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A Norwegian international striker, Fjørtoft signed for Swindon from Austrian club Rapid Vienna in July 1993, for a then club record fee of £500,000. He was bought on the recommendation of Town's new assistant manager, David Hay, who had worked with Fjørtoft during a spell as Lilleström's manager in the late eighties.
Fjørtoft made his debut on the opening day of the club's first ever season in the top flight, in a 3-1 defeat at Sheffield United on 14th August 1993. To start with, Fjørtoft struggled to adapt to English football, and though he started ten of the first fourteen league games of the season, he had failed to find the net. His bad performances were only made worse by the occasional missed sitter - most notably in the league game at home to Villa, where he turned a goal-bound effort from xxx around the post, and the Town lost 2-1.
Fjørtoft's days at the County Ground seemed numbered with the signing of Keith Scott from Wycombe, who immediately replaced him in the team - then scored the winner on his debut in the Town's first win of the season, at home to Q.P.R., in a match where Fjørtoft didn't even get off the bench. His appearances in the side were then limited to substitute roles only, and with Fjørtoft worried about his place in the Norwegian side for the forthcoming World Cup finals in the United States, it was arranged that he would return to his old club, Lilleström, on loan.
Luckily, just days after an interview with David Hay with the headline "Suffering Jan To Catch Fire" was published in the Evening Advertiser, an injury to Scott put the Lilleström deal on hold - and Fjørtoft was thrust back into the starting line-up for the FA Cup replay at Ipswich. It was his first start for over two months, and he marked his comeback with his first goal in Town colours. It was the 23rd match that Fjørtoft had been involved in, his thirteenth start, and his relief at the goal was evident.
The goal sparked an amazing turnaround in Fjørtoft's fortunes. The following Saturday, he scored in a 2-1 win over Tottenham, then, in the Town's next game at home to Coventry, he bagged a hat-trick. It was in this game that Fjørtoft first used his famous "aeroplane" celebration, which was to become his trademark. He didn't miss another game all season, and in those seventeen games, Fjørtoft netted thirteen goals - though they came too late to save the Town from relegation.
Fjørtoft went to the World Cup in the summer, featuring in all of Norway's games, and becoming only the second Swindon player to play in a finals tournament. Upon his return to the County Ground, he picked up exactly where he left off - netting in an opening day victory over Port Vale. Though he scored consistently in the league, his best form came in the League Cup, when a hat-trick at Charlton helped overturn a 3-1 first leg defeat, as the Town went through 5-4 on aggregate. This win sparked a great run to the semi-finals in which Fjørtoft was pivotal - scoring nine goals in eight games, including a cracker against Millwall which prompted their manager, Mick McCarthy to say that he would "go naked in Burton's shop window" if Fjørtoft had meant it. Embarrassingly, he was forced to eat his words live on television after being shown the replay!
Fjørtoft's great form obviously alerted bigger clubs, and, with rumours that he and new manager Steve McMahon didn't see eye-to-eye, when the transfer deadline approached, it became apparent that Fjørtoft leaving was a matter of when, not if. There were many rumours, and many pundits were predicting a large transfer fee - after that Millwall game, Jimmy Greaves valued Fjørtoft at between three and four million pounds. When the bid finally came, it was from Middlesbrough, and Swindon fans were horrified when the club accepted their £1.3 million bid, with McMahon quoted as saying that "it was the only bid on the table, so we had to accept it". The Town fans wholeheartedly disagreed.
When Fjørtoft left on transfer deadline day, the only signing in the opposite direction was Jason Drysdale, a left back from Newcastle, who cost £340,000. It proved to be one of the Town's worst signings ever, and was no consolation whatsoever. Up to the point when he left, Fjørtoft had scored 26 goals that season. Following his departure, Swindon failed to score in six of their next eight games, a run which sealed their relegation to Division Two.
Fjørtoft had a cult status in his homeland, but after leaving England, he often found himself at odds with his managers. After a spell in Germany with Eintracht, where the fans loved him but the management didn't, he returned to Norway. He retired from football at the end of 2001, after his chairman at Stabæk described him as "having an ego so big, he thinks the sun rises in the morning just to give him light". He came out of retirement for a short time to return to the club he supported since he was a boy, Lilleström, but only in an injury crisis, and only if the game was being played at home! After hanging up his boots for a final time, he worked in Lilleström's administration department, and as a pundit on Norwegian television.
date of birth