IF you venture deep into the heart of Sweden, do not be too surprised to hear a Yorkshire accent or two.
Marketed as the ‘Winter City’, Ostersund is also providing a warm front in the footballing careers of York-born Jamie Hopcutt and Middlesbrough lad Curtis Edwards, with former Leeds United and Guiseley midfielder Alex Purver being the latest player from the county to embark on a Swedish adventure with the city’s football team, Ostersunds FK.
The club’s Jamtkraft Arena home may be almost 350 and 390 miles from the traditional ‘hotbeds’ of Sweden’s Allsvenskan top-flight at Stockholm-based AIK and IFK Gothenburg and nearly 730 miles from Malmo FF, but it is no sporting backwater.
Under the command of current Brighton manager and former York City player and youth coach Graham Potter, Ostersunds swapped the third level of Swedish football for domestic glory and bloodied the noses of the likes of Galatasaray and Arsenal in European combat for good measure.
Now under the leadership of former Leeds Beckett University student and ex-Leeds United and Bradford City academy coach Ian Burchnall, Ostersunds continue to be an established part of the country’s top tier of football – with Yorkshire playing a prominent role in one of Europe’s stand-out sporting stories of recent times.
It is one that Purver is striving to be part of after putting his summer holiday plans on hold to chance his arm, initially on trial.
We all see it as a good opportunity to further our careers here and everyone can speak English as well.Alex Purver
Just as Hopcutt – forced to rebuild his career at the likes of Ossett Town and Tadcaster Albion after being shown the door by home-town club York – successfully earned a deal, so Purver has sufficiently impressed Ostersunds enough to be handed a permanent contract.
Leeds-born Purver, 23, who has signed an 18-month deal, said: “The manager over here has previously worked at Leeds United, where I coached and we kind of had a mutual contact in Mikey Morton, who used to manage Taddy Albion and manages the under-16s at Leeds now.
“Basically, he just said that he was looking for a midfielder and would I be interested in going over for a week? I said: ‘Absolutely’, although I had to work a bit of stuff around in terms of holidays.
“I came over for a week with 14 other trialists and we trained as a group with a few of the first-teamers and had a friendly game which I did well in.
“After that, they said they would like to put something together for me to sign and it has been a bit mad, really.
“Their season runs from March to November as they cannot play in the winter and it is halfway through the season now so I have got the second half of this season and all of next.
“It is going well and I have trained with the first team. Their (Swedish transfer) window opens on July 17, so I cannot actually play first-team games until then.
“There are probably six or seven English boys and it is a really young squad and we are all kind of at a similar age, which is good for us.
“We all see it as a good opportunity to further our careers here and everyone can speak English as well.
“I am going to try and learn Swedish, but just at the moment everyone is speaking English and it is beneficial.
“Ostersund is a beautiful city, but pretty remote and has a population of just 60,000. They call it a city, but it is more like a town of the size of Dewsbury.
“It is really quiet and nice and all the coaching staff are English and there a few English boys here. It is good, to be fair.”
The power of the Internet ensures that there are no hidden secrets anywhere in football these days, with Purver well briefed on his new club ahead of his Scandinavian odyssey, with Ostersunds’ shock Europa League second leg victory at the Emirates Stadium at the last 32 stage in February, 2018, propelling them to prominence on these stores.
Purver added: “Last year, they played in the Europa League. They had won the Swedish Cup and qualified through the preliminaries (rounds) and got through their group, which had Athletic Bilbao in it, and they ended up playing Arsenal in the last 32.
“They actually beat Arsenal 2-1 away.
“When I knew I was coming out, I managed to download about five of the games they played, so that I had a good idea of what the football was like.
“From being over here, I can see it is a really good standard and a lot different to Conference football. It has been enjoyable.
“Ian worked with Brian Deane at Sarpsborg (in Norway) and he used to coach up at the Leeds academy and is a top guy.”
For Purver and girlfriend Rachel, the lifestyle aspect of swapping West Yorkshire for Sweden is something that both are planning to embrace.
The added bonus for Purver will also arrive in the fact that he will be afforded Christmas off this year – a traditionally hectic time for English footballers.
He added: “I think it is a fantastic opportunity football-wise and also from a lifestyle point of view in coming to a new country. My girlfriend is going to move out here and we are just going to experience a new culture together and I am excited about it.
“It is definitely worth it, as long as the girlfriend is happy!”
On being able to put his feet up over Christmas, he quipped: “That was one of the swingers and when I told Rachel: ‘we get December off’ she said: ‘What, really?’
“Everyone seems really friendly out here and it is exciting to experience a new culture and see different customs.
“For the moment, the weather is fantastic here – although I know it will probably snow like crazy in six months. But I am really enjoying it so far.”