Lisbie: Leyton Orient made me love football again
- Credit: Archant
The 40-year-old, who played in the Premier League for Charlton Athletic, is set to retire after playing in the FA Vase final at Wembley
Kevin Lisbie is expected to hang up his boots after playing at Wembley again at the weekend, but he has admitted he could have called time on his career back in 2011 if it wasn't for Leyton Orient and then-boss Russell Slade.
The 40-year-old started for Cray Valley PM in the FA Vase final on Sunday, but he was unable to stop a 3-1 defeat to Chertsey Town after extra time.
Lisbie didn't come off until the 100th minute, but left the hallowed turf at the national stadium to warm applause from everyone inside the ground, including the Orient fans entering early to get ready for the FA Trophy final.
It could have been very different for the one-time Jamaica international had he not got in contact with Slade during the 2011/12 campaign.
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After being released by Ipswich Town, after an unsuccessful loan at Millwall, the ex-Premier League forward had no options, but he got a trial at the O's in September and played some of the best football of his career at Brisbane Road in League One.
Hackney-born Lisbie said: "I am glad you said I had three fantastic years because I didn't play much during that fourth season - I wasn't allowed!
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"Leyton Orient changed my life. My football career was over and Russell called me and asked if I wanted to play for the club and he just got me loving football again.
"I got a lot of goals, made a good few friends at Orient and this is a club I will always support and I will always go back there. I needed that at the time I went there."
He continued: "I don't think I would have had a choice, I would have had to retire in 2011 because no one else was coming in for me at the time.
"I left after a spell with Millwall, I had a lot of injuries, but Russell called and had faith in me and I owe so much to this club and Russell as well."
Lisbie became a favourite during his first season at O's, scoring 12 times to help the club avoid relegation.
His legendary status continued with a second successive campaign as top goalscorer, but on this occasion he grabbed 16 as Orient just missed out on the play-offs.
The 2013/14 season was his and the club's best for a long time with Lisbie and David Mooney scoring 39 goals between them with the Londoner grabbing 18 to guide them to third spot.
It also gave him the chance to play at Wembley in the League One play-off final, but it ended in heartbreak with Rotherham United winning on penalties.
What happened next at O's is well-documented and Lisbie hardly kicked a ball the following term, which ended in a shock relegation.
He left Brisbane Road in 2015, not afforded the heroes departure he fully deserved by the ownership at the time and following spells with Barnet and Whitehawk, was coaxed out of an early retirement by Cray Valley manager Kevin Watson in October 2017.
The club were struggling in the Southern Counties East Premier Division at the time, but Lisbie was soon in the goals and this season they won the title.
It didn't matter the former Charlton forward was playing at step five of the non-league pyramid, he just loves football and partly thanks to Orient.
"Two years ago I joined Cray Valley and we were second from bottom and now we have just played at Wembley after winning the league," Lisbie said.
"It was disappointing to lose the final, but the boys will reflect on the season we have had and be proud because I am proud of all of them.
"It was a nice day, I had a walk around and said goodbye to some of the Orient fans because I never got the chance to say goodbye.
"A few came out to support me which was nice and playing at Wembley again, it was about trying to take it in and enjoy it."
But with Lisbie turning 41 in October and having a young family, that looks set to be that for the Millers favourite.
He admitted: "I think that will be it. I will probably wake up with my knee swollen again, so I can't keep doing it.
"We'll see how it goes. If it settles right down, then I will be able to play again, but I'm not going to play through pain. I won't do that."
If Lisbie doesn't play competitively again, going out at Wembley is not a bad way to sign off from a professional football career which started in the 1996/97 season.
He has scored a hat-trick in the Premier League against Liverpool, played on the world stage with Jamaica and turned out for the team he watched growing up.
And his own children got the chance to see their Dad walk out and play in a cup final at Wembley.
Lisbie concluded: "I am proud of the career I've had and I'm proud of my family as well, they have helped me through it - my mum and my wife and all my friends.
"I had 150 people come to watch me at Wembley, so that was nice. A lot of people have helped me through this journey and it was a nice send-off. I took some pictures and if it does end like this that is the perfect way for me."