Interview with Ipswich legend, Russell Osman

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Russell Osman

Russell Osman was part of Ipswich Town’s most successful era as a football club, as the club won the 1978 FA Cup (Russell made four appearances throughout the run, but not in the final itself) and the 1981 UEFA Cup (Russell played in every game that season.) Under the management of Sir Bobby Robson for the majority of his Town career, Russell Osman is considered a legend in Suffolk for his part of providing Town with its amazing history, and two stars out of three stars on its shirt. During his career, Russell also got capped eleven times for England. Recently Dictate The Game were fortunate to be able to interview Russell, and we chatted about his Ipswich career, his worst moment in his career and how he feels about the changes in the nutrition since his playing days.

Russell, along with many other Ipswich players such as John Wark and Paul Cooper and Pele appeared in 1981 film, Escape to Victory, and we asked Russell why he appeared in the film, and the answer was an interesting one.

Why did you appear in ‘Escape to Victory’? Did you ever think that you would be in a film alongside Pele and Sylvester Stallone?

Bobby Robson had a meeting with the players one day and asked if anyone fancied going to Budapest in the summer to help make a film about football then he would grant permission. I agreed as I had nothing planned that summer, details were very basic to start with and only later did we realise that Pele, Bobby Moore, Stallone and Michael Caine were to also be involved. So it was a nice surprise to meet them all out there along with Ossie Ardiles, Mike Summerbee and the rest of the cast and crew, plus the amazing director John Huston.

Your most successful period in your playing career was at Ipswich between 1976-1985, under the management of Sir Bobby Robson, what would you say was your most proud moment at the Suffolk side?

My proudest moment at Ipswich Town Football Club was winning the UEFA Cup [in 1981] and playing in every match that season, plus also playing 4 international games for England.

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Russell Osman with the UEFA Cup in 1981 (Image: gettyimages)

Russell spent the majority of his Town career under Bobby, so we wondered what it was like to play for such an icon of the game in his first managerial role, so we asked this next.

You spent the majority of your time in Suffolk under the legend Sir Bobby Robson, how was it to play under Sir Bobby?

Bobby Robson kept the game very simple, pass the ball well, control it instantly, and be fitter than any other team.

We then asked Russell what his worst moment in football were – and as an Ipswich fan – I didn’t know what he answered – and I wonder if others fans know too.

What was your worst moment in football?

My worst moment in football was being told that I had to leave ITFC. I had been sent off the night before at QPR in a quarter final replay, which we won, and the next day I saw Bobby Ferguson, who was now the manager, and he asked to see me in his office. I thought it was for a bollocking for getting sent off the night before but he asked if I wanted to talk about  my contract. I was surprised but even more so when told that I had to leave, no new contract and the agreement with Bobby Robson of a testimonial was not going to be forthcoming. I was out of the door, and hardly selected again from then on until the end of the season. I could have played the second leg of the League Cup semi final against Norwich City, which we lost, but instead of playing I was in the stand watching, I was not even on the bench.

Escape to Victory - Russell Osman

Russell Osman in Escape to Victory

Was there a defining moment when you knew you could make a living out of football?

Never was a defining moment, I was lucky to be at the right club at the right time!

We were curious when a player from his era (80s) thought it was harder to get into the game in today’s game…

Do you think it’s easier or harder to get into football (either as a player or a manager) in today’s game? Why?

It is much harder to get into the game now as a player, too many from overseas, same argument for managers, too many on the roundabout getting paid fortunes for the same rubbish.

The games today is so vastly different from my era, you have great pitches all year round,  they never play on mud, snow or frozen grounds, luxury every step of the way.

If you weren’t in football, what do you think you would have done instead?

If I wasn’t in football I think I would have been involved in another sport at a pro level, rugby or cricket.

Bristol City Charity Golf Day 160316

Russell is a keen golfer and has a handicap of 4

The game has changed a lot since Russell’s era, for example back then back-passes were allowed, and the nutrition has changed, we asked Russell what he thought on this, and the answer is great.

It’s well documented that the average top division player’s nutrition plan has been radically overhauled in the last couple of decades. Do you agree with this perception and, if so, is it for the better?

Today’s nutrition is miles ahead of how it used to be. We did not have a canteen at the club, a Friday lunch for a home game was usually Scampi, Chips and beans from the pub in town.
Nowadays, breakfast is provided plus lunch, energy drinks during training etc. Our pre match when I first got into the first team was fillet steak or Dover Sole and it was crackers! I never knew about re hydration until later on in my career. I never once had a massage provided by a club in all the time I played, from mid 70’s to mid 90’s.

But in the whole, yes, the nutritional side is for the better! The game is not better in many ways, too many people cheating on the pitch, but I am afraid that era is long gone and the money in the game now is fantastic. Do the players over the last 20 years or so realise how lucky they are? Probably not!

Would you say your managing days are over now, or is this something you want to get back in to?

I think my managing days are past me now, coaching would be a different option and I still feel that I could coach players to play good attractive football.

There are so many football quotes out there that are known by every football fan, such as Kevin Keegan’s “I will love it if we beat them…love it” and Sir Bobby’s what is a club in every case quote, and we asked Russell what the best piece of advice was he had been given

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given in regards to football.

Best advice given to me was from Bobby Robson. “Play with your brains like Bobby Moore does.”

To what extent do you think the most renowned manager’s tactics would work in the 1970’s and vice versa?

Tactics have improved as you can now play a passing game on super pitches all the time. Today, managers would have to play a different style of football. Also in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s it was a mans game, nobody used to cry, scream or pretend they were hurt!

Favourite team growing up?

Derby County, my father used to play for them and they were pretty local to where I grew up

Having played alongside some great defenders during his career both at Ipswich and England, we asked who he felt his best defensive partner was, and I don’t think too many Ipswich fans will be surprised by his answer!

What do you think was your best defensive partner throughout your career?

My best defensive partnership was with Terry Butcher (Ipswich)

Who is the best player you’ve managed, and who is the best player you’ve played alongside?

I managed some terrific players at Bristol City, shame my time was cut short by a new board of directors! The best player that I played alongside for Ipswich was Kevin Beattie, shame that injury cut his career short, it wouldn’t have happened today!
Best player outside of ITFC was Matt Le Tissier, you just have to watch the variety of goals that he scored to understand what a natural talent he was.

Ipswich are a club currently in turmoil, they haven’t been in the Premier League for 17 years, the club has stood still due to a lack of investment in the club – and playing squad. The fans are getting fed up with playing style of manager, Mick McCarthy, and some fans want the owner to sell the club due to the lack of investment, and we decided to ask Russell how he felt on the running of the club, he called home for nearly 10 years.

What are your views on the current running of the club?

Marcus Evans has kept the Club alive for the last 10 years or so, and given a few managers a chance of making a name for themselves by getting ITFC back into The Premier League. The style of football is not to my liking but then again I was spoilt by the players I played with years ago. If the Club can afford to buy, or find, a new Arnold Muhren or a new Frans Thyssen, how much would they cost in today’s market place. Paul Mariner, a leader and personality on and off the pitch, would cost a small fortune today!

Do you think that Mick McCarthy’s time is up at the club? It’s been over 17 years since Ipswich Town last graced the promise land, what do you think has to change at the club going forwards to achieve promotion?

ME talks about the coaching staff being good coaches but you cannot make a silk purse out of a pigs ear.
The club has to either produce its own home grown talent, and keep them at the club by paying them accordingly, and coach them with the best available coaching staff at academy level and not the ‘cheapest’ coaching staff or invest in better recruitment personnel who can find young players with potential before anybody else finds them! Easy isn’t it?


Dictate The Game had a great time interviewing the legend Russell Osman, and would like to extend their thanks for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Some great answers!

You can follow Russell on Twitter here

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