Ljungskile SK created a shock by winning promotion to the Allsvenskan in 1996 and hope to enjoy a longer spell in the Swedish top flight this time round.
Back in 1988, Ljungskile were playing in the seventh tier of Swedish football, and given that they come from a town with a population of just 3,500, that seemed to be about their level. Certainly, no-one would have predicted that the club were at the start of a tremendous run that would see them promoted to the Swedish top flight in 1996.
That lone season in the Allsvenskan ended in relegation, and as Ljungskile were relegated to the third division at the end of 1998, most presumed that little more would be heard of the club. However, Ljungskile once more defied the odds, winning promotion back to the second division in 2004, and then returning to the Allsvenskan this season under English coach David Wilson.
"In a way it's a bigger achievement this time around," said the 39-year-old coach. "To bounce back and to show everyone that we are not a club that gives up is worth a lot." However, for Ljungskile the hard work is not at an end, and with defeats in all three of their opening games of the season, they are living up to most predictions which have them as relegation favourites.
'Underdogs in every game'
Chairman Lars Bergdahl is not surprised. "We're a small club, a very small club," he said. "Our stadium holds 6,000 people. We've got a turnover that is way, way behind the bigger teams in Sweden, but we believe in hard work and that is something that we try to tell everyone who comes here." Wilson added: "We know that we are underdogs in every game, and that suits us well, but we can't get used to losing. We have to believe in ourselves and continue to work hard."
Hardly a glamour club, Ljungskile banked on making competitive pre-season signings from overseas, with Polish goalkeeper Michal Slawuta and United States-born Colin Burns both arriving from Finnish clubs, and Cameroon-born US striker Etchu Tabe arriving straight from university. Fellow forward Jon Lundblad arrived from Swedish rivals Örebrö SK.
The presence of the unfashionable Ljungskile in the top division has not delighted clubs who would have preferred higher-profile opponents, as they look to draw bigger crowds, but Wilson sees no reason to apologise. "That's their problem," he said. "We won promotion and we know our fans are happy with that, so the other clubs just have to accept it. What else can they do?"
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