Recently I’ve been doing a bit more running on my days off, all at home on a wee treadmill though because it’s Baltic outside. To pass the time I’ve found myself watching old Rangers games and highlights.
I’ve made a couple of earth-shattering discoveries, Claudio Reyna was way better than I’d remembered, what a player. He was almost identical to Steven Davis in how he played but, dare I say it, even better. At the time, he was overshadowed by the likes of Barry Ferguson, Giovanni Van Bronkhorst and Jorg Albertz, we were spoilt with midfield riches.
The other discovery I made is that Tore Andre Flo was a very accomplished front man. Ask most (all) Scottish football fans and they’ll tell you he was an expensive flop. Rangers paid Chelsea £12 million for him. I’ll leave that there for a while……..£12 million?! He was a goal-every-three striker but had only managed 3 goals in 14 games when Rangers signed him in November 2000, yes November, the good old days when you could sign players all through the season until the end of March.
He scored on his debut v Celtic in a stunning 5-1 victory at Ibrox with an instinctive finish with the outside of his foot. He was also involved in most of our good attacking play and could’ve had another couple of goals but for some excellent goalkeeping, the initial signs were positive.
Flo was top scorer in the league in his first season despite only playing 18 games! He repeated this feat across all competitions the following season. He scored 35 goals in 68 games (including substitute appearances) in his season and three quarters, to put this into perspective the brilliant Michael Mols scored 38 goals in 98 appearances. But he didn’t cost £12 million and he did rupture his anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.
His goal scoring rate was better at Rangers than it had ever been throughout his career, he had better than a goal every two games and finish top goal scorer his two seasons. Job done surely? Well, it’s never that straightforward at Rangers is it?
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There are a few reasons why Flo isn’t remembered with any great fondness. HE COST £12 MILLION!! That’s the obvious one. During the same period, Henrik Larsson scored 88 goals in 97 games, this makes Flo’s return, although decent, pale into insignificance. Celtic also unsurprisingly won the league in both seasons. Flo did manage to win the League Cup and Scottish Cup in his second season, scoring in the League Cup final v Ayr United so it’s a bit harsh to say his time at the club was a complete failure.
In Tore Andre Flo’s only full season where he managed 25 goals in 39 starts, Celtic lost just once and drew four times, ending the season with 103 points. Rangers as a team in transition could never have matched this. Especially after losing Van Bronkhorst, Albertz, Reyna and the mercurial Tugay Kerimoglu from midfield.
The injury of Mols early in Flo’s second season also hindered him and Ranger’s chances, Claudio Caniggia and Shota Arveladze were worthy understudies but they just didn’t have the same creative genius of Mols.
If Rangers had paid £4m-£6m for Flo he would be remembered as an altogether different player. He was never going to be Larsson, he had never been that type of player. He certainly wasn’t a £12 million player. But I definitely don’t think Flo let himself or the club down during his time at the club. So, whose fault is it we look back on Flo’s Rangers career with such apathy? As I do with many things Rangers, I blame David Murray!