Lee will miss Orient and won't ever forget fans support
PUBLISHED: 16:00 22 May 2019
Simon O'Connor Photography
The 32-year-old will bid farewell to Brisbane Road this summer and reflected on the relationship he had with the club and the O's faithful
Charlie Lee joked he would call Leyton Orient captain Jobi McAnuff every day so he could find out the latest going ons at the club now he will no longer be around, but everyone knows he will miss the O's now his departure has been confirmed.
The former Peterborough United midfielder revealed the news a few hours before the FA Trophy final and the National League winners officially announced it earlier in the week on Monday.
Lee was described by the club "as a key instrument on and off the field under Justin Edinburgh" and it was a fitting tribute.
For the man himself, the Londoner will turn his attention to the future, but he will always have strong memories of this special group of players.
"A lot is said about characters in football, but it really is so important and you don't get any success with bad characters and there isn't one at the club," Lee said.
"We have a wild variety of players. We have (Myles) 'Juddy' who is a pleasure to be with. He will be a talent the kid. He is stupid, but is learning and getting better and we have great characters from the top to the bottom.
"The captain Jobi McAnuff is my hero, he is brilliant and I'll be ringing him up every day to hear from him and turning up on his doorstep because I won't see him at training every day."
A larger than life character, it must have been hard for Lee to remain that way when in August 2017 he suffered anterior cruciate ligament damage.
He only moved to Orient the month before and yet before he could show his worth, he was ruled out of action for almost the whole campaign.
Despite this, he never wallowed in self pity - at least not around the squad - and did his part off the field while things were tough on it.
Justin Edinburgh's arrival in November of that year changed everything for O's and only added to Lee's motivation to return quickly.
Eventually he did get back and he was a regular during the first half of the season as Orient stormed to the top.
Although he has had a few injuries since the winter, he continued to be a key part of the squad and memorable excelled against AFC Fylde in the National League back on March 26.
Unfortunately the Coasters got some type of revenge for a 2-0 loss that evening with a 1-0 win at Wembley on Sunday in the FA Trophy final.
Nevertheless, after only coming back from a serious injury last April, Lee has enjoyed a fantastic 12 months.
He added: "When I signed I was made captain and then I did my ACL and was out for eight months, but the fan's support didn't waver.
"I got so many messages and the cheers I got on my first game back (against Wrexham) meant a lot and they really stayed with me and drove me on this season with the support of my family and the manager and everyone has been brilliant.
"The fans at Wembley were amazing too and we really wanted to win for them because we got them promoted back into the league, but we wanted the extra victory at Wembley.
"We were gutted, but Orient will have a lot of good years ahead of them, so I am sure they are still happy."
Lee was fortunate to earn consecutive promotions with Peterborough in 2008 and 2009 and conceded he can see similarities between that Posh team and this O's squad.
"Early on in my career I was lucky enough to have back-to-back promotions with Peterborough and that team had the same characteristics of this Orient squad," he said.
"Asking a team to go up twice is a lot and I'm not saying they will definitely go up, but they will have a good go and won't be in League Two to make up the numbers.
"There are some brilliant players in the dressing room and I have had the pleasure of playing with them this season and Orient will attract good players.
"Over the years they have always had good players apart from three years where things were tough, but I have always played against Orient teams in League One that have had great players, so hopefully it will be the same again."
After such a serious injury, Lee managed to play 38 times this season and was crucial to the O's 13-match unbeaten run at the start of the campaign and did a huge amount off the pitch as well hence why he won Trust Community Player of the Year.
He concluded: "I played something like eight games during my first season due to injury and I was gutted to be missing.
"Not often do you get to play as many games as I have after that type of injury and I was close to 40 in the end, so I was immensely proud of myself to come back and I have loved every minute of this season and I will miss Orient."