FOR the majority of footballers, the route to the top is simple.Scouts swarm parks across the country and invite the best of the best to join their academy.
Jack Elliott is one of the MLS’ biggest stars, but his road to the top from his youth in Surrey has been far from the normCredit: Getty
Jack Elliott has battled against the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic during his careerCredit: Getty
Wayne Rooney is another big-name star to have been marked by Jack ElliottCredit: Getty
After a decade or so in the youth ranks, they’ll get their big break… if they’re up to it.
But for Jack Elliott, his road to the top has been an altogether different story.
While most talented youngsters are spotted around the age of eight, Elliott was cherry-picked by Fulham aged 12.
After just a single season, the budding centre-back was released for being too short.
READ MORE SPORT STORIES
Elliott bagged a trial at Crystal Palace, but the Eagles turned down the chance to sign him.
So, like all football-mad teenagers, the defender played for his school, turned out for a Sunday League side and enjoyed a five-a-side kickabout with pals at the local Powerleague.
By his own admission, he was forced to learn how to play against bigger opponents due to his slight nature – but claims that’s made him a better player today.
Aged 15, almost miraculously, Elliott grew an entire FOOT in a single summer.
Most read in Football
BETTING SPECIAL – BEST FOOTBALL BETTING SITES IN THE UK
Despite that, it seemed far too late in the day to try to break back into the academy game.
At the age of 17, Elliott was at school preparing to go to university to study geography.
But, he was still playing football – and one night saw the trajectory of his life change – as he turned out for Old Wilsonians for their Surrey Premier Cup quarter-final against against Walton Casuals.
Elliott’s side lost that cold evening, being dumped out on penalties.
Yet this wasn’t to be the end of his journey… in fact, it was only the beginning.
That night, Elliott played alongside team-mate Dan Stratford – who was a coach at West Virginia University in the USA.
Stratford had invited the university’s head coach Marlon Blanc to watch the game.
So impressed by Elliott’s performance despite defeat, Blanc sensed an opportunity.
The head coach asked Elliott to snub his uni plans in the UK and accept a scholarship to play under him in West Virginia.
College soccer – like with all American sports – is the main route to the pro game.
Jack Elliott has gone on to become one of the top players in the MLS and dreams of earning an international call upCredit: Getty
Jack Elliott went toe-to-toe with Gareth Bale in last year’s MLS Finals – scoring an 127th-minute equaliser to force a penalty shootoutCredit: Reuters
Suddenly Elliott’s dream of making the big time was back – five years on from his Fulham axe.
Elliott battled searing 35C heat in summer training but stuck it out to play 68 times across three years for West Virginia University before being invited to attend the MLS Draft Combine – a chance to show his skills for every team’s scouts, coaches and owners.
The defender, now a soaring 6ft 6in, entered the MLS draft and was taken with the 77th pick by the Philadelphia Union, who’s reserve team was now being coached by Blanco.
Elliott was nominated for the league’s Rookie of the Year award after forging a supreme centre-back partnership with Arsenal star Auston Trusty – currently on loan at Birmingham.
His very first match was up against Barcelona and Spain legend David Villa and he’s gone on to face the likes of Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Gareth Bale since.
In fact, it was Bale – in his last-ever club game – who scored a 127th-minute equaliser in the MLS Finals to send the game to penalties, with his LAFC ultimately edging out Elliott’s Philadelphia Union.
Elliott had scored a 123rd-minute goal for what appeared to be the win, only for Bale’s even later heroics.
Now aged 27, Elliott is still going strong at Philadelphia Union – with ten goals from defence in 163 games.
The defender even has international aspirations now after his sensational form in the States… but not for England.
Born in England to Scottish parents, Elliott told The Athletic: “Scotland would be a dream for me.
“I’ve been brought up that way and it would be something amazing (to get a cap).
Read More on The Sun
“There have been rumours here and there, but nothing concrete, so hopefully I’ll get a chance at some point, but I’ll just keep working and see where that goes.”
Either way, he’s a long way from the Surrey Premier Cup now… More