YORK-BORN Jamie Hopcutt is still on a high after firing minnows Ostersunds FK into the Swedish Premier League for the first time ever.

Just five years after being released from his first pro contract by then Bootham Crescent boss Gary Mills, Hopcutt is the toast of the modest garrison city that has a population of 44,000 – four times smaller than that of his home town.

Hopcutt, 23, scored the only goal to defeat the division’s champions Jonkoping last month and then went on to net the late equaliser at final opponents Syrianska that means he will be pitting his talents against the likes of Champions League qualifiers Malmo and two-time UEFA Cup winners IFK Gothenberg during 2016.

He was subsequently crowned Player of the Year in the Superettan – Sweden’s equivalent of the Championship – and only missed out on the league’s Golden Boot by one goal after ending the campaign with a tally of 15.

His success has also been overseen by another former Minsterman Graham Potter, who has managed the club since 2011.

Commenting on his personal highs and the reaction to promotion in Ostersund, Hopcutt said: “I scored the goals that got us promoted and life couldn’t be better. It was a special five days for the team and a really good time for me personally.

“It was a great end to an amazing year. When Graham first came to the club, they were getting crowds of 500.

“This season, we’ve been getting more than 5,000 and the last game was a 6,500 sell-out. We stayed unbeaten at home all season and there has been a really good atmosphere at every game.

“It’s all gone a bit crazy since we won promotion and there have been celebrations in the town square because it means a lot to the people here to have a team in the top division.”

On the prospects of tackling a Malmo team currently competing in Europe against group rivals Real Madrid and Paris St Germain, Hopcutt also enthused: “It’s an amazing feeling to think that we’ll be playing in the Allsvenscan (Swedish Premier League).

“There are eight teams who get crowds of more than 25,000 and that’s a real motivation. Just to come out and see a sell-out crowd at Ostersunds has been a great feeling.

“I’ve had two seasons in this division and had a few chances to go to other clubs in the top league, but I had a feeling we could get promoted. It will be really exciting to play Malmo.

“They’re in the Champions League and are a massive team in Scandinavia and I just can’t wait to show what I can do stepping up a level.”

Hopcutt was a member of a York City under-18s side that finished runners-up to Hull in the Football League Youth Alliance’s North-East Conference.

But he had drifted into non-League football with Ossett Town and Tadcaster Albion before Potter gave him an opportunity at Ostersunds, who then plied their trade in the Swedish third tier.

Even back then, though, Hopcutt felt the club had the potential to become one of the 16 sides at Swedish football’s top table.

“It was a big thing to get up to the Superettan but the chairman is really ambitious and Graham is a very good coach,” he said. “Last year, we finished fifth and this season’s aim was always to get promotion.

“We’ve all put in a lot of hard work and it’s paid off.”

Nor will Hopcutt and his team-mates be out to make up the numbers next term.

“The chairman wants us to be in the top five and, with the way we play football, I think we will surprise a lot of teams,” he declared. “We played a team from the top division Gefle in pre-season and beat them 4-1.

“The Swedish journalists believe we play a different way to most teams in the country. We line up 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 and are a footballing team when quite a few sides are direct.”

Hopcutt was a winger when he graduated through the Bootham Crescent ranks is now used in a more central number nine or ten role by ex-City U14s coach Potter, who the attacker holds in great esteem.

“It’s not always the case in football that you find a manager who believes in you and gives you a free role to play with no pressure but he’s done that and I can’t thank him enough,” Hopcutt explained. “The team really respects him too.

“He sees football in a different way and is a fantastic coach. He’s intelligent and his ideas are really good.

“The players buy into them and he wants us to play, which is all any footballer ever wants. We don’t want to be kicking the ball and chasing it.”

Despite looking forward to top-flight life with Ostersunds, meanwhile, Hopcutt has not ruled out another stab at plying his trade on these shores although, with his 2014 team-mate Modou Barrow having played for Premier League Swansea this season, he would be setting his sights higher than his former club.

“I’m settled and looking forward to the next challenge here in Sweden but I’m ambitious and want to play at as high a level as I possibly can,” he pointed out. “I’m in no rush to come back to England but, if the chance came and it was the right time, it’s something that I would like to do as an English lad.

“If I was coming back, I’d hope it would be in the Championship or higher but I’m not sure if any clubs have looked at me over here. The chairman has also said nobody in Sweden can afford his players and he asks for high prices!”

In the light of his subsequent success, Hopcutt does not bear his first club any grudges either, reasoning: “That all happened a long time ago now and, if I had been given my chance at York, I probably wouldn’t be here now.

“I’d liked to have experienced that feeling of playing for my home town but I don’t feel any bitterness because I never gave up and I’m happy here now.”

SCOTT Flinders and Michael Coulson are the early leaders in The Press’ November Player of the Month contest.

Keeper Flinders was our star man during the 3-2 defeat at Accrington last weekend, collecting three points towards the standings.

He went on to receive the two bonus points on offer to the player who picked up the most man-of-the-match votes from our on-line poll.

Vadaine Oliver (two points) and Bryn Morris (one) also gained recognition for their efforts as our second and third-highest rated performers.

In Tuesday’s 2-1 defeat at Barnsley, Coulson enjoyed a maximum five-point haul with Michael Collins (two) and Femi Ilesanmi (one) rewarded too.

The Press Player of the Year standings: Flinders 20, Ilesanmi 17, Berrett 14, Oliver 12, Coulson 11, Summerfield 10, Winfield 8, Nolan 6, Thompson 5, Collins 5, McCoy 4, Lowe 3, McCombe 3, Penn 2, Tutonda 2, Hyde 1, Morris 1, Straker 1, Turner 1.

The Press Player of the Month for November standings: Coulson 5, Flinders 5, Collins 2, Oliver 2, Ilesanmi 1, Morris 1.

Goals: Oliver 6, Coulson 5, Berrett 3, Summerfield 3, Thompson 3, Carson 1, Lowe 1, McCombe 1, Nolan 1, Turner 1.

Assists: Summerfield 5, Straker 3, Turner 3, Ilesanmi 2, Berrett 1, Carson 1, Collins 1, McCombe 1, McCoy 1, Morris 1, Nolan 1, Penn 1, Sinclair 1, Thompson 1, Tutonda 1.

Bad boys: Winfield six yellow cards; Berrett, McCoy both five yellow; Oliver one red card, four yellow; McCoy four yellow; Collins three yellow; Godfrey, Ilesanmi, Penn, Summerfield all two yellow; Carson, Coulson, Nolan, Thompson, all one yellow.