The route into professional football can occasionally come through unusual paths and this certainly applies for one of Orient’s summer signings.
Bradley Pritchard was working as a performance analyst for Charlton Athletic, after finishing his sports science degree at Loughborough University, when the Addicks offered him a trial in 2011.
The midfielder, who was in the process of applying for graduate jobs, seized the opportunity and managed to win a one-year contract with the club. He made 25 appearances as Charlton won the League 1 title and earned a new two-year deal which vindicated manager Chris Powell’s decision to sign him.
Pritchard said: “After uni I was a performance analyst. I was doing some work at Charlton and playing non-league at Hayes & Yeading at the time.
“They sent a scout to watch me a few times and towards the end of the season the gaffer, Chris Powell, asked me on a week’s trial.
“So I was hoping to get a job there as an analyst and then they offered me a year’s contract as a player. So I was like ‘are you sure about that?’ I was fortunate enough to earn another contract and really enjoy what I do now.
“It was a surprise because at 25 you don’t expect to have a chance to play so to be given that opportunity was definitely something I didn’t expect. I had almost forgotten about that dream at 21 or 22 so it was unexpected because I was still looking for jobs.
“To a degree it makes you grateful but after a while you just have to get on with it. At the end of the day it is your job so I am grateful but I want to be a success. Being grateful only goes so far so hopefully ambition to continue takes over.”
Pritchard was a regular in his second season and went on to make another 64 appearances over the last two years before leaving the Valley this summer. Russell Slade moved quickly to sign the midfielder and Pritchard insists the interest in him was a key factor in opting to join the O’s.
The Zimbabwean said: “There were a load of different factors as to why I joined Orient. Location was one and the way the team played and especially the confidence the manager had in me. When I met him he was very confident in me and eager to have me on board and that felt good.
“Every player wants to feel wanted and it felt like that when I spoke to him. I felt I could benefit the team so that was probably the main thing really.
“I think all the players will have their opportunity to show what they can do and there are only a few weeks to go which will go quickly. I’m just looking forward to the season.”
The 28-year-old had his first opportunity to impress his new club last Friday as a substitute during their 3-2 win at Dartford. Pritchard immediately noticed the work ethic of the team but believes there is plenty of ability in the side.
He said: “It’s always tough in the first game. Sometimes you feel like it’s a bit of a lose lose situation. You’re expected to do well and if you don’t do so well then it doesn’t make you look so good. It was a decent run-out and good to get used to the way some of the lads play.
“It’s been really good and I have enjoyed getting to know the other boys. Training’s been tough. We’ve had double sessions and it’s just about trying to get back into the swing of things. I didn’t play so much towards the back end of last season so getting back into playing and training is tough but enjoyable.
“They work for each other. There’s constantly a lot of rotation and all the boys are very comfortable on the ball. You can see they are all willing to work for each other and when you see that it definitely gives you confidence on the ball because it gives you options and helps you have an impact on the game.”
With experience of helping a side win promotion from the division, Pritchard knows what it takes to get out of League 1.
He said: “You can definitely see that team ethos and also being clinical is important to get out of this division. When games are tight you need to be able to get those scrappy 1-0 wins and just keep points ticking over.
“I think that’s essential and we’ve definitely got the personel here. We’ve got players that can make things happen out of nothing.”
Pritchard added: “Everyone wants to do one better than last season. That goes without saying so right now it’s just about focusing and getting things ready and fine tuning bits and pieces so that when the season starts we’ll be ready.”