Leyton Orient centre back Michael Clark proud to sign first professional deal

PUBLISHED: 12:30 08 June 2017

Michael Clark made his first start for Leyton Orient against Stevenage (pic: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo).

Michael Clark made his first start for Leyton Orient against Stevenage (pic: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo).

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Youngster reflects on breaking into first-team at Brisbane Road and influence of senior players at E10 club

Leyton Orient players Sam Dalby (left) and Michael Clark (right) go over to the travelling support at the end of the match with Blackpool (pic: Alex Dodd).Leyton Orient players Sam Dalby (left) and Michael Clark (right) go over to the travelling support at the end of the match with Blackpool (pic: Alex Dodd).

Leyton Orient defender Michael Clark is proud to have progressed through the academy at Brisbane Road like so many of his O’s team-mates.

The 19-year-old agreed a first professional deal with the club in March, signing a one-year contract.

Clark followed in the footsteps of Josh Koroma, Steven Alzate, Tristan Abrahams, Myles Judd, Henry Ochieng and Sam Dalby by signing a pro deal at O’s last season.

All of the aforementioned seven ended up as regulars for Orient during a difficult 2016/17 campaign.

Several other academy graduates were given an opportunity as well last season and Clark felt they all helped each other settle in.

He said: “I think it took a lot of weight off each others shoulders knowing that we were not the only youngster out there.

“A lot of the side towards the end of last season was our youth-team from last year, which is good and bad I guess.”

Orient’s squad has been depleted since relegation with most of the players still at the club inexperienced.

Therefore as things stand, the onus will be on most of the former academy graduates to help O’s adjust to life in the National League next season.

It is a tough ask, but a positive for the youngsters is the strong spirit they have built up over the last couple of years.

“We have all played with each other in the youth-team, so it is really good to all come through together,” said Clark.

“Hopefully we can help get the club back to where it was before and obviously do that this upcoming season.”

The former East Thurrock United loanee was sad to see several senior players exit E10 at the end of the last campaign.

Clark praised the impact some had on him and the other teenagers at the club, he said: “It is sad to see a lot of people leave. That is football I guess, but we have lost some big characters.

“All of us young boys relied on the senior players to set the mood of the training sessions last season and we still trained positively.

“Nobody let the situation get them down and that was down to characters like Callum Kennedy and Nicky Hunt.

“They tried to make the best of a bad situation and us young boys followed their lead because you can’t let it get you too down. It is what it is at the end of the day.”

Orient’s younger members coped admirably during various tough times last season, which should stand them in good stead moving forward.

But the role of the senior players helping the teenagers in the O’s squad settle in should not be forgotten, even if they have now exited Brisbane Road.

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