Goalkeeper Grainger opens up to talk of ‘emotional rollercoaster’ with Orient
- Credit: Archant
Former Leyton Orient goalkeeper Charlie Grainger says he endured ‘an emotional rollercoaster’ at Brisbane Road in a 10-year spell which included 14 managers, three different leagues and a bizarre amount of setbacks.
The 23-year-old only made 26 appearances during that time but witnessed an awful lot, including first-team opportunities, injuries, and empty promises.
“I’ll be very honest and the further we go, people will realise the emotional rollercoaster I’ve been through at this club,” Grainger told the Lodown podcast.
Grainger was a highly-rated goalkeeper rising through the O’s youth ranks and even broke his way into the first-team environment by the age of 15.
But despite a strong start to his career things began to spiral out of control after the 2013/14 season when the club missed out on promotion to the Championship.
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“After that game we had meetings and I was told ‘this is the year for you, you’re going to break through’, so I thought I’ll come back fit,” said Grainger.
“I beat the two goalies they brought in at all the fitness tests and everything like that, so I thought I’ve got a real chance here.
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“I played one 45-minute game in pre-season and I’ll be honest I don’t like people that lie to me – if you’re not going to play me, just tell me as I’ve got no problem if people are up front.
“To be honest, you then think you’ve gone from having this conversation where you’re up and to then thinking what am I going to do for a year? You’ve told me I’m going to break through, but now I’m stuck.”
Russell Slade left as O’s manager with Kevin Nugent taking the reins for a few months before the club’s new owners brought in Italian Fabio Liverani.
“When Liverani came in, it was game over. Honestly, every single morning we’d have an hour meeting and he’d be talking to his interpreter to then tell us what was going on,” said Grainger, who left Orient in June 2019.
“The unbelievable thing was when he joined in training – the pitches were horrific – he’d still have his trainers on and still be nutmegging people.
“He was unbelievable at football, but when you go in trying to give a motivational speech to a team through an interpreter, who then became the goalie coach, it just didn’t work.”
After relegation to League Two Orient moved quickly to secure Ian Hendon as their new manager which pleased a young Grainger who enjoyed working under him.
He added: “‘Hendo’ came in and I absolutely loved it, he was probably my favourite manager I had at the club, just the way he was so laid back but you knew you had to work hard and if you didn’t you were getting it.
“‘Hendo’ and I, not kind of formed a bond, but he looked after me from the get-go from when he came in. I bought into what he did and I think he liked it.
“If it wasn’t for the Italian owners at the club at the time I think I would have been number one that season.”
Although Grainger endured injury set-backs and issues during his time at Brisbane Road, he did also have plenty of fond memories like a 4-0 win over Newport County in League Two alongside a lot of the players he grew up alongside.
“It was one day in my career I will remember forever because it was all the lads that I come through the academy with,” he added.
“We’ve grown up together, gone through the youth teams together, and it was all we’ve ever spoke about – going out and playing in the first team together and smashing it.
“That’s exactly what we did that game, unfortunately we couldn’t do it any other times, but that was just circumstances. It is one day I will never forget.”
That was Grainger’s first clean sheet for the club, after edging closer to breaking through for many years.
Now at Dulwich Hamlet, he did admit he was very lucky to work with some fantastic goalkeepers during his early days at the club with Jamie Jones named as the stand-out for helping the youngster develop his game.
“I was fortunate enough to miss school twice a week to go training with the first team when it was Jamie Jones and Lee Butcher,” he added.
“Jones was the best goalkeeper I learnt from at Leyton Orient. His mannerisms during the game, he is so composed and solid all the time. The way he conducts himself on and off the pitch as well, and ‘Butch’ was just a complete professional, so I had two perfect goalkeepers growing up to learn off.
“There have been others – Ryan Allsop was an excellent goalkeeper, we had Eldin Jakupovic, who was an absolute cannon.
“He was a nutcase, but he was an absolute legend, and also a great goalkeeper!”
Grainger is now hoping he can find his way back up the leagues in the coming years.