Following the sale of Tore Andre Flo, Mark Wheeler looks back at some of the highlights of the Norwegian striker’s time at Chelsea.
So Tore André Flo has hit the high road and headed north for Glasgow Rangers. One small consolation is that he at least didn’t go via Spurs, à la Jukebox Judas. As the speculation mounted in the days and weeks before the transfer, the second time in the space of a few month’s that Chelsea were on the receiving end of a record Scottish fee, the supporters had the chance to get used to the fact that we were about to lose our Norwegian superstar but the blow was still a severe one when the move was eventually confirmed.
This is just the latest instalment in a bizarre season for Blues fans.
Vialli was of course sacked five games in – a decision that was on a par in the reality stakes with Maradona spreading false rumours about Pelé’s sexuality, no one could predict either happening but both did – an Italian many of us had never heard of landed his job and the team seem incapable of performing away from home. And now, on top of all that, we sell one of our best ever players. All pre-season estimates of how Chelsea would do have gone out the window.
Flo never got a fair break at Chelsea. His substitute appearances were consistently astonishing but he rarely had a run of starts under any of the three managers who he played for at the Bridge.
Ruud Gullit was arguably his fairest boss. Flo thrived in the Dutchman’s attacking style of play. The highlight of this spell was his performance in the 6-1 annihilation at Three Point Lane.
He was unstoppable that day and scored a cracking hat-trick. Many will remember his post-match interview throughout which he was grinning like a schoolboy who could not believe how well he had just played. The Rottenham defence are still having nightmares though. Under Vialli, Flo had a manager who knew all about the frustration of sitting on the bench. But if anything, his chances became fewer. This was not helped by the injury he picked up at Oldham in the FA Cup which saw him sidelined for a long spell. The obvious highlight of his time under Vialli would be his two goals against Barcelona in the European Cup quarter-final. How far away that night seems now but it was only a matter of months ago.
With Claudio Ranieri in charge, Flo’s starting appearances could be counted on the fingers of one hand. The latest incumbent has demonstrated little faith in the Norwegian despite the fact that Flo single handedly saved Chelsea at Old Trafford in Ranieri’s first game in charge. Flo may have got a start that morning but he found himself playing out of position in a wide midfield role. Despite this it was his goals that clawed back a two goal deficit to secure a draw – a result away from home that Ranieri failed to improve on until the time he sold Flo.
Ranieri has been conspicuous by his lack of comment on the Flo issue. Whether it is because he had little to do with the decision to allow him to leave or because he is still struggling with the language is open to speculation. It was clear that Flo’s reason for leaving was lack of starting appearances and Colin Hutchinson admitted as much in his press statements. Bates and Hutchinson will of course be more interested in the fact that Chelsea have netted a profit of £11,700,000 on the player, rather than the fact that we have lost a class act. But what will the club do with the £12 million? Will Ranieri be able to buy (and if so will he buy British?) or does the cash pay off what has already been shelled out? We await the answer with eager anticipation.
Flo did have his knockers in his time at Chelsea though. He got stick at Newcastle earlier this season from the travelling support after missing a chance in the 0-0 draw. The nauseating anti-fan Mellor is another who did not miss a chance to bad-mouth Flo. It is ironic that a section of the support should demand nothing less than 100 per cent consistency from a player who rarely had a run of starting appearances at a chronically and historically inconsistent football club.
At Rangers Flo will undoubtedly be first choice and against Scottish defences he will score bucket loads. Before anyone becomes critical of the dismissal of Caledonian defenders, I cite in my defence Chris Sutton’s goal scoring exploits for Celtic.
My abiding memory of Tore André will be his wondrous drag back. Attacking wide in the penalty area, Flo would wait for the defender to commit himself before dragging the ball behind one foot with his other, invariably leaving his marker sprawled on his arse sliding away in the wrong direction. Then he would apply the coup de grâce by sending a curling shot wide of the goalkeeper and inside the far post. The classic example of this was the first of his two goals in the 3-1 win at Villa Park a couple of seasons back.
Sadly, we will not be able to appreciate his craft any more. Tore has also been a real gent throughout the transfer, simply refusing to slag off Chelsea at any stage despite being given every opportunity to by sleazy hacks itching to have a pop at the club. Some of the players still at the Bridge should learn a lesson from this. He was even kind enough to say “Chelsea is a great club” so it is hard to begrudge him his move. Although it helps that he has not joined one of our domestic rivals.
Thanks for all the good times Tore. Thanks for the goals, your patience and all the joy you brought to Chelsea fans who were lucky enough to witness your time at the club. You will be sorely missed and impossible to replace. We wish you had not needed to go but we also wish you every success in the future.