Leyton Orient should be 'extremely proud of academy' says Wellens

Leyton Orient head coach Richie Wellens has praised the club's academy

Leyton Orient head coach Richie Wellens has praised the club's academy

Leyton Orient head coach Richie Wellens said the club should be 'extremely proud' of their academy, after handing Zech Obiero his first-team debut on Saturday.

The 17-year-old came into the starting line-up for the League Two clash at Crawley Town, which ended in a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Theo Archibald and Aaron Drinan.

And Obiero earned praise from Wellens, who also named 16-year-old Reon Smith-Kouassi among his substitutes. 

"Massive afternoon, but he looked after the ball, he was composed, technically he's very gifted," Wellens told the club website.

"His legs have gone after 55 minutes, so obviously he needs to work on his power and fitness, but we've given him an opportunity and first half he was outstanding. A credit to everybody at the club.

"Everybody at the club should be extremely proud. I don't know what the average of the team was at the end, how many academy graduates, but it's testament to Martin [Ling], all the academy staff.

"The youth team had a game to win the league at Luton and we took Zech off them to start here because Darren [Pratley] pulled out.

Most Read

"Everybody should be extremely proud of what they're doing at the academy level, and if they can filter that up and get players into our first team, then obviously I can bear fruits of that."

Archibald opened the scoring after only eight minutes with his eighth goal of the season, but Aaron Drinan saw his penalty saved soon after.

O's had a let-off when James Tilley's late effort came down off the crossbar and bounced out, with footage showing it had crossed the line, before Drinan sealed the win in injury time with his 16th of the campaign.

And Wellens, who started Hector Kyprianou and gave Dan Nkrumah more minutes off the bench, hopes to see more youngsters getting their chance in future.

He added: "A fantastic day for the club, good travelling support, and for them to see so many academy graduates, Martin must be sat up there like a Cheshire Cat. He should be proud as punch and the chairman Nigel [Travis] has flown over, that's fantastic.

"I've come in, I'm not a selfish manager where I'm thinking about my own stats, I want to develop the club and giving young players an opportunity today was most important for me and I still want to see.

"I would've got Reon on the pitch if we'd scored the second earlier.

"I didn't want to put him in that environment where it was too hectic, for 10 minutes and you lose the game or concede, he's disappointed, the players are looking at me going 'hang on a minute, it was difficult that, why are you someone an easy debut?'

"Hopefully we'll get some more debuts next week, it's fantastic for the club."

Wellens was also keen to point out the efforts of more senior members of the side and believes it says a lot about the direction in which the club is heading.

"I go back to the players who have done unbelievable for me," he said.

"Aaron Drinan again ran his heart out, Connor Wood, Alex Mitchell has come in because Shad is suspended, Ethan [Coleman] has come on and was probably the best player the last 20-25 minutes.

"We've asked Jordan Brown to play out of position, outstanding at right-back. We've got a lot of good things going for us, lets keep developing the club."