Lithuania striker Andrius Velička told uefa.com that moving to Scotland in 2006 had been like "being born for a second time" as he celebrated winning his first Premier League title at the end of an up-and-down season at Rangers FC.
Injuries limited the 30-year-old to just ten league appearances this season, but four goals in as many games – three in the league and one in the Scottish Cup – towards the end of the campaign helped his side take the title from Celtic FC. "I'm happy I at least helped the team to win the title in some way," he told uefa.com. "We have been thinking about it all season long."
While Walter Smith's side finished the campaign with a double, the season had begun badly for the losing 2007/08 UEFA Cup finalists, with a UEFA Champions League second qualifying round defeat by Velička's old club, FBK Kaunas, knocking them out of Europe. "That was a painful blow, but it helped us in the title race as we owed our fans and wanted to show what we could do," Velička recalled.
Success with Rangers further cemented the Lithuanian international's relationship with Scotland. A star at Kaunas, he scored 26 goals in the 2000 season and eventually had a short spell in Russia with FC Anzhi Makhachkala in 2002. Yet after a loan spell in Kazakhstan with FC Irtysh Pavlodar, he returned to Kaunas and looked destined to remain in his homeland.
That changed in 2006. Loaned to Heart of Midlothian FC, another club who – like Kaunas – are under the influence of Lithuanian businessman Vladimir Romanov, he came alive in Edinburgh, scoring 19 goals in the course of two seasons at Tynecastle. He told uefa.com: "It was like being born for a second time. It was another footballing world. My motivation picked up and I played so much better."
Sold to Norwegian side Viking FK for a Lithuanian record fee of €1m in February 2008, he was to last barely four months in Stavanger before joining Rangers on a two-and-a-half year deal. "I didn't expect to be back so quickly," he said. "I had offers from English clubs and some others, but I chose Rangers because this is a famous club and I like the hard style of play in Scotland."
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