Roger Osborne recalls the day he marked Barcelona’s Johan Cruyff out of the game
- Credit: Archant
Former Ipswich Town hero Roger Osborne has paid tribute to Johan Cruyff after the legendary Dutch footballer died of cancer yesterday.
Suffolk-born Osborne memorably marked the iconic ex-Ajax forward out of the game when the Blues beat Barcelona 3-0 at Portman Road in the third round of the UEFA Cup in November 1977. The Spanish giants then won the second leg 3-0 at the Nou Camp – Cruyff scoring twice – before prevailing in a penalty shoot-out.
“Those games will always stick in my mind,” said Osborne, who went on to score the winner in Ipswich’s FA Cup triumph against Arsenal six months later.
“Bobby Robson said after the first leg that I’d stuck to Johan like glue. I was always pretty good at man-marking, and I’ve always said it’s easier to be destructive than
constructive on a football field, but I have to admit that it was a frightening prospect having to do that job against probably the best player in the world at that time.
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“In the second leg he played further forwards, changed the dynamics of their team and showed his class. Everything that went right for us in the home tie went even more right for them at their place.”
Asked about the famed ‘Cruyff-turn’, in which the silky Dutchman would leave a marker for dead by dragging the ball behind his standing leg with the inset of his other foot, Osborne said: “I thought to myself
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‘whatever happens, he’s not going to do that trick to me’. He actually did, but the ball ended up going out of play so I don’t think that counts!”
Now the manager at Rushmere Sports Club, Osborne continued: “The only time
players swapped shirts in those days was after European games. I think a few of our players had asked for Johan’s, but he came and gave it to me at the full-time whistle and said ‘well played’. I’ve still got it and it takes pride of place up on the wall in the conference room at work.
“He was, without doubt, the best player I ever played against. I know people always have the big debate about the best players ever, and it’s hard to compare players from different eras, but Johan would surely be in most people’s top 10 lists along with the likes of Pele, Maradona, Beckenbauer, Best and the modern day greats like Messi and Ronaldo.”