Football's last chance saloon - the Britons keeping their dreams alive in Sweden

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What started as a trickle nearly a decade ago, with two young English players attempting to revive their dreams, now sees a stream of about 30 young players from EFL clubs head to Sweden each year.

The success story of Ostersunds FK and their intrepid coach, former York City winger Graham Potter, has been well reported but there is a wider story to be told involving British players dotted across Sweden, at all levels of the game.

Three of Potter's squad, Jamie Hopcutt, Doug Bergqvist and Andrew Mills, were all also part of a scheme managed by League Football Education (LFE) to give discarded players a second chance overseas.

Funded through Erasmus+, LFE sends players across the North Sea to effectively take up extended trial periods of 12 weeks with Swedish clubs.

Remarkably for players discarded by clubs in the UK, over 35% of those that go to Scandinavia have earned professional contracts in the past five years.

These are players let go by the likes of AFC Wimbledon, Doncaster Rovers, Fleetwood, MK Dons and Wolverhampton Wanderers, to name a few - with LFE estimating that 50-60 British players are still out there.

The programme has prospered so much that LFE recently started a similar initiative in Spain working with Getafe.

Into the football wilderness

Far from being parachuted into Sweden's top divisions and the big city clubs in Stockholm, Malmo or Gothenburg, most have found themselves in more obscure surroundings.

Take Toby Davis, one of the first two players to make the jump, in 2008. He joined Umea, based in the north of the country and residing in Division One, the third tier, situated below the Allsvenskan and Superettan.

Others have found themselves as far down as Division Six - equivalent to the Evo-Stik Premier League (North and South) - located in places where the population totals the hundreds not the thousands.

The destination of Ytterhogdal is one striking example. At last count it had less than 600 inhabitants but it has welcomed 20 players in the past four years alone.

Remote also applies to IF Gottne, another long-term partner of LFE. The club, based in a village about 20 minutes drive from the Baltic port of Ornskoldsvik, has risen from Division Six to Division Two with help from its English imports.

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