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Connor Flynn-Gillespie: Learning the game in Spain

Connor Flynn-Gillespie’s style of play reflects the blend of cultures which make up his heritage. He has the work ethic and leadership skills of a British player combined with the flair and composure on the ball of a Spaniard. Mix that in with what he has learned playing in Australia and Cyprus and you have a player unlike many others.

The midfielder was born in Lewisham, England to parents from Scotland and Jamaica and then raised in Tenerife. It is a unique combination but the fact he has been all around the world to play the game he loves at the age of only 22 shows that he has the bug to experience new cultures, like his parents.

Tenerife has just one professional club on the island (CD Tenerife) but the midfielder has not let that stop him from pursuing his dreams of making it in football.

Flynn-Gillespie’s highlights from this season in Cyprus

Growing up, Flynn-Gillespie played for one of the island’s other clubs, CD Marino who have spent six seasons in the Spanish third-tier in their history but have most recently been competing in the country’s fourth division.

He remained with the club until he was 19, breaking into the first team, before having a crack at football in his father’s homeland, joining Scottish side Bo’ness United, who compete in East of Scotland League, in the divisions below the SPFL. The move to Scotland showed the young midfielder an entirely new side to football but he performed well and picked up a man of the match award in a regional cup game.

Flynn-Gillespie in action in Cyprus

The following year he would return to Marino and became a regular starter for his hometown club, playing 17 times in the first half of the 2018/19 season before he set out on another adventure – this time to the other side of the world.

Visa issues prevented the hardworking midfielder from making the impact he had hoped for but he gained valuable experience away from home playing for Upfield FC in the Victoria state leagues in Australia.

After his time down under, the 22-year-old continued to broaden his horizons with a move this season to third-tier Cypriot side ENAD Polis Chrysochou, who in the past have had Tayshan Hayden-Smith on the books.

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Flynn-Gillespie scoring an impressive free kick in Cyprus

It’s been a difficult season for the club who were at the foot of the table before the football season came to a halt but on a personal note, Flynn-Gillespie has impressed again, captaining the side on several occasions despite his age. He’s missed just one league game all season and has scored five times, six times in all competitions. He was also joined by fellow Englishman Amir Ward partway through the season.

With the 22-year-old waiting for football to resume, I got the chance to ask him a few questions about his career so far.

English Players Abroad: How old were you when you moved to Spain and how do you think growing up in Spain as opposed to Britain has changed the player you have become?

Connor Flynn-Gillespie: Actually my parents met in Spain, decided to have me in the UK then moved back out when I was a couple months old. 

That is a hard question because growing up in Spain I was brought up with emphasis on the technical side of football, playing the  ‘Tiki-Taka’ style. If I would have grown up in the UK I would have played academy football from a young age and more exposure to bigger clubs, growing up in Tenerife there is only one professional team on the island and two in Canary Islands. Lucky enough, I played for club where we were training and could compete against any academy team throughout the years.

EPA: I see that you’re quite a versatile player, how would you describe yourself as a player and what is your best position? 

CFG:  I consider myself a versatile player who can understand the roles of various positions and perform them at top level, for example this season I have played every position on the field. My best positions are box-to-box or defensive midfield because of my high work ethic, composure on the ball, the facility to find the pockets in between the lines and being ambidextrous. 

EPA: Was Spain a great place to learn to play the game? Who did you play for growing up?

CFG: Like I mentioned before, being in Spain during their prime time in football was great, growing up watching players like Xavi, Iniesta or Busquets to name a few was amazing. I grew up with the philosophy if you control the ball you control the game, moving the ball at high pace from side to side and attacking them when you have the chance. 

Since I started playing football until I was 19 I played for CD Marino, getting my debut with the first team at 17.

Flynn-Gillespie has played in Spain, Scotland, Australia and Cyprus

EPA: You had a spell in your father’s homeland of Scotland, a few years back what was that like?

CFG: It was a good experience for me playing in Scotland, I learnt that football isn’t always played the style I grew up with, on beautiful grounds and Tiki-Taka style but sometimes you just have to play more a direct style of play and get stuck into it as they say.

This has always been kind of funny to me, sometimes before games when it was raining, windy and the field was muddy, I’d say to myself ”This is war and only one team can come out on top!” just to motivate myself going into the game. Must say, some games felt like it was more like war than football.

EPA: This season you’ve been playing in Cyprus, how has that been? Did you find it easy to settle in in the country?

CFG: On a personal level feel like it’s been a great year for myself. Been playing at a top level all season, having a higher influence with goals and assists compared to other seasons and also taking on a new role as one of the captains and being a leader on and off the field. Normally I am one of the younger players in the team but this season I have been one of the players with most experience having to set an example to other young players.

Previously, I have moved around Spain, UK and Australia so it’s not my first time playing abroad so settling in was no problem for me, there is no language barrier and the love for this game makes it easier.

EPA: You’ve scored six goals this season, would you consider that a success seeing as it is an improvement on last season?

CFG: Now that the season is most probably over, I would say it’s an improvement over last season but i wouldn’t say it’s a success. I’m hungry for more. I set myself a target and a failed to reach. The first half of season, I had more of a defensive role in the team, playing mostly CDM or CB or FB because team needed me there, so it was hard for me to get goals. Second half of season when reinforcements came in, I had a more of an attacking role, playing CAM or striker and I was creating a lot more chances for myself and my team. If season hadn’t have stopped, I fancied my chances of getting 10 goals.

EPA: What are you aims for the future?

CFG: My aims for the future are very high. I want to make it into the top leagues in Europe and I’m working very hard to make it possible. Obviously, I have stepping stones along the way which, if I do make, I would be happy but I’m only focused on the one I have mentioned. I must also say another goal of mine is to keep travelling with football, learning from different cultures and meeting new people along the way. 

Follow Connor on Instagram here.

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