton and Norwich after a highly publicised fall-out with former Chelsea boss Dave Sexton.
But the swagger had been reduced to a stagger when Osgood returned to Stamford Bridge from Philadelphia Fury in 1979. He was 32, four years younger than Drogba is now, and plainly unable to conjour any more magic, scoring just twice in 9 matches as Chelsea were relegated from the top flight.
Indeed just about the only significant aspect of Osgood’s return to Chelsea were the rather strange playing boots he brought back with him from the States. They didn’t have three stripes or a flash, rather a strange looking tick.
Yes, Osgood was the footballer who introduced Nike boots to the English game.
It remains to be seen which pair of Nikes Drogba will model when the new season kicks off, yet he will be hoping, and Mourinho will be demanding, he leaves rather more impressive footprints on his Second Coming.
Unlike Osgood, however, Drogba’s return has nothing to do with trying to reverse a sharp decline within the club. Indeed much of his most significant work will probably be conducted behind the scenes at the club’s Cobham training complex, where he be expected to fill the inspirational void vacated by Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole.
He’s the player who has seen, done and won it all in a Chelsea shirt, and Mourinho will want his stardust to rub off onto his younger players. He’ll probably want a few goals too, though wisened Stamford Bridge supporters know it’ll never quite be the same.
The King is Dead (and, in Osgood’s case, his ashes are buried beneath the penalty spot at the Shed End), Long Live The King. Well, for one more season at least…
We Two Kings
Osgood – Chelsea games 380, Goals 150, Winners medals 2, Statues at Stamford Bridge 1
Drogba – Chelsea games 341*, Goals 157*, Winners medals 10*, Statues at Stamford Bridge 0*
*Subject to change