The positive changes keep rolling on at the rejuvenated Leyton Orient FC, with new players joining the team and bringing optimism for the season ahead. Former Motherwell midfielder Craig Clay, former Colchester striker Macauley Bonne and defender George Elokobi, former Crystal Palace defender Christian Scales, former Woking defender Jake Caprice, former Stevenage midfielder Charlie Lee, former Dagenham & Redbridge defender Joe Widdowson, have all joined the O’s on 2-year contracts. Alex Lawless, former Yeovil Town midfielder, has signed a 1-year deal with Orient. Meanwhile, goalie Charlie Grainger has re-signed with the O’s for a further two years, and former Orient striker David Mooney has returned to the club for at least two years after a spell with Southend United.
After making 39 appearances at Fir Park last season, Clay is enthusiastic about joining a club with such an exciting challenge ahead. 25-year-old Nottingham born Clay started his football career at Chesterfield, graduating through their youth system and being named their Young Player of the year for the 08-09 season. His performance resulted in a professional contract with the club in 2010. He amassed further valuable experience playing on loan with Conference Premier sides, Barrow and then Alfreton Town. After playing 23 matches with Chesterfield in the 2012-13 season, he joined York City in May 2013.
For the 2014-15 season, Clay was snapped up by Grimsby Town, and proved his worth in 47 appearances, helping the Mariners reach the play-off final. Grimsby made sure they signed the talented Clay, and in the summer of 2015 signed a new deal – and it proved the right move, with Grimsby achieving promotion back to the Football League, and Clay totting up another 44 appearances. In fact, his performance in the 2015-16 season earned him selection for the England C team, and in August 2016 Motherwell tempted him north of the border.
Bonne has been signed for a 2-year contract, moving from Colchester United for an undisclosed amount. The 21-year old striker began at Ipswich Town’s Academy, before a short stint playing for Norwich City and then moving on to Colchester at the age of 14. He made his professional debut on 22nd October 2013, before marking his 18th birthday in style, scoring the winning goal in a 1-0 win over Peterborough United. Bonne, who put in a total of 84 appearances for the U’s and was capped by Zimbabwe (under 23s), also played as a loan with Lincoln City and Woking last season, so has plenty of experience under his belt, despite his young years.
Another acquisition from Colchester comes in the form of the solid defender George Elokobi. Cameroon born Elokobi came to England when he was 16, joining Dulwich Hamlet, before moving to Colchester in 2004. After 4 years with Colchester, including a loan at Chester, Elokobi signed with Wolverhampton Wanderers in January 2009, where he was instrumental in helping the Wolves get their promotion to the Premier League in 2009. After more than 100 appearances with Wolves, and loans to both Nottingham Forest and Bristol City, Elokobi joined Oldham Athletic for the 2014-15 season, with 27 appearances before re-joining Colchester, where he made another 48 appearances and enjoyed a spell on loan to Braintree.
Another 2-year signing for the O’s comes in the form of former Crystal Palace and South side Whitehawk defender Christian Scales. The 20-year old left back hails from Hertfordshire and started out at Norwich City’s Academy, before he caught the eye of Crystal Palace, being awarded his first professional contract in April 2015, and then joining Crawley Town on loan for the beginning of the 2015-16 season, where his performance was impressive. Scales then moved to National League team South side Whitehawk for the last half of the season.
Another experienced player who has signed a 2-year deal with the O’s is former Yeovil Town midfielder Alex Lawless. The 32-year old started life in Tonypandy, Wales, and began his professional career at Ton Pentre, before being signed by Fulham in 2003. Lawless has been capped by Wales at youth levels, and after two years playing with the Cottagers, made the move to Torquay United. After a year with the Gulls, Lawless signed with Forest Green Rovers in August 2006, and became a key player, making no fewer than 120 appearances.
In mid-2009, Lawless moved to York City, where he enjoyed a successful first season with 45 appearances, catching the eye of Luton Town, whom he joined in November 2010 on loan, before a permanent switch in January 2011. In the five years Lawless was with the Hatters, they achieved promotion back to the Football League, and he made an impressive 203 appearances. In July 2016, he signed a one-year contract with Yeovil Town, and racked up another 39 appearances.
Coming to the Matchroom Stadium from National League side Woking, is 24-year old defender Jake Caprice. Having started out in the youth ranks at Crystal Palace, Caprice signed his first professional contract with the Eagles in 2011, though was unable to make the breakthrough there and signed for Blackpool a year later, and made his professional debut on loan to Dagenham & Redbridge in December 2012. Caprice also played on loan with St. Mirren and Tamworth in the 2013-14 season.
But, it was with Lincoln City that Caprice really found his footing, and became a dependable player, enjoying 37 appearances in the 2014-15 season, and impressing Woking, who signed him on a pre-contract before the 2015-16 season. At Woking, Caprice owned his right back spot, and appeared 89 times.
30-year old midfielder Charlie Lee has joined the O’s from Stevenage. Lee, who came through the Tottenham Hotspur youth, was first signed professionally with Spurs in 2005, and moved to Peterborough United in 2007. With Peterborough, Lee found his pace and won Player of the Year award in two seasons running, helping his side reach the Championship with successive promotions in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.
After 177 appearances with Peterborough, Lee left for Gillingham after a loan to the Kent side. Keeping to-form, with Lee the Gills were promoted, finishing as League Two champs in the 2012-13 season. In 2014 Lee made the move to Stevenage, where he made 130 appearances.
Following the ending of his contract with National League team Dagenham & Redbridge, 28-year old defender Joe Widdowson has joined the Orient ranks. After starting out with West Ham United, the left back experienced his senior debut while on loan to Rotherham United in 2008. In 2009 he joined Grimsby Town, and a year later signed with Rochdale, where he made 73 appearances from 2010-12. He spent the next two years making 75 appearances with Northampton Town. Widdowson then played with Bury (with a loan to Morecambe), before joining Dagenham & Redbridge on loan in November of 2014. After making a permanent switch to the Daggers, Widdowson made 106 appearances, with 51 playing for the side, under John Still, that reached the Vanarama National League Play-Off semi-final.
Orient goalkeeper Charlie Grainger will remain with the O’s, after signed a new 2-year deal. The 20-year old is now going to be in competition with Sam Sargeant for the number one spot in the O’s approaching National League push. After being at the Matchroom Stadium for nearly 9 years, Grainger is keen to help the O’s recover their performance and make the fans proud, saying “I’ve been working hard during the off-season and can’t wait to get going on Monday. It is an exciting time for the Club and I am delighted to be a part of it.”
Experienced Orient striker David Mooney (2011-15), has re-joined the O’s after his contract with Southend United expired. The 32-year old Dubliner began his career with Shamrock Rovers in 2004, before playing for Longford Town and Cork City in Ireland. In 2008, he moved across the Irish Sea to England, joining Reading. Mooney enjoyed loans to Stockport Country, Norwich City, Charlton Athletic and Colchester United, and was also on the Republic of Ireland under-23 team, gaining much valuable experience.
In the summer of 2011 Mooney signed with Orient for the first time, where he scored 51 goals in 170 appearances, and became a firm favourite among the fans. In the past two seasons at Southend, he’s also racked up 10 goals in 50 appearances, and now has big hopes for his return to the Matchroom Stadium.