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Martin Ling would have kept Toby Stevenson and Teddy Perkins if Leyton Orient had an under-23 team

PUBLISHED: 10:01 22 May 2018 | UPDATED: 10:01 22 May 2018

Toby Stevenson signing a contract with Charlton Athletic's under-23 team (pic: Paul Stevenson).

Toby Stevenson signing a contract with Charlton Athletic's under-23 team (pic: Paul Stevenson).

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Stevenson signed for Charlton's under-23 team earlier this month while Perkins has joined Burnley's under-23s after both were released by Orient

Leyton Orient director of football Martin Ling has insisted the club would have kept young prospects Toby Stevenson and Teddy Perkins if they had an under-23 team.

The duo have both left the O’s in recent months after not being offered professional deals at the end of their youth-team scholarship.

Perkins and Stevenson both impressed on loan at Bostik North clubs last season in the form of Romford and Heybridge Swifts and since departing E10, they have earned moves to higher level clubs.

When Perkins was told at the start of 2018 he would not be offered a pro deal by O’s, he was able to trial with other teams and eventually earned a switch to Burnley’s under-23s in March.

Stevenson was told at a similar time he would not be kept on at the end of his two-year scholarship and after trials, he signed with Charlton Athletic’s under-23s earlier this month.

But Ling conceded both players may still be at Brisbane Road if Orient were able to run a development team.

He said: “The difference is clubs like Burnley, where Teddy Perkins went, and Charlton, where Toby Stevenson went, have an under-23 team.

“For us we have 23 to 24 spots in the squad to fill, so we need players ready for the first-team and ready to go. We haven’t got the luxury of being able to hold a player in the under-23s for two years.

“If we had an under-23s team would I have got rid of Teddy Perkins and Toby Stevenson? Of course I wouldn’t and it is obvious to say, but I haven’t got a group of under-23s.

“I can’t just keep them sitting there; I can’t afford to pay two players who might be players in the future, so we made our decision and I’m comfortable with that decision.

“People forget to use the last sentence when they say they have gone to Burnley and Charlton – it is Burnley’s under-23s and Charlton’s under-23s and there is a difference to being in the Burnley first-team or the Charlton first-team.

“There will always be players who have left us that can get in under-23 teams and they are two who have done it, but the fact is had we had our own under-23s team, we wouldn’t have released them.

“Unfortunately we don’t and there is just no space for them in our first-team at the moment, but I wish them well.”

While the potential of Stevenson and Perkins appears obvious, the harsh reality for the O’s is they are now a non-league club.

This means they can only afford to keep youngsters who are ready to compete in the National League and a consequence of this strategy is talented teenagers will leave E10 to continue their development elsewhere.

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