<i>Frank Malley pays tribute to Peter Osgood who died yesterday, aged 59...</i>

If the late 1960s and early 1970s were the golden era of football then Peter Osgood was one of its golden boys.

Not as extravagantly talented as George Best, nor as universally loved as Bobby Charlton, he won only four England caps, two of them as a substitute.

But when it came to epitomising the glamour of an era in which football was transformed from its working class roots into the embryonic mass entertainment form measured in billions today noone cut a dash quite like 'Ossie.'

The long sideburns, large ties, trendy suits, film star persona - that is what most people will remember about Osgood who died yesterday, aged 59, still an avid watcher and commentator on football.

Watching that Chelsea team with such as Alan Hudson and Bobby Tambling and Terry Venables was like taking a walk down Carnaby Street or the King's Road in the Sixties -everything fresh and vibrant and cutting edge.

And, above all, entertaining. Most centre-forwards of that era were big and lumbering and there to provide a physical presence and an aerial threat. Osgood was different.

'Ossie' was more than a target man. He was a striker with the skill and balance and quick feet to caress the football, to shield it and bring team-mates into play with vision and precision. Or, with a devastating piece of skill, turn a defender and score wonderful goals of his own. He scored 31 First Division goals in the 1969-70 season as well as in every round of the FA Cup.

For Chelsea he totalled 105 goals in 289 matches, plus 36 in 157 for Southampton.

The statistics are testament to his striking skills although with a little more drive and determination to go with the natural talent they would have been even more impressive.

His first manager at Chelsea, Tommy Docherty, always believed his potential went unfulfilled. "I think Peter Osgood has more ability than Tom Finney," he once said. "He's got the height and almost everything else. He hasn't quite got the killer instinct around the box but once he overcomes that he could be the greatest."

The truth is the man who admitted shedding a tear when he won his first England cap against Belgium in place of an injured Bobby Charlton in February 1970 never quite overcame it. He was never the 'greatest'.

England have had much more effective strikers since in Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Michael Owen. So have Chelsea.

But how ironic that the present criticism of Chelsea in an era when they are the dominant force and can boast strikers who cost £20million-plus in Hernan Crespo and Didier Drogba is that they lack flair and excitement.

That was something no-one could have said about a former brickie from Windsor called Peter Osgood. ..SUPL: