It is not every day a player from Leyton Orient gets an international call-up, so it was big news when our youth-team goalkeeper Charlie Grainger was selected for the England Under-18s squad for the game against Croatia on Wednesday. While he will have the luxury of staying at St George’s Park, it was business as usual for him after the call-up as he was on water-bottle duty for the first-team squad at our training ground last week.
One of his colleagues would shout out squad numbers and Charlie would yell back “squash” or “water” depending on the player’s preference.
The youth team chores are done on a rota giving the youngsters areas they are responsible for. They include: balls, training equipment, gym and physio room, bottles, goals, changing rooms and the dining room. The indoor jobs are the most sought-after given the weather, while balls is one of the dreaded ones. It can be a thankless task and you’ll often see a scholar clambering over a fence or into a ditch in the driving rain looking for stray balls while others enjoy lunch.
You hear some argue that young players have it easy nowadays, but from my experience they work hard from early in the morning until about 4.30pm, when they gather together and can leave once everyone has completed all of their jobs.
Charlie got plenty of congratulations from the first-teamers and a fair bit of banter too with players offering to carry things for him and asking him if his lunch was sufficient seeing as he is now an international player.
Not since the mid-1990s have we had an England call-up at youth level so it is a big achievement.
Things can change quickly, but one area of the training ground that has been quieter recently is the treatment room with Jamie Jones, our injured goalkeeper, its only occupant. For much of the season, with such a small squad, any player that is fit has been at least on the bench. Recently there have been more players fit and desperate for a game as we don’t have a reserve team playing regularly.
To get by, the coaching staff will organise friendlies on an ad-hoc basis and one was booked against Oxford United. That, unfortunately, was called off due to the weather. Instead we had a hastily arranged in-house game at the training ground. It was a bit of a stretch to get 22 players out and the teams were made up of a mix of first-team players that needed minutes, and scholars, with the odd special guest such as Danny Webb, one of our Academy coaches, who was drafted in to make up the numbers.
Despite the slightly haphazard organisation the players were thoroughly professional in their approach, particularly as the manager, Russell Slade, watched on from the sidelines. But despite their professionalism the game was brought to a halt for a couple of minutes due to uncontrollable laughter.
A couple of sports science interns ran the line, while goalkeeper coach and chief scout Kevin Dearden refereed.
Deardo is a regular referee in the training games and gets a fair amount of stick for his decisions. He is renowned for not being the most mobile. At one point in the play one of our scholars, Scott Kashket, was making a dash through the middle.
Deardo stepped out of his way but unknowingly right into the path of Marvin Bartley, our midfielder, who was pursuing Scott at full pelt. Marv is somewhat of a powerhouse and Deardo was left on his back like an upturned tortoise while everyone else was bent over double.