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Former Torsby coach Sven Ake Olssen
"As a player he was a little bit better than average, he wasn't a star"
 real 56k

Thursday, 22 February, 2001, 14:49 GMT
On the trail of Sven
Sue Thearle
BBC Sport's Sue Thearle heads for Sweden to unearth the real Sven Goran Eriksson.

Blink and you would have missed the tiny sign welcoming you to Torsby, the timber town in central Sweden that Sven Goran Eriksson calls home.

With a population of just 4,000, the timber industry is the main pre-occupation in these parts - that and football.

Even though there was deep snow covering the hills and farmland around Torsby, talk was already turning to the Swedish season which doesn't kick off until April.

I'd say he was slightly better than average, not a star, but he worked hard for the team
  Eriksson's former coach, Sven Ake Olsson

And you're never far away from animated conversation about Torsby's most famous son.

Eriksson was born in a modest house in a quiet street here 53 years ago and still has an obvious affection for his home town.

He returns often to unwind, renew acquaintances and lose himself in the peace and quiet of Sweden's Varmland, which is a million miles away from the pressures of international football.

At Torsby FC, one of three clubs that Eriksson represented in a modest 11-year playing career, his old coach remembers him well.

"He was very light for his age and when he first played in the team at the age of 16 some of the fans weren't too sure about him," admitted Sven Ake Olsson.

"But he could run fast and do his job well. I'd say he was slightly better than average, not a star, but he worked hard for the team."

Sven Goran Eriksson
Eriksson never forgets his roots
The Torsby clubhouse had some intriguing pictorial evidence of Eriksson's time there.

Fading black and white photographs show a fresh-faced 16-year-old proudly displaying his one playing honour.

It was a tin of coffee, which he won in 1966 - the year that England were collecting their last major trophy.

Jarl Lander grew up with him in Torsby. They skied and hiked together and also played in tandem for Torsby.

But when Svennis, as the locals call him, first began to show an interest in coaching, his team-mates were surprised.

"I didn't see him as a coach," said Lander. "He had tactics in his mind when we were younger, certainly more than us, but I never thought he would go on to be a big coach.

"So I was surprised. But after he succeeded at Gothenburg I knew he had it in him to do big things."

There is nothing bigger than the England job, as anyone who's done it will tell you. But his friends in Torsby believe he will succeed.

We'll all so proud of him. There's nothing he won't do for the town and everyone here wants him to do well
  Mayor of Torsby

"He can handle all the pressure, I'm sure," said Lander. "He's coached in Italy where football is an obsession and the press follow your every move. So if you can handle that you can cope with it."

What about the tabloid pressure and interest in his personal life?

"He's an old man of Torsby," replied Lander. "He takes each day as it comes. He's very laid back and relaxed. He can handle it."

Everyone wanted to talk about Eriksson. Even the Mayor.

"He's great for PR for us," she said. "We'll all so proud of him. There's nothing he won't do for the town and everyone here wants him to do well."

About an hour's drive from Torsby is Degerfors - an industrial town of about 15,000.

It's also the place where Eriksson made his coaching debut when his playing career ended at the age of 27 because of injury.

It was also here that he linked up with Tord Grip, then manager of the club.

Eriksson spent a year as youth team coach before Grip moved on to a job at the Swedish FA.

Tord Grip and Sven Goran Eriksson
Grip (l) and Eriksson are an established team
And promotion to first team duties promptly meant promotion for the club as Eriksson's talent began to emerge. Gothenburg spotted it and came calling with an offer he couldn't refuse.

In Degerfors, there is a museum which acts as a shrine to the club and Swedish football as a whole.

There is also plenty of Eriksson memorabilia. Team photos of a young man destined for international acclaim and a career that was to lead him to England.

But at Degerfors, where he also played, Grip is an even bigger hero.

Cartoons and pictures adorn the walls and in one corner there are photos of Grip and Eriksson side by side.

They are a team again with England - undoubtedly the biggest challenge that either have ever had to face. And this chapter of their story will surely be the most compelling.

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