Another signing to define an era. Peter Reid’s last chance of winning back the Stadium of Light crowd following two seasons in which his squad deteriorated from European contenders to relegation fighters came in the form of two desperate signings that accumulated a £10million deficit. To be fair to the cheaper signing, Marcus Stewart at £3.25million went on to play over 100 games for Sunderland, albeit the majority of those were played at Championship level (or Division 1 at that point). The other £6.75million was spent on Tore Andre Flo from Rangers, breaking the club’s transfer record.
The Norwegian striker had already enjoyed a successful spell in the Premier League with three impressive years at Chelsea. Flo had displayed great control of the ball and the knack of scoring some down right beautiful goals in his time both North and South of the border.
Had Tore Andre Flo not been so tall, he might have succeeded at Sunderland; the forward’s height would end up being his Achilles heel. The Black Cats had still not found a replacement for gentle giant Niall Quinn, and Peter Reid thought that he had found a carbon copy in Flo. His new striker even scored on his debut, to equalise in a somewhat memorable 1-1 home draw to Manchester United. The game will be remembered for very different reasons though; said match involved Roy Keane’s infamous clash with brainiac Jason McAteer.
Well, Peter Reid didn’t have much time to find out if Flo was the signing he’d been waiting for as he was sacked 9 games into the season, following a 3-1 defeat at Arsenal. David O’Leary, George Graham and Mick McCarthy were the names that were banded around as worthy successors to the man who saved Sunderland from relegation to Division 2, to bring the club back where it belonged. Only a man of equal character, but with a bit more knowledge within the game good take the mantle that Reid had left behind. Bob Murray decided to dumbfound us all my employing Mr. Howard Wilkinson.
Tore Andre Flo was an integral part of Wilko’s squad, lining up with club legend Kevin Phillips in attack. There was a hitch from day one — Howard Wilkinson had been appointed manager. Still living off the back of his glory days with Leeds United, Wilkinson didn’t have that much of an idea about modern football, or his squad for that matter. Constantly trying to incorporate old fashioned training methods and discipline, the old timer soon lost the dressing room. His team managed to win two games in the twenty that he was in charge of; an impressive 2-0 victory over Tottenham and a 2-1 win over Liverpool couldn’t make up for the embarrassing mass of defeats–including a 3-2 defeat from Charlton which saw Sunderland striker Michael Proctor score two own goals! Apparrently Wilco had “never worked so hard to affect a footballing situation in [his] life”.
In the midst of this terrible season was the underachieving, under performing, underwhelming Tore Andre Flow. In the 29 league appearances that the Scandinavian made for Sunderland, he only managed four goals. The worst thing about the lanky striker was not his inability to score goals, or his ineptness to utilise his height, or the laughable way he’d try and out strengthen the opposition’s defence. No, in fact it was the deplorably high wage bill that would prove detrimental at the end of Sunderland’s second worst ever season.
Relegation meant that the club would have to offload a number of high earning players for cheap prices to manage the massive debt they’d accumulated over the past couple of years. Tore Andre Flo was somewhat of a humiliation to the Wearsiders–their record signing would leave on a free transfer only to p*** off to sunny Italy to join Sienna.
Well, at least the Black Cats haven’t sold their soul, nor their dignity to any version of Strictly Come Dancing. Flo’s final dance in particular is a personal favourite.
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