Torsby may only have an area of just over 2 miles and may only have around 4,000 inhabitants but it is the hometown of two famous exports, one a household name in England. The first is Marcus Berg the Sweden national team striker. The other is Sven-Göran Eriksson. The legendary coach was raised in the village and still lives there to this day. And that is where he provides advice to two young English players.
Shane Donaghey and Laurent Davis-Wilson joined the village’s seventh-tier club, Torsby IF, a few months ago and their impact has been instant. The pair have scored a remarkable 12 goals in just seven matches between them. All under the watchful eye of the former England manager.
“Sven has been to more or less all of our training sessions and games and also gives us advice,” says Davis-Wilson. “Yeah, Sven watches our training every day and speaks to us regularly,” adds Donaghey.
It may seem surprising that a man who has managed some of the biggest sides in Europe and won a Serie A title is now helping out a seventh-tier side but he has remained loyal to his hometown after all this time and his influence as well as the impact of their two English imports seems to be having an effect. This weekend they head into the playoff final for promotion to the sixth tier, having followed up finishing second in their league with a playoff semi-final win nearly two weeks ago.
The hero on that semi-final day was Davis-Wilson. The 21-year-old started the season playing for fourth-tier Norwegian side FK Tønsberg (the team who former Bradford City man Dan Pybus now plays for) scoring twice in seven games. Prior to that, he was on the books of Bristol Rovers. In that playoff semi-final, he scored twice to defeat the side who came second in the eastern division to reach the final. His pace, despite his 6 foot 3 height, has been troubling Swedish defences since his arrival.
“I heard there was a team in Sweden interested and it was a good way to be back playing week in week out,” says Davis-Wilson about how he ended up at Torsby.
“Torsby is a little town with not many people in so it’s very quiet and there’s not much to do here so it’s good just to concentrate on football.
“We train three or four times a week with games on a Saturday or Sunday. We usually try and watch as many games on the TV as we can.”
His compatriot Donaghey has played for Newcastle United and Wigan Athletic and has also spent time in Norway. He played five times for Fram in the third tier at the end of last season. Renowned for his passing, he tells a similar story to his teammate when talking about his time in Sweden so far.
“I heard of it [the move] from my agent. He just literally said ‘there’s some interest from Torsby, would you like go until the end of season?’ And after some time thinking I decided I would go.”
“It is a very quiet and little town, the perfect place to just get your head and get on with things.
“We train and in our spare time, we go to the gym or just relax and play FIFA. Living with someone who you know too always helps.”
Although not working for Torsby in an official capacity, Sven’s presence has helped attract the two impressive English talents.
There is now a hope that if they are successful this weekend, it could launch successful careers for the pair in Sweden, something they would not be averse to doing.
“I wouldn’t mind staying abroad, I don’t mind it at all,” says Donaghey. “There’s a lot of boys coming abroad lately and the reason is because we get experience and get a chance to play week in week out.”
Davis-Wilson echoes his sentiments: “I think being abroad is good because it gives you the chance to see different types of football and cultures too.
“I wouldn’t mind staying abroad. It gives you the chance to play week in week out, which is needed when you are young.”
The playoff semi-final two weeks ago was played in front of nearly 300 fans. This Saturday, they take on Kils AIK who finished third bottom in the sixth tier and will be looking to preserve their spot in the division above Torsby with victory. They might find it difficult with Donaghey and Davis-Wilson on the pitch.