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Cover story: It would've been hard to play for a gaffer who set out to destroy me; LORENZO AMORUSO IS HAPPY TO LOOK FORWARD INSTEAD OF BACK.

Byline: MARK GUIDI

LORENZO AMORUSO looked a picture of relaxation in the foyer of Blackburn's training ground as he chatted away in Italian on his mobile phone.

He was booking a table for two in a restaurant in Sardinia - a favour for a member of the Rovers backroom staff who was heading there on a weekend break.

When Amoruso had finished his good deed his smile was wide and his greeting warm. These are happy days for the colourful central defender.

Even though he was disappointed to see his old gaffer Graeme Souness leave Ewood Park last month to join Newcastle he was relieved Mark Hughes was appointed as the Scot's successor.

Other top managers such as Davie Moyes, Sam Allardyce and Ian Dowie had been linked to the job. As was a former Holland boss.

But the mention of Dick Advocaat's name is enough wipe the smile off Amoruso's face as his frame visibly tenses.

The pair had a public fall-out four years ago when the Dutchman took the captaincy of Rangers off big Amo after a Champions League match against Monaco.

Advocaat blamed the defender for the French side's late equaliser.

The whole affair left Amoruso feeling humiliated.

So how would he have felt if his old Ibrox gaffer had got the Blackburn job?

Lorenzo told mailsport weekly: 'It would have been a difficult situation.

'When I play for a team I give my heart and soul.

'I would have found it difficult to give everything for a man who tried to destroy me.

'Maybe I would have had to have asked away from this club. But we will never know that. 'When his name was first mentioned for the job spoke with my former Rangers colleagues Barry Ferguson and Tugay about it.

'I think we knew this club would not go for a foreign coach and would prefer someone who knew about the values and family atmosphere at the place.

'I didn't know Mark Hughes before he came here but his appointment was well received by the local people. And the players who played with him when he was here were happy to have him.

'I have been surprised in a positive way by the impact he has made in such a short space of time. His training is good. The response from the players has been fantastic.

'He's not hands-on. He stands at the side and watches it all. He leaves the training to his coaches Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki.

'The gaffer makes sure the training is high-tempo and always intense. Every session has a purpose. It is never boring and we always have to be on our toes. It's exactly what need at 33.'

Most Blackburn fans - and a few players as well - reckon Souness had taken the club as far as he could.

After winning the League Cup two years ago it would have been extremely hard for him to hit those heights again when competing against Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea.

Souness also had run-ins with players such as Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole and obviously felt the time was right to go.

Amoruso said: 'There is always a lot said about Graeme and every man has good and bad points. But never had a problem with him.

'He is my kind of man - if he has something to say he says it to your face. He doesn't stab you in the back. prefer that. Always.

'Sometimes you might not like what he has to say but at least you know exactly where you stand with him.

'When a manager signs you, you know he believes in you and you want to work with him for as long as possible. I was disappointed to see Graeme leave but I understood his reasons.

'It was not always easy for him at this club and when some players are not giving 100 per cent for whatever reason then it becomes difficult.

'I hope he does well at Newcastle and have a feeling he will. We must all move on now and I think the players at Blackburn have.

'We know we have a difficult time ahead and have to start getting points to climb the league table into a more respectable position. We have been unlucky in some games so far this season. Refereeing decisions have cost us at important times.

'I'm confident we will do well under Mark Hughes and I'm looking forward to playing a part in it all. missed much of last season because of injury and feel I have a lot to give this club. I want to win a trophy with Blackburn.'

Yet it's not difficult to detect that Amoruso also feels he still wants to give something more to Rangers.

The big man proved to be excellent value for money after Walter Smith paid Fiorentina pounds 4.5million for him in the summer of 1997.

Amo played a huge part in the Ibrox club's success under Advocaat and Alex McLeish when he won three Premier League titles in five seasons.

But when he had a year left on his Rangers contract he was upset when the chairman wouldn't offer him an acceptable deal to stay in Glasgow ... despite being willing to take a pay-cut of around 20 per cent.

And in July last year - just weeks after scoring the winning goal in the Scottish Cup Final against Dundee - he was sold to Blackburn for over pounds 1m.

Amoruso recalled: 'I wanted to stay with Rangers. I wanted to sign a new contract and extend my stay.

'It would have been so special for a foreigner to stay with a team for so long. It just wasn't to be.

'It was miserable for me to watch Celtic winning the double last season and Rangers ending up with nothing. 'The situation has to improve on and off the park.

'I'm not keen to go back to

to play again for the team. I have good memories from my time and hope the supporters have good memories of me. And if I went back I would risk spoiling that. But of course ... you never say never.

'It would be a different story to return one day as manager or coach. I have a feeling that would be nice. Being the Rangers boss is a difficult task because being number two in Scotland is failure for them. It's a demanding job but like a challenge.

'It would be nice to be offered the chance one day to go there and work in the technical area but that kind of thing is a long, long way off.

'I would like to be a manager one day and I know the people would like to work alongside me. They are people can trust with my heart.

'But I'm not going to say their names. It would be crazy at this stage to mention them.

'I have ideas would love to use on players. Since I began my career at Bari many years ago I have kept notes in a folder about different training routines - what I liked and didn't like. I hope to get the chance to use it one day. would like to test myself as coach of a team.

'When the time is right I will take my coaching badges but don't know if that will be in Italy or England.

'I want to keep playing for as long as I can so I have plenty of time to decide. When my body doesn't have a good enough feeling to get out of bed in the morning and go to training then I will hang up my boots.

'I don't know for sure but feel have a few years left. My contract with Blackburn expires in the summer of 2006 and we will wait and see what happens after that.

'I know I have plenty to learn and will keep learning every day. You never stop learning and should always try to find out something new every day.

'Older players and younger players can learn from each other. Older managers and younger managers can also learn new things from one another. Nobody knows everything and never will.'

One thing Amoruso does know is that he will not sit back counting his dosh and reminiscing when the boots are discarded. He will want to write new chapters in his life.

And if staying in the game doesn't come off he will consider adding another restaurant to the one he already owns in Florence.

He said: 'One idea I'm considering is going back to Italy to take charge of my restaurants. I love cooking and love it when a chef lets me go into his kitchen and do my own thing.

'If open another one I would need to be there to set the pace and the tone of what I wanted. couldn't just buy it and never be in the place. You have to be there to let the customers see you.

'If don't do that then would also consider opening a sports injury clinic that treats people with everyday jobs as well as professional sportsmen and sportswomen.

'When an accountant or an architect or plumber gets injured they often find the doctors and physiotherapists don't treat them with the respect they deserve.

'In fact I wouldn't treat an animal the way some humans are treated. No matter who you are or what job you do you want to be back fit again as soon as possible to enjoy your football, running, basketball, swimming or whatever it is you like to do.

'My clinic would give proper care to everyone and also have a specialised area for top athletes to use if they need to.

'But that is just one of the ideas have in my head for my future. There is nothing definite about it at present.'

Selecting a business plan is just one of many choices Amoruso will have to make over the next three or four years. And the elegant bachelor may also face another important decision in the not-too-distant future.

He explained: 'I have a girlfriend in Italy just now and we are having fun. But it is not the same when you are apart so often.

'Most of the time it's not possible to sort out problems over the phone and it would be better to be together and work through them. That makes it difficult. It is hard finding the right balance.

'When I was with Rangers I had a girlfriend from Glasgow and I thought that would make it easier but it was probably worse. It was hard for her to see the attention other females gave me.

'I would like to settle down. But can't put my hand on my heart and say my girlfriend will become my wife.

'I would also like children. It would be good if had a few running about. That's one of the sacrifices I have to make as a footballer not working in my own country.

'I've had to move away and it's not always been best for relationships. As a footballer you can have the money and fame but sometimes you can't have what you really want.'

For a lot of Amoruso's time in the west of Scotland all he wanted was a quiet life. But as a high-profile Old Firm star he found it almost impossible.

And as he relaxes in his new home in a village just outside Blackburn he confesses one thing he doesn't miss about Glasgow is the sectarian bile that seems to consume so many fans from both sides of the Old Firm divide.

Amoruso admitted: 'In the beginning it was tough for me in Scotland. Some people had a stupid mentality.

'Celtic supporters couldn't understand why I signed for Rangers. They would be surprised when they bumped into me inside a Catholic church.

'I also didn't like to listen to the stupid songs some of the Rangers fans used to sing. But I just tried to be polite with everyone about the whole situation.

'I think the issues surrounding religion in Scotland are being looked at carefully and things are improving.

'There's nothing like that down here in England. People are only interested in how the team is playing.

'That's the way it should be.'

CAPTION(S):

Rover and out: Amoruso was sad to see his old gaffer Graeme Souness leave Blackburn to boss Newcastle; Smiles better: Amoruso has; enjoyed life at Blackburn since Mark Hughes took over as boss; The unforgiven: Amoruso and Dick Advocaat
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 24, 2004
Words:2094
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