The LinkedIn footballer: Elliott Dugan used social media to land a pro contract in Cyprus

Elliott Dugan playing for Cypriot team APEA Akrotiri last season
Elliott Dugan playing for Cypriot team APEA Akrotiri last season

When aspiring footballer Elliott Dugan was let go by Swindon Town, it could easily have spelled the end of his dream to turn professional.

Dugan, 21, from Bath, played for the club up to their Under-18 squad, but like many teenagers in teams across the country, he was then released.

All Dugan had ever wanted to do was play football so rather than give up, he instead used social media to send messages - including a highlights reel of him in action - to teams all over the world.

A squad in Cyprus soon replied - and this weekend, after a successful first season in the country, he is about to start the new campaign playing in the country's third division.

"I got on LinkedIn and [sent] hundreds of emails and messages and [made] phone calls to clubs all across the world," Dugan told BBC Points West.

"I got a response from Cyprus saying 'come have a two-week trial and we'll see what happens'.

"Literally off the roll of a dice, I packed my stuff, went straight out."

Going forward after knock-backs

When Dugan was released by Swindon after signing a scholarship as a 16-year-old, he sought out any avenue to continue in football.

He played for local teams in Paulton and Radstock in the south west of England, and even spent five months playing for a club in rural Sweden.

But when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and Dugan found himself temporarily working for the Royal Mail, he hatched a plan with his dad to get him back onto the pitch.

The pair created a video showcasing his best goals and sent them off to teams and coaches using social media.

"Working that job, it got me motivated to get back into full-time football because it made me realise how much I actually loved playing football," said Dugan.

"And after you had that brief spell of thinking 'do I even enjoy it anymore?' and all the knock-backs, you realise how much it really does help you out and how much you want to do it as a career."

A teenage Elliott Dugan signs with Swindon Town as a youth player
A teenage Elliott Dugan signs with Swindon Town as a youth player

Welcome to island life

APEA Akrotiri, a team in Cyprus' fourth division, gave Dugan a trial last summer and it went well.

Even with Covid-19 disrupting the season, Dugan thrived, scoring 24 goals in 30 matches. It got him noticed and this year he has signed a professional contract with third-tier team Kouris Erimis in the south of the island. The new season begins on 25 September.

Despite not knowing the country or the language, Dugan has settled well into Cypriot life. He loves the weather and while his Greek is still a work in progress, he has a translator there to help during team talks.

"It's a challenge and I love challenging myself, and with all the setbacks I've had, it's been a challenge to get where I am now," Dugan added.

"To learn a different language and be able to speak that is something I'd love to have under my belt, and something I'm looking to bring back from this experience of being abroad."

Elliot Dugan training
Dugan (left) training with his new Kouris Erimis team-mates in Cyprus

The local community have also helped Dugan settle into island life.

"Honestly, the fans have been really welcoming. They've welcomed me with open arms," he said.

"They've welcomed me into the community. I've been invited to go along to a bingo night this Friday so I'm sure I'll pop along and make an appearance."

Ultimately, Dugan's aim is to keep improving as a player and eventually return to playing in the UK for a League One or League Two club where he can "hopefully kick on and make a career out of it".

"I'm grateful for everything that's come up in my career and I think it's helped me become the person and the player I am today," he added.

"I've had an amazing experience and amazing time living it, and I get to do what most people dream of doing for a job, so I can't complain. I've made some amazing friends and memories that will last a lifetime."

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