Up on the roof garden of his apartment block, Morgan Brown enjoys views of the snow-capped Troodos Mountains and the glistening Mediterranean Sea.

Down below, the streets of Limassol bustle in mild winter climes. It has been home for almost five years and this setting, idyllic from the perspective of the frozen depths of a British winter, is just one of the rewards for a young footballer who refused to give up.

Others include a title winner’s medal and a taste of European competition, and a set of photographs of him competing with stars of world football such as former Real Madrid and Spain star Isco.

Brown will become eligible to represent Cyprus this year and, suddenly, his world is full of exciting possibilities.

‘It’s crazy to think how fast things can change,’ says the 24-year-old. ‘If you had told me five years ago I would be playing in the Europa League it would have made no sense.

‘I went on a lot of trials, a lot of people said no to me, and it’s really hard to take; not only to be told they don’t want you but to keep calm, go to the next one and try again. I always knew I could do it and that’s what stopped me letting go.’

Brown is a graduate of Leicester’s academy, coming through the ranks with Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Calvin Bassey and Luke Thomas, before his release at the end of his scholarship.

He signed a one-year deal at Aberdeen but there were no offers when that ran out in 2019, so he joined Southern League amateurs Stratford Town and, having split from his agent, set to work on one last shot at a professional career.

‘Nobody gave me the advice, I just did it myself,’ says Brown. ‘I downloaded LinkedIn, the job searching app, and started to send thousands of messages to all the teams I could find.

‘I searched for the sporting directors for all the teams in the League of Ireland and sent them messages, with video footage of me playing. I sent a message to all the teams in the top two divisions in Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Poland, everywhere.

‘I don’t know if it’s something to be embarrassed about. I did it because I really wanted to play football. There’s just nothing to lose in that situation.’

One team replied. Aris Limassol, then in the Cypriot second division, invited him for a trial, with flight and accommodation paid, and liked what they saw.

In the time since, Aris have won promotion to the top flight, been bought by an ambitious Russian owner and moved into the new Alphamega Stadium, which they share with two other teams in Limassol, Apollon and AEL.

Brown revealed he previously sent thousands of messages to sporting directors to get trials at clubs
Brown revealed he previously sent thousands of messages to sporting directors to get trials at clubs

Saido Berahino, the former West Brom, Stoke and England Under 21 forward, and George Marsh, a Tottenham academy graduate, are both playing at AEL. Last year, Aris won the title for the first time in their 93-year history and qualified for the Europa League group stage, where they beat Rangers and took a point at Ibrox.

This year, they are fighting to defend the title, starting the weekend in third behind 28-times champions APOEL and Anorthosis Famagusta, who they play tonight.

Brown is their indispensable box-to-box central midfielder, famed around the island for his endurance in temperatures that can reach 40°C (104°F) in summer, and his versatility, operating wide or at full back when required. He is learning Greek and under contract until the end of next season.

‘I love to play for Aris,’ he says. ‘The club accepted me when nobody really wanted me and it would take something special to take me away from here.’

Now successfully playing in Cyprus, Brown has a dream to play in the Premier League one day

He has a dream to play in the Premier League one day, but regardless of whether that comes true, Brown can be proud of a playing career flourishing thanks to his sheer determination and refusal to yield, vital qualities in any team.

Equally, his achievements are a symbol of hope for dozens more teenage footballers about to be cast out of elite academies when this season ends.

‘It’s hard, unfortunately, when you’re in that situation,’ says Brown. ‘Nobody understands the way you’re feeling, but my advice would be to keep working hard, never stop believing, never give up, never stop looking for opportunities. Always be ready because you never know what will happen tomorrow. You can receive a message from a team in Cyprus.’
The Mail

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