Graham Potter hopes Martin Olsson and Kristoff Nordfeldt are coming home from the World Cup this weekend – rather than England.
The Swansea City manager spent seven years in Sweden, had two kids in his adopted country, has a Swedish assistant coach at the Liberty Stadium in recently appointed Bjorn Hamberg, as well as defender Olsson and goalkeeper Nordfeldt in the Scandinavians’ squad.
But the Solihull-born boss insists there are no divided loyalities as he looks forward to Saturday’s quarter-final in Russia.
“From a club perspective, and selfishly, I suppose, we would like Martin and Kristoff to come home this weekend,” says Potter, who moved to the Swans from Ostersund this summer.
“From an Englishman’s perspective, too, I’d like them to come home. But it is fantastic for them to experience the late stages of a World Cup.
“I’m sure they will come home better players for the experience, but as an Englishman I want England to beat them.”
Olsson and Nordfeldt are part of a Swedish squad who were not fancied to go far before the tournament began. But they topped a group that included both Germany and Mexico and their no-frills, direct approach proved too much for Switzerland as they won their round of 16 tie.
For Potter – who grew used to the Swedish liking for the underdog status during his climb through the divisions with Ostersund – England’s opposition have defied predictions and are capable of doing so again.
He adds: “It has been very interesting watching Sweden. It just underlines the fickle nature of football.
“Before the tournament, there was a lot of negativity around Sweden and the team were actually being booed.
“I have a Swedish friend who actually told me he had put money on Sweden not actually scoring a goal at the tournament.
“So, there wasn’t much belief before before the World Cup, but that belief has grown and grown and grown. They are what they are – very well organised, they have a great team ethic, and they work hard. If you under-estimate Sweden, then you’ll be in trouble.
“It’s a World Cup quarter-final and anything can happen. But the England players will be aware of that.”
Sweden were expected to struggle following the retirement of Zlatan Ibrahimovic after Euro 2016, but Potter says replacing an individual reliance with a collective one has ensured the team has not suffered in Ibrahimovic’s absence.
“It’s a credit to Sweden’s manager Janne Andersson that it hasn’t gone that way. He has formed a collective unit where they all know what they are doing and they are defensively very sound and organised.
“Thankfully, I’m not a gambler so I will just enjoy the game. It will be fascinating to see the contrast of styles.
“But I’ve got to back England, although it will be very close in what has been a World Cup of surprises.”
Potter spent Thursday evening meeting Swansea fans at a question and answer session at the Liberty Stadium, where he made a favourable impression.
Alongside Hamberg, fellow assistant Billy Reid, head of recruitment Kyle Macaulay and chief operating officer Chris Pearlman, Potter outlined his ambition to return the team to its previously recognisable playing identity as well as to the Premier League.
He added: “Everyone wants us to be positive, but they are all aware of the challenge of the Championship and how tough a competition it is.
“Our aim to give the fans a team to be proud of game and one that can win games.
“We know we need to rebuild the squad to a certain extent, but we also want to look at the players we have here. It’s ongoing.
“It’s been a very intense, tough period, but some players are starting to come back now and train, although we still have some at the World Cup. The players have responded well and we’re all excited.”
Potter has confirmed that there have been no further bids for Alfie Mawson, Jordan and Andre Ayew, or Wilfried Bony, but he remains uncertain if any of that quartet will remain at the club next season.
As far are new recruits are concerned, Potter admitted he was interested in signing his Ostersund winger Ken Sema, but the player wanted to play in the Premier League, which is why he has moved to Watford.
“We were linked because it was an obvious story. But it’s never that simple. We have kept an eye on a lot of players, but it’s about making the right decisions for us.”
Swansea are also keen to sign Yeovil defender Tom James, but Potter added: “It’s difficult to comment on any specific players and whether they are on the way here or not, because otherwise you are talking about speculation. We also want to keep looking at the players here.
“We will go about our business and then let our supporters know at the right time.”