Clay dreaming of ending drought at Wembley, but just wants O's to win final
PUBLISHED: 11:00 14 May 2019
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The O's midfielder rock will not be remembered for his goals this season, yet he did assist a crucial one on the opening day at Salford
Craig Clay may have been Leyton Orient's Player of the Year and Players' Player of the Year, but he didn't get them awards for his goals!
The central midfielder is a great example of what can happen with hard work as a starting point and the rest following afterwards.
Clay hardly missed a game for the O's in the National League and his consistent performances in the middle were key to the title.
However, the goals eluded him after he had one taken off him at Salford City on the opening day of the campaign.
It was Clay's shot which took a deflection off Liam Hogan in the 86th minute and found the net to earn Orient a crucial 1-1 draw.
After that was put down as an own-goal, the O's number eight knew it may not be his year when it came to goals.
Clay laughed: "I have said the one on the opening day did me in. If that had been given to me, I might have gone on and got eight to 10, but the longer it went on, the more stick and banter I got from the lads.
"The main thing was winning the league and at Christmas I said to Jobi (McAnuff) I would take not scoring in the league all season if it meant we got promoted and it came true in the end!
"Personally that is not good for me, but we got the job done and that is all that matters."
While Clay didn't score a goal in the division, his efforts during the season were recognised by the rest of the squad, head coach Justin Edinburgh and his staff.
All of the team jetted off after winning the title on April 27 and the celebrations lasted into May with the players given time off.
They soon returned to training before the FA Trophy final though, but it still hasn't sunk in what they have achieved.
Clay admitted: "I was lucky enough to win the play-offs with Grimsby Town, but to actually go up as champions you can't beat it."
He continued: "I don't think it fully has settled in and because we were celebrating a lot until last week, I don't think we have really taken the time to let it settle in.
"When you do think about it, obviously it has been a great season to be champions and now we have the cup final, so hopefully we get the job done and it can be the icing on the cake."
Clay didn't score in the league, but managed one goal in the FA Trophy, in the first round victory over Beaconsfield Town.
He is now hopeful he can finish Orient's run in the tournament with another strike and of course more importantly yet another win.
The fans favourite said: "It's always nice to play there. It doesn't matter what competition it is, as a footballer that is one of the biggest stadiums you can play at. It will be a special occasion, but we are going there to win.
"I did score my only goal in the FA Trophy, so maybe I can finish the season off with one at Wembley? That would be nice, but it is all about the team. As long as we win that is all that matters to me."