English football and the odd Swedish bond and love affair!

Long before televised live football from England had it’s say in Swedish homes during a Saturday afternoon, going on for 50 years, influence from the UK were there to see far back in time. We don’t know about pre-world-war happenings and will not dig that down, but from the Olympics in London in 1948, it’s been a real “Swedish / English” football love affair.

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English coach George Raynor is a name that occur quickly as a key man to the start of all of this. He was said to be suited perfectly for the job and as it appeared he managed to bring unbelievable success in his years in charge of the Swedish national team, winning them a World Cup silver and bronze medal, and adding to that an Olympic gold and bronze.

Frank Soo was another English born to come over, a former team mate of Stanley Matthews at Stoke City. He was seen in Swedish football during the 50’s and 60’s being the head coach at several clubs, being able to take  such as Eskilstuna, Orebro, Djurgården, Oddevold, AIK and IFK Stockholm. Despite being a former player of recognition he had seen his chances in coaching limited, getting his only assignment with non-league St. Albans, and from there moving to Padova in Italy and later in charge of Norway in the 1952 Olympics, losing their only game against George Reynor’s Sweden. A rare and very special situation, seeing two Englishmen being in charge of these two nations, so far and to our knowledge, the only time it has happened in an Olympics.

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To import English managers were seen as an instant possibility to gain success and with the 70’s approaching, we certainly got new miracle acts. Bob Houghton and Roy Hodgson arrived in the middle of that decade and with fast effect got their clubs to the top. Hodgson made the impossible with Halmstad, winning the Championship and Houghton had done the same with Malmo FF, the two became “iconic” in a very short time.

While Hodgson made his mark domestically Houghton also set Europe on fire taking Malmo FF all the way to the final of the European Cup, only defeated 1-0 by Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest. Bob Houghton and Roy Hodgson are legends in Sweden but as George Raynor and Frank Soo, to that date with little or no fame in his homeland.

Bob Houghton had seen his football coaching in England cut short after spells at non-league clubs Hastings and Maidstone, and as Raynor, who had his previous job at Aldershot Reserves before joining the Swedish national team, coming from places few or no one had heard of. But to be English and have som sort of career would be enough to convince Swedes that this was better than home grown coaches, proof seen and addressed from George Reynor and Frank Soo. Just a few years later Roy Hodgson arrived on the Swedish scene, recommended by Bob Houghton, to take over Halmstad BK, and he showed how easily it can be done, winning the Swedish league twice, in 1976 and 1979. Houghton and Hodgson both left Sweden for a job in the England, taking over a falling Bristol City. The project falted and soon both were back in Swedish football. Roy Hodgson, as we all know, later being in charge of England, Liverpool and taking Fulham to the final of the UEFA Cup, spent 22 years of his football management career in Sweden, speaking the language fluently. Bob Houghton did return after spells in NASL with Toronto Blizzard and had and added 5 more years to his CV, coaching Malmo FF and Orgryte, adding up 11 seasons in Swedish football. The two were revolutionary bringing the zonal marking approach to Swedish football and by that influencing people coaching football in Scandinavia for the last 40 years.

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Out of the Houghton and Hodgson era did a certain Sven Göran Eriksson appear on the coaching scene, and as similar to Hodgson and Houghton with a minor career in lower tier football, Eriksson, obsessed with English football, and a massive Liverpool fan, had a upbringing under Tord Grip, as he assisted him at Degerfors, moving to IFK Gothenburg and later taking full charge, being the next big Swedish team in football, building a solid force of home grown talent, and from there winning trophies in Europe. Gunder Bengtsson managed to bring the work of Eriksson further and win the UEFA Cup for a 2nd time in 1987. Since then no Swedish team has had an eye on a trophy in Europe. Bengtsson might not be as famous at “Svennis” but did have a Europan coaching career being in charge of Greek top club Panathinaikos and Dutch club Feyenoord. Bengtsson passed away earlier this year at the age of 73, being the last manager of any team in Scandinavia winning a title in Europe.

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A number of years are gone since the days of Svennis, Bob and Roy, but it seems as it again has gone full circle, as astonishing things are happening in the Swedish wilderness, getting in British managers again at places you didn’t know existed in the footballing World. Graham Potter, today the manager of Brighton & Hove Albion, is famously known for the miracle act Ostersund and will for always be seen as “pure gold” with an approach that really made miracles, climbing Swedish league tiers as never seen before and establishing Ostersund in Allsvenskan, and also winning the Swedish Cup, from there taking this team into Europe and as we all know played Arsenal in the Europa League. The fact that Graham Potter has taken on the act of his fellow Englishmen from the past tends to open doors for more people just by the fact that they are from the same nation, and certainly it’s been a yo yo effect with Uwe Rossler and Rob Kelly now in charge of Malmo FF, both strongly attached to England or being born there. Ostersund who previously was coached by Potter, has put Ian Burchnall in charge, who has good reputation in Scandinavia, earlier been at Sarpsborg and Viking.

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Another phenomena has appeared as well with Ytterhogdals IK , just an amazing story, and must be credited to the work of Graham Potter. A neighborhood of wealthy “tractor boys”, has gone together to sponsor the club and in that sense imported an English coach, Adie Costello, and loads of English youngsters, being axed around at several English academies. The name Curtis Edwards is a living example of a fairy story ongoing, aged 25, without any history in professional football at all turned up at Ytterhogdals IK in 2015, moving from 9th tier English club Thornaby. From here he has taken the steps up, from Ytterhogdals IK, via Ostersund and to league leader Djurgården.

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One player with a previous life in Sweden with Ostersund have found himself a route back to Premier League. The former Manchester United and West Ham United midfielder Ravel Morrison is now with Sheffield United, after travelling Europe and ending up at Ostersund and from there routed back to The Blades.

In the past a number of English players made the most of their move to Sweden and still living in the country. One “big” legend is the forward Steve Galloway. He played for Djurgården and Umeå, a notorious goalscorer who had only been seen in English football with a short lived career at Sutton United and Crystal Palace before moving to Sweden.

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Another to mention is Billy Landsdowne, who played for Kalmar FF, moving from Gillingham and before that being at Charlton and West Ham. Billy is a famous name in Sweden and was a popular figure in the TV4 studio during their covering of English and Scottish football.

Among the current group of players in the Swedish league, midfielder Jamie Hopcutt is among the most experienced playing in Sweden since 2012. You also had the star names from the past, moving over to Sweden. Frank Worthington and Malcolm Madonald might be the most known, but a few might remember, Gary Locke, Carl Shutt, Steve Whitton, Alan Dodd, Stuart Baxter, Billy Davies, Terry Curran, Pat Walker, Colin Hill, Sammy McIlroy and David McCreery who all had their time in Swedish football.

To base all of this on George Reynor and Frank Soo might be too much, but in all they contributed in the way of thinking, organizing and influencing Swedish football. Bob Houghton and Roy Hodgson together with Graham Potter are three other English fondly remembered in Sweden, not to forget Stuart Baxter, who to date is the only English manager to get a Swedish team into the Champions League, doing so in 1999-00, playing Arsenal, Barcelona and Fiorentina in the group.

Our list of Englishmen currently involved in the top flight of Swedish football,

  • Managers & Coaches
    • Ian Burchnall (Ostersund)
    • Rob Kelly (Malmo FF)
  • Goalkeepers
    • Andy Mills (Ostersund)
    • Lloyd Saxton (GIF Sundsvall)
  • Defenders
    • Kevin Wright (Orebro)
  • Midfield
    • Alex Purver (Ostersund)
    • Carlie Colkett (Ostersund)
    • Jamie Hopcutt (Ostersund)
    • Curtis Edwards (Djurgården)
  • Forwards
    • Blair Turgott (Ostersund)
    • Francis Jno-Baptiste (Ostersund)
    • Jerall Sellars (Ostersund)
    • Noel Mbo (Helsingborg)

 

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