Cult Heroes: Jan Åge Fjørtoft

Cult Heroes: Jan Åge Fjørtoft

There are only two clubs that have only ever managed one solitary season in the Premier League: Swindon Town and Barnsley.

And there is one player that links both sides' extremely short top flight sabbaticals: Jan Åge Fjørtoft.

That fact alone is surely enough to guarantee him bona fide Cult Hero status. But dig deeper into his career and there's plenty more to support the claim that the Norwegian with the aeroplane celebration was a gold-plated terrace icon.



By the time he arrived in Wiltshire in the summer of 1993 following Swindon's unlikely promotion to the Premier League, big Jan (he was 6ft 4ins) had already been smashing them in at regular intervals, first as a 17-year-old at Hødd in the Norwegian second division, before continuing his rise at the wonderfully-named HamKam, and then Lillestrom.



A four-year stint at Rapid Vienna followed, before his propensity to find the back of the net somehow came to the attention of John Gorman, Swindon's manager, who brought him to England for a club record £500k.

However, Fjørtoft found the Prem a difficult beast, managing precisely zero goals before Christmas, as the Robins failed to win any of their first SIXTEEN matches.

But then something changed. He scored. And then he scored again. And again and again. Thirteen of the buggers in only 17 games, including a hat-trick against Coventry.



Swindon, of course, were relegated nonetheless. They remain the only Premier League club to concede 100 goals in a season. One fucking hundred.

But there was a certain romance to their brief stay in the top flight. They played genuinely entertaining football and, in their Norwegian striker, had a player worthy of the division.


That trademark celebration


"A Norwegian player I saw in a game did a kind of airplane copy, and I thought: ‘I’m going try that one day’. In a game for Swindon I scored in the first half and I did the Airplane Celebration. When I went towards the tunnel at County Ground I saw a beautiful old lady, she must have been around 80 doing the Airplane Celebration. And I thought: ‘If it’s good for her it’s good for me!’  From that day the Airplane Celebration became my trademark."

– Jan Åge Fjørtoft


After spells with Middlesbrough and Sheffield United, Fjørtoft was back in the Premier League in 1998 when he joined newly-promoted Barnsley. Six goals in 15 games wasn't enough to keep the Tykes up, though, and before the year's end he'd left for Eintracht Frankfurt.



It might have been brief but his stay in England was special. So here's to you, Jan - the Premier League was more fun with you in it.


Words by Josh Warwick





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