Striker Alabi was not ‘shocked’ when a new contract was not offered by Orient
- Credit: Archant
Former Leyton Orient striker James Alabi reveals he was not ‘shocked’ to not be offered a new contract by the club and knew it was coming ever since he was sent out on loan to Eastleigh.
The 25-year-old made 36 appearances for the O’s during his two-year spell where he found the net three times and played a part in the club winning the National League title.
But he found himself out of favour and out on loan at National League outfit Eastleigh for the latter part of last season before it was brought to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I kind of knew when I got told to go on loan, well not told to go, but got told there was offers from other clubs that wanted me to go on loan,” Alabi told the LO Down Podcast.
“Ross (Embleton) asked me if I wanted to go, so literally at that moment that’s when I knew my Orient career was coming to an end, so it wasn’t a shock.
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“I went to the stadium to have a meeting with Ross and I’m old enough to take things like a man. Obviously it’s a disappointment that we didn’t go on to achieve more things, but I’m still happy with what I’ve achieved at the club.
“I’m grateful for the time I was there.”
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The former Stoke City and Celtic youngster also revealed he was keen to fight for his place at Brisbane Road – hence why he turned down loan deals from a number of clubs before eventually deciding he needed to start playing more games.
“There wasn’t necessarily a reason behind it because there were other clubs that came in at the time and I didn’t want to go, I still wanted to try fighting for my place at Orient,” he added.
“We wasn’t winning games, obviously I was out of the squad, so I thought maybe I’ll have a chance to play.
“When Eastleigh come along that’s the moment I felt that all doors were shut, there was no chance of me playing, I wasn’t even getting in the squad.
“I was doing well in training and I wasn’t looked at, so at that moment I said to myself I’m not giving up, but at the same time you’ve got to face reality when it shows you it.
“That’s when I thought I’m going to go to Eastleigh and play some games. They just called me at the right time, if they called me maybe even a week earlier I would have said no.”
The big forward says once the 2019-20 season came to abrupt end he kept himself in shape in case a return to action was possible, whether that was for Eastleigh or his parent club Leyton Orient.
“That’s the thing with football, you always have to keep in shape, I could even get a call now from a manager saying I want you in, we’re going back to pre-season,” he said.
“When the National League came to an end, I was still doing my work, I spoke to Jobi McAnuff at the time and he said just keep yourself in shape in case you have to come back. You never know in football.
“Lockdown or not I’ve always had to keep myself fit due to the body I have. I’m naturally big already, so if I don’t work out I wouldn’t want to end up out of shape, so all my life even when I go on summer holidays I’ll still be doing a workout.
“It’s not much different for me, the only difference is we can’t go outside and go on holiday, other than that it’s not a lot that I’ve had to change.”
Alabi says he joined O’s with high hopes but felt he was quite unlucky as he didn’t make an instant impact, adding: “When I first came to Orient, I spoke to Macaulay Bonne before I’d even signed, and the gaffer (Justin Edinburgh) rest his soul said to me in the first pre-season training and to Jobi this season ‘just play it up to the big man and play it around him’.
“At that moment I knew ‘okay, cool the gaffer has got belief in me as he’s got Macaulay Bonne there who has been scoring since a long time ago and I’ve come in and he’s said this season play up to the big man’.
“I feel like Macaulay Bonne needed someone else with him, he was scoring all of those goals, but he needed another striker to help chip in and take us to that next level, so I was that guy at the beginning. I started the first three games, I didn’t score, I had a chance against Ebbsfleet and we hadn’t won a game, we drew the first three games.
“The hierarchy was obviously saying you’ve brought this guy in, we need to win games, and get out of this league. Justin’s hands were tied, his thoughts were Macaulay has been scoring goals, and we’ve got Josh Koroma here who is playing well, I need to change the team.
“When I came out of the team, Josh Koroma came in and we won that game, so the gaffer was then thinking I can’t change the team.”