In 2009, an 18-year-old Andros Townsend made his debut for Leyton Orient against Colchester after joining on loan from Tottenham. Four years down the line and the O’s look to have found the man that is ready to follow in his predecessor’s footsteps.
Moses Odubajo was a name that only a handful of Orient supporters would have heard of when the young winger was plying his trade in the youth team at Brisbane Road just a few years ago. A club that is unfortunately sandwiched in London just miles away from some of the best clubs in Europe has historically found it difficult to pick up young local talent. O’s fans could have been forgiven for thinking that Odubajo was going to become another youngster in an ever-increasing list that would fail to make the cut at professional level. Moses however, was about to buck the trend.
Despite making his professional debut for the club in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in 2010, Odubajo’s true introduction came on the last day of the 2011/2012 season against Rochdale. Having secured League One survival in the previous week, Russell Slade tinkered with his starting eleven for the final fixture and gave Odubajo his first league start for the club. An exceptional debut culminated in the youngster scoring a 25-yard wonder goal which proved to be the decisive winning goal in a 2-1 victory. Odubajo had arrived.
Aged 19, Odubajo singed a new one-year contract extension with Russell Slade’s side in the summer of 2012 and went on to make 54 appearances for the side in the following season, scoring six times in the process. During his three-year spell with the club, Orient manager Slade had already seen a number of top players leave the club and was determined to ensure that Odubajo’s name could not be added to that list any time soon.
After an outstanding start to the season and having made it through the January transfer window without losing Odubajo, Slade penned the winger down to a new two and a half year contract in February 2013. The 20-year-old ended the 2012/2013 season in equally impressive fashion, prompting yet more transfer speculation to intensify around the youngster over the summer.
However, once again the O’s managed to keep hold of their prized asset and have been reaping the rewards ever since. Odubajo has started every game in Orient’s sensational unbeaten start to the season which sees them lie top of the League One table deep into October. But for a club of Orient’s stature, success can sometimes be a bittersweet experience. Although supporters are currently being treated to one of the best young prospects the club has ever produced, the vultures will begin to circle and the club will find it increasingly difficult to hold on to their top stars, notably Odubajo.
More recently, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United have been linked with moves for Odubajo and with the likes of Andros Townsend living proof of what can potentially be achieved, who knows where the future of Moses Odubajo could lie.
By Craig Rodhouse
Leyton Orient season ticket holder Craig is the author of Football League blog Leagues Apart.