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banner Friday, 2 February, 2001, 16:45 GMT
Take a look at me now
Roger Osborne
In the first in a new series of features on former sporting heroes, Chris Charles catches up with Ipswich FA Cup legend Roger Osborne at his old Portman Road stomping ground.

Roger Osborne became an overnight hero when he scored the winning goal for Ipswich in the 1978 FA Cup final.

In one of the biggest upsets in Wembley history, Osborne's late strike sealed a 1-0 victory over the mighty Arsenal for Bobby Robson's cultured side.

Twenty three years on, the local lad with the toothless grin has celebrated his 50th birthday and can be found working in a leisure centre.

But he is never allowed to forget his big moment.

"It's a sports centre on the outskirts of Ipswich and they all know me..and what I've done in the past," he explains.

Roger Osborne (r) with Sammy Nelson
Osborne puts in a timely tackle on Sammy Nelson in the 1978 FA Cup final
Unlike many of his contemporaries, the fame and adulation never went to Osborne's head, but he still remembers 6 May, 1978 with great fondness.

"That day was something I hadn't even dreamed about," he admits.

"Everything about it was perfect - the occasion, the result, Wembley, everything.

"I distinctly remember the goal, because it was a slow build-up.

"A move had broken down on the right involving Clive Woods. He had the confidence to take Sammy Nelson on and fired the ball across.

"Willie Young deflected it into my path, I just concentrated on keeping it low and the rest is history."

Osborne famously collapsed after scoring the goal - a scene he later hilariously re-enacted on BBC2's Fantasy Football.

"Some say it was the shock of me scoring with my left foot!" he jokes.

"It was a very humid day, a very tiring game and a very tiring pitch, but if we hadn't had a substitute, given three or four minutes I could have carried on."

In fact, Osborne was out for nearly a year after having a cartilage operation in the summer of that year.

And when he finally got back to fitness he found his path blocked by Robson's newly-signed flying Dutchmen, Arnold Muhren and Frans Thijssen.

Exciting

"They were better than me," he concedes modestly, "and I didn't get back in the team."

Osborne finished his playing days at Colchester, where he made 206 appearances, nearly doubling his Ipswich tally.

But he still goes down to Portman Road whenever he can and regularly sees old team-mates Allan Hunter and Kevin Beattie.

"I'm very pleased to see that Ipswich have done so well. They've got a whole new generation of supporters and a very exciting team," he says.

But how does the present side compare with Robson's glory days?

"That's the million dollar question," he grins. "We had eight or nine internationals in our side, but the way they are going, that may happen to Ipswich again."

One aspect of the game that has changed are the huge wages the 21st century players command.


It was all Cortinas in the car park when I was playing!
  Roger Osborne
"I have every respect for the likes of David Beckham and Roy Keane who are at the top of their profession," the father-of-three insists.

"Players are now getting paid an awful lot more than the average player in my day.

"The rewards are huge at present and they are fortunate that when they get to 35 they don't have to worry about getting another job. It must be a lovely position to be in."

If there is a feeling of envy, you don't sense it.

The only time you get the merest hint that he wished he'd had his time 20 years later is when he walks across the players' car park at Portman Road.

Glancing at the never-ending row of gleaming BMWs, he laughs: "It was all Cortinas in here when I was playing!"

Aah, the good old days. Don't you just love 'em?

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