Big Interview: Lorenzo Amoruso
A Big Interview with Italian Rangers legend Lorenzo Amoruso
On RangersTV supporters can watch in-depth one-to-ones with a lot of the club’s greatest stars as they discuss their football careers and years at Ibrox.
Signed by Walter Smith in the summer of 1997, it was to be eight months before Lorenzo Amoruso made his Rangers debut as a result of an Achilles tendon injury.
When he did eventually appear, he was given an incredible baptism of fire, coming on as a substitute in Gers 2-1 win over Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final at ‘neutral’ Parkhead.
He went on to play in five of the last six matches that season, although it ended in colossal disappointment as the Light Blues missed out on both a tenth league title in a row and the Scottish Cup following a defeat to Hearts in the final.
Dick Advocaat replaced Walter Smith as manager in the summer of 1998, and he named Amoruso as his captain, with the Italian lifting a sensational Treble in 1998/99 and then the League in 1999/00, although he missed out on the Scottish Cup Final in that second season through injury.
Midway through the following campaign he lost the captaincy before recovering to be named SPFA Player of the Year in 2000/01 as Rangers lifted a ‘cup double’ under new boss Alex McLeish and then another Treble the following season.
His time at Rangers came to an end following the 2003 Scottish Cup Final, where he scored the winner in a 1-0 victory over Dundee before moving on to join Graeme Souness at Blackburn Rovers.
Name: Lorenzo Pier Luigi Amoruso
POB: Bari, Italy.
Position: Central Defender
Clubs: Bari, Mantova (loan), Pescara (loan), Fiorentina, Rangers, Blackburn Rovers, Cosmos.
Fiorentina: Italian Cup (1995/96), Italian Super Cup (1996).
Rangers: Scottish Premier League (1998/99, 1999/2000, 2002/03); Scottish Cup (1998/99, 2001/02, 2002/03); League Cup (1998/99, 2001/02, 2002/03).
Individual: SPFA Player of the Year (2001/02)
Was leaving Italy for Scotland a difficult decision for you?
LA: “It took me a few days to understand what it was I was doing. It was a big decision for me in my career – Rangers were offering me a big contract, although that was not the only reason.
“There was a chance for me to play in the Champions League, and with respect to Fiorentina, I didn’t think we would ever be able to qualify back then. We were a good team, but not as big as the likes of AC Milan and Juventus.
“When I met Walter Smith though, I had a fantastic first impression and he was one of the reasons for me moving too.”
You were injured for much of your first season. That must have been incredibly frustrating for you?
LA: “I was really devastated by it. Before I joined Rangers they knew about the problem and they had specialists looking at it.
“It took me 10 months to get fit though, and that was a horrible feeling. The club was looking to win 10-in-a -row and it was really frustrating being unable to help out with that.
“Just before the end of the season, we had a party to celebrate the end of an era, and I remember Stuart McCall telling me, ‘Lorenzo, if you could have played 30 games this season we could have had the 10-in-a-row in our pocket.’”
It was towards the end of that season when you eventually made your debut, and your first two games came against Celtic.
LA: “I made my debut from the bench at Celtic Park in the Scottish Cup after Gordan Petric got injured. We played a fantastic game and won 2-1 thanks to goals from Ally McCoist and Jorg Albertz.
“A week later, we played them at Ibrox in the league and won 2-0 with a great goal from Jonas Thern and another from Jorg.”
You played a part in the Scottish Cup Final against Hearts at Celtic Park as well.
LA: “That was a bad, bad one for us as we lost 2-1. Hearts got a penalty after 30 seconds, which wasn’t a penalty as the foul was outside the box.
“It wasn’t to be for us that season, but I still tried to take the positives from it. I got to work with the likes of Richard Gough, Ally McCoist and Ian Durrant and I learned a lot from them.”
Dick Advocaat came in the following season, made you captain, and the team went on to win the Treble. It was an incredible turnaround.
LA: “It was fantastic. We didn’t start well and we struggled for the first few months. We were winning but it wasn’t really great the way we were playing.
“After Christmas and the winter break when we went to Florida, it got much, much better. Those 10 days away really helped us as we got to know each other much better.
“It was really hard at the start when the new manager came in. He wanted some really strict discipline and that was good to begin with, but after a year or two the players got a bit fed-up about it as we were treated like kids.
“He was using the stick all the time and some can react well to that, others can’t. He was never ready to compromise his attitude, and one day I went to his office to sort the problems between me and him.
“He told me he didn’t like the way I had been playing or the way I had been talking and that he should change the captaincy.
“It was a personal attack, and I wasn’t happy. I said to him ‘if you think I’m the scapegoat then do it, no problem. But if you think I’m the main problem, leave me out of the team.
“He never did that and that’s why I think it was a personal attack on me. He wasn’t happy with the way I was talking to the players and the way I was trying to get him to talk to the whole team.
“No disrespect to Barry Ferguson but he got the captaincy after me and he was only 22. He was a good young player but I think it was too big for him at the time.
“Eventually, he got much better and was a really good captain of the club. But at the time, with all the problems we had, it was really difficult for him and we didn’t do any better that season.
“It hurt me a lot and my first instinct was to stop playing for Rangers. I got on to my agent and told him ‘get me out of here, I can’t work with this man.’
“That wasn’t the case though. I had talks with Sunderland and West Ham, but there was no agreement between me and them or the two clubs.
“Eventually I stayed but I didn’t want to stay. Not because of Rangers, but because of Advocaat.
“But at the start of the new season [2001/02] I signed a new contract. Performances were OK but Celtic were going really, really well.
“We did really well in Europe, but in November, after a few bad results, I got a call from the club to say that Alex McLeish was the new manager.”
What were your feelings at that time?
LA: “Advocaat became the director of football, but I saw it as an elaborate way to sack him. I was in Italy as I was suspended but after only a few days I got a phone call from Alex McLeish.
“I had a really good relationship with him and we ended that season with two trophies and beat Celtic again after going a year without doing that.
“All the workers at Rangers, the physios, the ladies in the kitchen and the groundsmen, all got a lift when Advocaat took a step away.
“The way he was acting and the way he was talking to everyone was really disappointing. The dressing room changed completely. Alex is a man who will give you something, but he always wants something back. That is the way he started with us and the results showed that in his first year and a half.
Going back to the 1998/99 season, your first trophy was the League Cup after a 2-1 win over St Johnstone. That must have been a proud moment for you?
LA: “It was really important for me and the club after what had happened the previous year. But the best memory for me was winning the league.
“It’s the only time we’ve ever won the league at Celtic Park, and the way we did it by winning 3-0 was brilliant. I still remember the fans in the corner, and they couldn’t stop singing and jumping, it was absolutely amazing.
“Winning the Scottish Cup was great too, but if I was to choose one memory that year it would be winning the league.
“In the end we achieved a fantastic Treble which we thoroughly deserved.”
The next season, 1999/00, there was another league title and a Scottish Cup, but you missed the final with Aberdeen.
LA: “I missed the final as I had an unfortunate collision with Craig Moore on the pitch a few months before. I had some loose cartilage in my ankle and because we had Champions League qualifiers early the next year, we decided to get the operation done before the end of the season.
“I wasn’t happy at missing the Cup Final but I had to think ahead and put the team first.”
In 2001/02 you were part of the team that won a League Cup and Scottish Cup double, what do you remember about that time?
LA: “The key to that season was the semi-final of the League Cup against Celtic. The team did extremely well that night, and Bert Konterman scored a fantastic goal.
“The way the team desperately wanted to win that game was fantastic and afterwards you could see how united we were.”
2002/03 was another Treble-winning season for Rangers. Not many players can say they have been involved in one treble let alone two.
LA: “We started that season so well, and everything that year was just fantastic. That was until we lost the last Old Firm game 2-1 against Celtic, and then we drew 2-2 at Dundee the next week although I was suspended.
“But we went to the last game of the season with the same number of points and goal difference as Celtic. We scored inside three minutes, but Dunfermline started really well to and equalised straight away.
“But we scored enough goals, and it really was a thriller of a day and a relief at the end.”
Were you aware of what was happening in Celtic’s game at Kilmarnock?
LA: “We had our kit man Jimmy Bell who was listening to their game on the radio. So he was informing the manager who was informing us.
“Our game finished before theirs, so we had to wait a few minutes before we found out we had won the league.”
Your last game for the club was the Scottish Cup Final against Dundee at Hampden in which you scored the only goal.
LA: “That was such a sad day. I knew the club wouldn’t be able to offer me a new contract because of the financial problems.
“The manager came to my house and like an older brother he explained why they couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to leave. I was thinking I would finish my career at Rangers.
“That game against Dundee was really tough. We couldn’t perform to our best as they were really tight and made it difficult to score.
“But in the second half, Neil McCann took a fantastic free-kick which I managed to get my head to.
“When the referee blew the final whistle I felt so cold as I knew that was going to be my last game for Rangers.
“The way the day went, scoring the winning goal, winning ‘man of the match’ and another Treble, was probably the perfect way for me to leave.
“I started to cry, and I couldn’t really enjoy the moment as I couldn’t stop crying.”
Why do you think you developed such a strong bond with Rangers?
LA: “It’s difficult to say. It’s such a massive, fantastic club, and you realise that when you leave.
“The fans are absolutely fantastic and it was great always having them around you and supporting you.”