Loyalty and the “rat race”…

The end of another season has arrived and so the rat race begins trying to find a new club. Being released at the end of a contract is one of those things that every player apart from the lucky few will have to endure at some stage throughout a career. The feelings of anxiety and worry are unavoidable for a player as you enter into a phase of the season where clubs are adjusting budgets and looking to recruit players as best as is possible to fit in with club finances. As a player, you just hope the reputation you’ve built up and the previous seasons performances haven’t gone unnoticed by potential suitors, but it’s a time where the waiting game begins and the phone is a constant companion. Will it ring, if at all and who will ring, if anyone?

It makes you wonder, as a player, about the question of loyalty in football and the realisation that it simply doesn’t exist, but that is simply the reality of the industry in which we ply our trade. You often hear of managers and fans questioning player’s loyalty when players move clubs, citing the usual cliche of ‘money grabber’ but the fact is players are in the game to achieve success, be it to win trophies or promotions, and to earn the best deal financially available. Take the contrasting fortunes of Orient keepers Ryan Alsopp and Lee Butcher and perhaps you’ll understand what I’m getting at.

Ryan was criticised heavily when he departed to Bournemouth earlier in the season for the security of a long term contract and I presume a more lucrative salary. He took the risk of a short term deal at Orient where he was signed as nothing more than a number two, but after getting his opportunity to play, as a result of injury, he went on to have a phenomenal stay between the sticks therefore attracting interest from all that saw him in action. Yes, people will say that Orient gave him an opportunity and he perhaps should have stayed loyal, but he earned his move, risked injury for a fragile short term deal and performed fantastically for the club when called upon so he should have been thanked and wished well. Hypothetically speaking, if he never got the opportunity to perform or if Lee recovered from injury in January to challenge Jamie Jones for the position of goalkeeper then would Ryan’s contract have even been renewed? Probably not, but I guess we’ll never know.

Contrast this to Lee’s situation, who amongst all the lads in the dressing room was undoubtedly a shoe in for player of the year in 2011/2012 before doing his cruciate ligament in March of that year. He was a stand out performer and won us points on his own with his performances which ultimately kept us up but where one has gone onto promotion to the championship, the other has been released on a free. In this instance, I think it’s safe to say that football can be a cruel mistress at times. As a player, you give everything on the football pitch or should do as a minimum requirement anyway. You put your body on the line and play through injury for the love of playing and helping the team, but when it comes down to contracts and loyalty it seems the only thing that matters, especially in the current economic climate, is where the player fits in with the budget, but hey, that’s football.

For me, in a season of more highs than lows culminating in us finishing seventh, I fell one league start short from getting an automatic one year contract extension. So close yet so far. Similarly, players will have fought relegation up and down the country and given everything to avoid the blot of relegation on their CV, only to have the ecstasy of survival soured by their release from their club. Like me, released with nothing more than a thank you and goodbye but that isn’t a criticism, just simply the nature of the industry in which we work.

For me personally, I would like to thank Leyton Orient for a great two years, a truly fantastic club in every sense of the word. As a footballer, you play with a lot of players throughout a career but only a handful you can truly call friends so it’s an added bonus to have met some top guys during my stay that I’ll be sorry to leave behind. I’d like to thank the fans for the support they’ve given me every time I crossed the white line and for recognising my efforts by singing ‘The Sweeney’ theme tune. Without question I will be very sorry to leave it all behind, but again, that as they say, is football. Like every club I’ve played for I take great satisfaction that I’ve left them in the same or better state that when I arrived. I arrived at Brisbane Road with the team seventh in league one and I leave with the team seventh in league one. Let’s hope the club can go one step further in the near future. Thanks for the memories.

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22 Responses to Loyalty and the “rat race”…

  1. ShaneO says:

    Top bloke, another good read.
    Good luck in the future hope you find a decent club!

  2. Adam says:

    Great insight Leon. All the best for the future and thanks for everything. COYOs

  3. David Usher says:

    Good luck Leon. I always felt that the team would always have a better chance of a result when your name was on the team sheet. Personally I will be hoping the team you end up with will have a good season and I’m sure, if its a L1 club, you will get a great reception on your return to Brisbane Road.

  4. Blake 7 says:

    Grt insight into a players feelings and situation, unlike the multi millionaires in the prem. lower league players still have to work for a living to pay a mortgage, grt blog, I expect to see you in lge 1 Nxt year not league 2, dependable player for lofc,
    For what its worth I wouldn’t have let you go
    But as you said that’s football
    Good luck for the future

  5. Would like to wish you all the very best wherever you end up. I’ve enjoyed and appreciated your performances for the O’s and also recognise your work off the pitch, in the community and locla schools. I have loved the insight given by your blogs and hope you carry on. A ‘tip of the hat’ to Sweens! xx

  6. Andrew says:

    Classy farewell. All the best.

  7. Wrightyo says:

    One game!! Slade and Hearn have got even less class than I thought. Good kuck in the future and thanks for giving your all.

  8. Rich says:

    All the best Leon, cracking pro and more than capable at this level, our loss will be someone elses gain. All the best for the future and love to see you back again one day…

  9. Leon, wish you all the best for the future. Very fondly thought of amongst the supporters. I genuinely thought you were worth a new contract. Agree with David that you’ll get a warm welcome back at Brisbane Road when you return.

  10. Barry Burke says:

    So sorry to see you leave the Os. You never gave less than 100%. Very best wishes and hope you find a club soon.

  11. Simplyanosfan says:

    Thanks for your contribution to the cause and I wish you every success with whatever club you end up at. You never gave less than 100% and that is all any fan can ask for.

  12. Chris R says:

    Nice piece Leon, albeit more poignant than usual. Sincerely hope you find a new club soon and thanks for all your efforts at the Os.

  13. Mark W says:

    Sorry to see you go, you deserve to find another club and I hope you do well next season. Keep blogging, the insight into the world of the players we watch week-in, week-out is fascinating. All the best from an East-Stander.

  14. Kenny Miller says:

    Very disappointed that you were not given a new contract. May I also add that your comments regarding Prem and Champ players, that it is quite obvious that the same applies also to certain managers who have not shown any sense of loyalty to the club thyey were at. No need to name names, we all know who they are.
    Good luck in the future, you deserve it.

  15. Andrew Paterson says:

    Wishing you all the best in finding a new club.Never gave less than 100%.

  16. James says:

    As only at the mk dons we had our picture taken with you at the sponsor evening.Have to say I was shocked that you were released. Thought you were worth a contract as a very good utility player, essential in a small squad. I wish you all the best in your career, and will remember the help you gave us on that quiz night to beat our rivals into second place ! Wellington or Auckland 🙂

  17. I can’t comment on the rights and wrongs of your release from Orient, but I thought your release from Hartlepool a couple of years ago was harsh – you were used mainly from the bench as far as I recall, and thought you deserved more starts.

    Like you say though, it’s not necessarily about loyalty or lack of it – merely that smart clubs make decisions based on whether they think the player will continue to be useful in the future.
    Good luck on finding your new club – I wouldn’t mind seeing you back at Victoria Park!

  18. Matthew says:

    All the best Leon, gutted to see you leave the Orient, hope you find a decent side and that we’ll see you back at Brisbane Road next season albeit in an opposition shirt

  19. Terry says:

    Thanks so much for your time at the O’s, Leon. As you say, ‘soccernomics’ is cruel (how Orient would live a piece of West Ham’s £40 million loan). Good luck in all that you do in the future.

  20. Matt says:

    Just want to thank you for your brilliant work rate and consistency in an Orient shirt Leon, in my mind you were one of 3 out of contract players who were crucial to retain so I’m gutted to see you leave. My family and I wish you all the best in the future, we’re sure you should have no problem getting a new team. Glad to hear you enjoyed your time as part of the O’s and hope you keep an eye out for us in the future! Cheers

  21. Sam says:

    Leon, you seem like a class act both on and off the pitch and I offer my heartfelt thanks for your efforts in an Orient shirt. Very sorry to see you go and I sincerely hope you find a new club and enjoy success there, not least because I look forward to continuing to read your insights into the game. *Starts singing The Sweeney*

  22. Ade says:

    You’re a decent player and a decent man too. Thanks for your efforts at the O’s. Always enjoyed reading your thoughts here. More insightful than the average footballer! I would have been happy to see you get another year. Good luck in finding a new club.

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