A little man in stature, but his big reputation was built in winning the World Cup with his country and then having a glittering career with Tottenham Hotspur and showing that more than a footballer, he was a real gentleman.
With a solid career in his home country of Argentina, not many people had heard of Ossie Ardiles before the grainy TV pictures of the 1978 World Cup came through to our living rooms, where a slightly built figure with the number 1 on his back flitted through the midfield, hardly touching the ground. But his neat passing and excellent link play allowed his colleagues to cut through the opposition in what was a breakthrough tournament for his country and when they beat the Dutch favourites for the trophy in the final, Ardiles was at the heart of what mattered to their play.
So, when news broke that Spurs were signing the Argentinian World Cup winning duo of Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricardo Villa, the English game was stunned. In these days when foreign players proliferate, the shock of these two players coming to play for newly promoted Spurs was an exclusive of great magnitude. Home-based players criticised the move as English players losing their jobs to these imports, with others saying they would never settle and make little impact. In fact, nothing could have been further from the truth.
His performances in his first season overcame the culture shock of playing on another continent and won him many admirers. Tottenham's matches were sell-outs across the country and while the team did not always meet the standard of play exhibited by the skilful midfielder, he always played the game as Spurs fans would like it to be played, even in the heaviest of conditions. His work-rate matched the fact that he was one of the fittest players at the club and he never shirked getting back behind the ball when the opposition had possession.
In 1981, "Ossie's Dream" (as the Chas and Dave record set out) came true with an FA Cup victory against Manchester City in the 100th FA Cup final. It took a fortunate equaliser in a dire performance in the first game to take the match to a replay and on the Thursday night at Wembley, he crafted the ball through to his forwards, despite the dogged attention of the physical Gerry Gow, to push the team on to victory thanks to his fellow countryman Ricky Villa's outstanding goal.
The following year, it was a different story for the Argentinian. Playing a major part in the FA Cup semi-final victory against Leicester City at Villa Park, the news had come through the previous day that Britain had declared war on Argentina over the ownership of the Falkland Islands in the South Pacific. Ardiles had already been on the losing side at Wembley that season in the League Cup, but wanted to put that right in the FA Cup. He was denied that opportunity, as his cousin was an airman killed in the conflict and the player felt it would be wrong to continue playing in England while his country was at war with them. He left for his homeland to prepare for that summer's World Cup finals, but was heartbroken to see "the two countries I loved at war."
After the summer, Ardiles did not want to come back to England where it was feared he might suffer a backlash and he was loaned out to Paris St. Germain. The move did not work out for him and in January he came back to White Hart Lane, where the fans gave him a warm welcome as his arrival coincided with a tie in his favourite competition. Unfortunately, it was a short run of games, as in his fourth match, he broke his leg.
While he always lit up games, with his skipping run and intelligent running off the ball, Ossie never recaptured his form, as a long series of injuries plagued his Spurs career. However, his play alongside Glenn Hoddle and Steve Perryman was a joy to behold. He featured irregularly in the run to the UEFA Cup final win in 1984 and then got a good number of games under his belt, as Spurs reached the 1987 FA Cup Final.
After that, he was a peripheral figure under David Pleat and Ardiles eventually left the club in August 1988 for Blackburn Rovers. After a loan spell at Ewood Park, Ossie left for good to join QPR and Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the US.
On leaving the playing side of the game, he moved into management with Swindon Town, earning them promotion to Division One through a play-off victory over Sunderland, but being deprived of a place in the top flight because of illegal payments. After leaving the Wiltshire club, Ossie moved into the hot seat at Newcastle United, where he had to rescue them from dropping into Division Three with little money and a reliance on young players, then he took over at West Bromwich Albion in 1992, achieving promotion to the Second Division and his impressive management attracted Spurs, when they needed a replacement for the departing partnership of Doug Livermore and Ray Clemence. Ardiles was, ironically, replaced by Keith Burkinshaw as manager at the Hawthorns.
Ossie managed Spurs as he had played the game; with a reliance on attacking football, with the ball played to feet and with a style in keeping with the club's traditions. The first season he was in charge all went well until injuries left the forward line light and Tottenham struggled, with only a penultimate game win at Oldham Athletic keeping them in the First Division.
The following summer of 1994 was one of the most sensational of the club's history.
Tottenham were found guilty by the FA of making illegal payments to players and were docked points and expelled from the FA Cup for one season. In a show of defiance by chairman Alan Sugar, he brought in World Cup star Ilie Dumitrescu to join Nick Barmby, Darren Anderton and Teddy Sheringham in attack, where they were astonishingly joined by German striker Jurgen Klinsmann in what became the "Famous Five" forward line.
The season started with a flurry of goals, with Klinsmann becoming an instant hit in the attack minded side, but the defence was suffering and when results went against the club, a 0-3 defeat to lower league Notts. County in the League Cup at Meadow Lane was the final straw. Ironically, Ossie was still in charge for the next game against West Ham United, which Spurs won to give him a winning send-off at the Lane.
Ironically, the point deduction was hanging heavy on the club's league position, with Sugar winning a legal battle to get the points back and a big fine imposed instead, but it came too late to save Ossie, with the club ironically almost getting to "Wemberlee" in Ossie's competition of the FA Cup after gaining reinstatement in the race for the famous old trophy too.
After Spurs, Ossie was
still in demand as a manager and he was in charge at a
number of clubs across the world as he managed
Guadalajara (Mexico), Shizimu
S-Pulse (Japan), Nagoya Grampus Eight (Japan), Croatia Zagreb (Croatia), Yokohama
F Marinos (Japan), Al Ittihad (Saudi Arabia), Racing (Argentina), Tokyo Verdy
(Japan), Beitar Jerusalem (Israel), Huracan (Argentina),
where Ricardo Villa was his assistant and Cerro Porteno
of Paraguay. In January 2009 he was strongly
linked with the manager's post at Scottish club
Inverness Caledonian Thistle, but by 2012 Ardiles was
back in Japan managing Selvia Macheda in Japan in the
second tier, where he had a one year contract at the
In 2009, Ossie was an inductee into the English Football Hall of Fame.