Charlie Long sits down with the Orient midfielder who reflects on the O’s, milestones and international duty…
One of the most frustrating times for a footballer is being stuck on the sidelines due to injury, especially when it is at the crunch time of the season.
Experienced midfielder Jobi McAnuff currently finds himself in that exact situation having sustained a tear in his calf at the start of April, preventing him from helping his Leyton Orient teammates in their bid to claim a playoff spot.
Over recent months the 34-year-old had become an influential part of the side and scored winning goals in impressive 1-0 victories at fellow promotion hopefuls Portsmouth and Oxford.
“First and foremost, it is always nice to score, but when they turn out to be winners there is an extra importance to them. Our away form was very good during that period and it is a shame that we couldn’t get the results we needed at home as that would have really pushed us up the table at the time,” explained McAnuff.
This campaign has seen the former Reading captain make 19 appearances for the O’s, though a frustrating start to the season meant the Jamaican was not to feature until November, while also achieving a career milestone at Notts County on February 20 when he made the 600th club appearance of his career.
“It was really nice to achieve that, but to be perfectly honest it was not something I was aware of at the time. I knew I would be in and around it, but earlier on in the season I didn’t think I would achieve it this year.
“It’s always nice, I’m not really a massive one for personal accolades and milestones but it is certainly a great achievement considering I’ve played the most of my career in the Championship, League One and League Two which are hard leagues with a lot of games. I’ve been lucky to play the number of games that I have and hopefully I have still got a few more in the legs.”
McAnuff’s fine displays for the East Londoners led to the 34-year-old earning another call-up to the Jamaica National Team at the end of March, of whom he starred for during a brilliant Copa America campaign last summer, though it was to come at a cost with it resulting in him missing the O’s defeats to Accrington Stanley and Hartlepool over the Easter weekend.
“Of course it is frustrating to miss games here and with the games not going well I wish I didn’t have to,” he added.
“They were critical games for us here and I know the frustrations of everyone involved with the club, no more than myself especially given the fact it was during a period that was so important. We had been going along fairly well at the time and it is a shame because some people sometimes see it as you are almost prioritising that over your club career but that is not the case at all. It just happens that League One and Two don’t have the international break.
“I’ve been involved with Jamaica for a long time now and it is a very important stage for us. Because it is so far away the importance probably doesn’t quite translate over here as it does in Jamaica and that region in particular. It is a massive opportunity that we have and it is an important thing for me to be a part of.”
Following back-to-back fixtures against Costa Rica for the Reggae Boyz, McAnuff returned straight back into the Orient team for their 1-1 draw at relegation-threatened York City, though the game at Bootham Crescent on April 2 looks likely to have been his final appearance this season after picking up a calf injury ahead of their game against Barnet.
“I got through the game unscathed but then it was during training on the Tuesday before the Barnet game when I felt a little twinge in my calf and thought it could have been from a combination of things such as the travelling and games,” revealed McAnuff.
“I came in from training and unfortunately it was worse than I thought at the time. Timing wise it is so frustrating to be injured and with the importance of each game it is hard to be missing out. It is one of those things though and I have been fairly fortunate throughout my career, but for one reason or another I have missed too many games for my liking this season.
“I’m not sure if I will feature again this season, it depends on the progress and when I can get back out there. I haven’t been able to do any running yet and that will be a big factor as we will see if it reacts fine or not. It is a bit of a fiddly injury and until I am back out there we won’t be able to say how long it will be.”
With the midfielder set for at least another few weeks in the treatment room, Orient go into their final three League Two fixtures currently five points behind AFC Wimbledon who occupy the final playoff spot.
Fittingly the Dons are the O’s rivals this weekend and McAnuff acknowledges that only a win at Kingsmeadow will be enough to keep their playoff hopes alive.
“Despite being injured I am trying to help the lads and it is important that we have a drive around the place. Tuesday’s defeat against Plymouth was extremely disappointing because performance wise in the first half we looked good,” he said.
“A couple of set plays and our own concentration let us down, which has been the case collectively too many times this year. For one reason or another during certain points of games we have been going along fine and then conceded from a set-piece or a mistake, and invariably that is what has really cost us this season.
“We’re not giving up and we still have enough time to try and turn it around, starting on Saturday which is against one of our direct rivals in AFC Wimbledon. We need to go there, win the game and then see what happens in the last few games after that.”