1972 was hardly a glorious year in the history of Manchester United, Frank O’Farrell was manager as The Reds were in the middle of a seven game losing streak that helped shove him nearer to the exit door.
While United and O’Farrell were trudging through the winter fixtures with all the optimism and success of a post 2006 Rafa Benitez side, over in sunny Australia, a future somewhat controversial figure was being born.
Mark Bosnich is one former United player who’s career has reached near dizzying heights and plumbed some pretty low depths. Bosnich is one of the few players who’s actually left Old Trafford and returned as a player, yet his most famous moments between the sticks were arguably away from United.
Born in Sydney on this very day 39 years ago Bosnich’s talent was that great that he found himself all the way over in Manchester at the tender age of 16. Despite some impressive performances for the youth team- one of which I was fortunate to witness, in a team that also contained a certain Ryan Giggs, Bosnich only made three appearances for the first team.
It may have been his lack of potential first team action, or the player’s own reluctance to stick it out at Old Trafford, but whatever the reason, Bosnich failed to obtain the necessary work permit to stay with United and was soon on his way back to Oz in 1992.
Bosnich didn’t stay there long however and was snapped up by Aston Villa to be an understudy to their number one Nigel Spinks.
Bosnich finally became Villa’s first choice ‘keeper towards the end of the 1993-94 season, during which time he helped stop United win the domestic treble as Villa defeated us 3-1 at Wembley in the Coca Cola cup final- which was also my first Wembley final- the inconsiderate git.
Bosnich established himself at Villa as one of the Premier League’s top goalkeepers despite the team’s initial struggle during his time as first choice number one. Villa narrowly avoided relegation in the 1994/95 season but finished much higher the following year, with Bosnich producing many fine performances.
Bosnich had always seemed a fairly happy-go-lucky type of player, never one who seemed to take himself too seriously. His humour- if you can call it that- got him in trouble against Spurs when he upset their fans by mimicking a Nazi salute- not the most sensitive or wisest move towards a club known for its large Jewish following.
Bosnich stayed at Villa until the end of the 1999 season, when Sir Alex Ferguson, looking to replace a certain Peter Schmeichel signed him on a free transfer.
On paper Bosnich’s return to United looked ideal, an already established Premier League, keeper who’d spent time at Old Trafford in his formative years. His age seemed right as well as at 27 he seemingly had a good few goalkeeping years ahead of him.
Bosnich’s first season was a relative success as United won the EPL by a massive 18 – point margin but the Australian only played two thirds of the games with Raimond Van Der Gouw playing the rest. It was obvious Sir Alex was unsure as to whether Bosnich was really up to the job as despite some amazing saves, he at times seemed a little shaky.
The signing of Fabien Barthez signalled the end of Bosnich’s United career for the second and final time as he was sold to Chelsea.
Bosnich’s time at Chelsea was marred by weight problems and testing positive for cocaine. Bosnich was banned from football for nine months- which makes a mockery of Rio Ferdinand’s eight month ban for simply missing a test.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for Bosnich however as he managed to get clean from drugs and later moved back to Australia to play for Central Coast Mariners and Sydney Olympic before retiring.
Bosnich now has a job as a footballer commentator for Fox Sports in Australia.
Although he will never be remembered by most United fans as anything other than a stop gap ’keeper who’s perhaps most memorable accolade will be the fact he’s one of those very rare players to have twice played for United.
It’s worth remembering that despite his problems Bosnich did help United win the title in 2000 and on his day was one of the most naturally gifted ‘keepers I’ve ever seen.
Many United fans will remember his brilliant save from Juninho’s spot kick for Middlesboro when Roy Keane nearly chased Andy D’urso into the South Stand. Never a United legend ‘Bozza’ was at least an important footnote in the club’s great history. Happy birthday.