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Dundee defender Matt Lockwood backs former club Leyton Orient for promotion to Championship
The last time Leyton Orient tasted success in the league was in the 2005/06 season after gaining automatic promotion into League One.
In the last game of the season, Orient looked set to remain in the Football League’s bottom division for a 12th consecutive year, and prolong their 36-year wait for promotion.
But with time running out at Oxford United, a late goal from Lee Steele confirmed the O’s place in League One.
In the team that day was a player who spent nine years in East London making more than 380 appearances for Orient and Matt Lockwood believes the same can happen again this season.
The defender insists promotion to the Championship is more than just a possibility and a realistic target for Leyton Orient.
Lockwood said: “It’s been an unbelievable season for them so far, I think it’s fantastic. They’ve exceeded any expectations they had outside of the football club.
“100 per cent they can get promoted, it’s more than just a possibility. It’s a very realistic goal for them now, considering the start they’ve had.
“They’re playing extremely well, and only seem to be getting better, so there’s no reason why they can’t stay in the promotion places and go up this season.”
Lockwood continued: “It would be a fantastic achievement for them and the fans, but obviously there’s a long way to go, but fingers crossed they keep up this good form.”
Having been an integral part of the Orient team that was promoted eight years ago, Lockwood knows what it takes for a team to achieve promotion.
And he feels the O’s already have some of the elements required to be successful.
The current Dundee player said: “They were one of the form teams towards the end of last year and they haven’t lost any significant players from that squad. They’ve managed to strengthen it and I think that’s important.
“Russell Slade has been able to name the same starting XI for a good number of games this season, and I think consistency of the players being picked each week is massively important to be successful.
“They’ve now got a solid backbone running through the team, and they’re all playing regularly together.”
Lockwood added: “During the season in 2006, we had a consistent starting line-up and the back four all played together for around 20 consecutive games.
“When you have that stability within a team, it really helps as you begin to understand how each other each plays and that was central to our success that year.”
Despite Orient’s promotion in 2006, Lockwood moved to Nottingham Forest in the Championship the following season, but injury meant he only made 12 starts for them.
The struggle with injuries continued to hinder his footballing career until he moved to Scotland in 2010, and he now feels his injuries are well and truly behind him. Lockwood said: “The first couple of years since I left Orient were stop start, and I was quite unlucky on my debut for Forest as I got injured and was out for four months.
“I didn’t ever have any serious injuries during my time at Orient, but the three years after I’d left were average and that was down to the injuries I sustained.
“Since then I’ve moved to Scotland and I’m enjoying playing for Dundee. I’ve played well over 100 games and I’m quite fit, and I’m back training regularly every week.
“I’m no spring chicken, but there’s still good performances coming out of me, and I’ve experienced some highs and lows as you would at any club.”
The 37-year-old, who started getting his coaching badges 12 years ago, admits he would relish the chance to return to Orient in the future.
Lockwood said: “I had a fantastic time at the club, I gave the best years of my career to Leyton Orient, and I’d probably still be there now if I hadn’t have moved to Nottingham Forest when I did.
“There were ups and downs, but looking back on it now I think I served them well and they were a great club to play for.
“I’m always going to hold Orient as a special club in my heart because that’s where I’ve spent the majority of my career playing.
“I class Leyton Orient as being home and if a coaching or management opportunity arose in the future then I would definitely be interested.
“Things are going well for me at Dundee, but you never know what the future will hold and as a famous person once said, you can never say never.”
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