The O Zone: How we saved Robbie from the torture of life without a club

The O Zone: Behind the scenes at Leyton Orient

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The Independent Football

We started the week with a new signing. The transfer window is closed, but that doesn’t stop you bringing in players that are currently without a club, as was the case with Robbie Simpson. The paperwork needed to be with the Football League that morning for him to be eligible for Tuesday’s game at Stevenage so, after a flurry of phone calls, Matt, our analyst, gave him a lift from the training ground in Chigwell to the stadium so he could see Lindsey, our secretary, to sign the forms.

Robbie was at Oldham last season but this summer he found himself a victim of the belt-tightening many clubs are doing. With his record, it seems inconceivable that Robbie would be without a club until November. He’s 28, has played more than 200 games at Championship and League One level, and famously scored a screamer for Oldham against Liverpool at Anfield. Robbie was delighted finally to have a club after what he said was “a long summer”.

Someone who had a similar experience was Leon McSweeney, a player we released at the end of last season who, coincidentally, was at Loughborough University with Robbie. “Sweens” went on honeymoon thinking he had a new club lined up. But when he came back the manager had changed his mind.

At the same time his agent changed profession so he was out of work and without an agent to help find a new job. It was September before he finally signed for Carlisle. Leon recently summed up his summer on his excellent blog (

“As the days ticked by the reality of the situation facing me became a daunting one. Being at home, training alone and waiting for the phone to ring is a very lonely and demoralising existence… It’s a relentless mental torture.

“You listen to your mates in football talk about starting back for their pre-season and their ensuing seasons at their own clubs with all the usual training ground banter and it really hits you hard. You find yourself limiting contact as their banter and joviality and questions of concern only add to your anxiety and desperation to find a club, which in turn leads to a reclusive way of thinking and an almost self-imposed isolation.

“You click on Sky Sports News to check if clubs are signing players and if they’re not it fills you with a strange but reassuring hope that the market is slow, however, when you do see the signings being made then your chest can tighten with anxiety as you ponder your next career move. As the days of solitary training progress, your mind becomes overrun with thoughts pondering the eternal question: ‘What shall I do without football?’ ”

Having completed the paperwork Robbie made his debut as a substitute at Stevenage in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, and came off the bench again on Saturday against Preston. Unfortunately, he’s still waiting for a win with us, as it was a rare week where we lost both games.