It’s hard to believe that it has been only 15 months since Moses Odubajo carried the ball forward against Rochdale on the final day of the 2011-12 season before unleashing an unstoppable drive into the roof of the net.
Since making his full debut that day, the 20-year-old has made 56 appearances for the O’s, become a crucial part of Russell Slade’s side and developed into the most exciting player the Club has produced for several years.
But it could have all been so different for Moses who almost twice missed out on a scholarship in E10 and was beginning to think his chance at Orient would never come.
Having been scouted by Millwall as a 14-year-old, Odubajo spent time on trial at the Den before turning his back on football after his Mother passed away. After taking a break from the game he returned and trialled again with the Lions but was put in touch with the O’s after being told he hadn’t quite done enough for a scholarship with the Bermondsey club.
“I went to Orient and played a trial game and kept going through all the right stages and trained with the youth team and played well in every game for about six weeks. Then one day before a game, the youth team manager, Wayne Burnett, said that I was being offered a scholarship and that we’d sign it afterwards,” explains Moses.
“I remember in the last bits of the game he asked me to go right back. I didn’t say anything but my facial expression at the time said that I didn’t want to play there so he took me off. Then after the game he said to me: “I’m not going to offer you anything as I feel like a player should be able to play in any position and you should feel comfortable with doing it.” And that was it.
“The kid I travelled in with, he got a scholarship so the journey home I didn’t say a word, I was in agony.”
Fearing that a career in football was slipping from his grasp, Odubajo seized the initiative when a chance to return to the O’s presented itself.
“Towards the end of the summer, I saw on Sky Sports News that Wayne Burnett had left Orient to go to Dagenham and that Andy Edwards had been appointed. So the first thing I did was ring Ross Embleton at Orient and ask if I could come back for another trial,” he said.
Odubajo impressed on his return until a cruel stroke of misfortune again almost shattered his dreams on the very day he was set to find out the decision on which players would be getting a scholarship.
“I wasn’t getting any money at the time so it was hard for me to get in and out of training, so I borrowed my next door neighbour’s Oyster Card and ended up getting stopped by the Transport Police. They were asking me funny questions like: “How did you get this Oyster Card? Is it stolen?”
“I was bricking it, so I told them to call Andy and speak to him so they rang him and he confirmed that I was on trial and that I was doing what I said I was doing so they let me go.
“Then after the game that day, Andy said he was going to have to talk to the first team manager and assistant about the situation as the club didn’t tolerate criminal behaviour! So then I had to wait another day to find out whether I was going to get a decision.
“That night I don’t think I slept, and when I came in the manager at the time Geraint Williams, Kevin Nugent and Andy sat me down and took me through the rules of the club and explained that they didn’t tolerate criminals but then at the end they handed me a scholarship and I’ve been here ever since!”
Having almost missed out twice, the youngster has grabbed his opportunity with the O’s and become a crucial cog in Russell Slade’s side. Despite only starting last season as a 19-year-old, Slade had enough faith in the wide-man to play him almost from the word go.
The cat was soon out of the bag about his talent and after half a season of football in League 1 he was being linked with a move away from E10 until he signed a new contract in February that will keep him with the O’s until June 2015.
Moses has no regrets about signing the contract but explained it was a tricky situation for him to deal with as a young player.
“It’s a very weird feeling knowing people are interested you. I kept thinking ‘is this really happening to me?’ It wasn’t even like I’d had a full season in League 1 and people were pulling me in all sorts of directions. Words can’t explain how that sort of situation is.
“It was a very difficult decision to be honest because at the time my head was all over the place with things going on and different people speaking to me that I’ve never spoken to in my life but at the end of the day I know I made the right decision and I followed my heart.
“I followed my instincts. Here at Orient I get games, experience and I think you learn more from not being sheltered and comforted and having all the luxuries of travelling on spacious coaches and in five start hotels. It keeps you very grounded.”
For Moses too it was the chance to continue his development under Russell Slade that was a key factor in the decision too.
“The manager (Russell Slade) said I needed to be playing first team football at my age and that he didn’t think I’d get that elsewhere and that I wouldn’t want to be playing in the reserves because I’m better than that.
“It was a great feeling knowing that he trusted me that much in my first season in League 1 so I owe it to him.”
And to the 2013-14 season, for which he will wear the number 11. Odubajo is not content with what he’s achieved so far and is hungry to keep learning.
He explains: “I’ve learnt that I need to trust myself a bit more over the last couple of years. If things aren’t going my way early in games then there’s still the rest of the game to prove myself and also there’s other games too as they come so thick and fast and one mistake is not going to hurt me.
“I feel like I’ve started to improve my end product which wasn’t the best at times last season and I want to score more goals too.”
With a small squad at his disposal this campaign, Russell Slade has already expressed that his younger players need to be ready when called upon as they may well play a part over the coming months.
Odubajo provides a great role model to those looking to break through, so what advice does he have for them?
“You’ve got one shot at it, you’ve got to give it everything you can and be so hungry because if not, a year goes by in a flash.”
This interview was first published in the new Orient matchday magazine which is next available for the game against Crewe for £3