Dean Cox admits it will be a boyhood dream to play at Wembley on Sunday when he hopes to fire the O’s into the Championship.
The winger scored his 16th goal of the season in the semi-final second leg win over Peterborough United and will now get the chance to play for the first time at the home of English football.
Cox said: “I’ve been there as a fan but it’s a bit different to go there and play. I’ve gone there to watch England many a time. I’m a supporter and love watching my country but to play there will be that little bit extra special.
“It will mean the world. I’ll have to hold back the tears with family and friends being there. It will be emotional walking out there, but once the whistle goes we’re just going to try and win it.
“It’s any boy’s dream to play at Wembley but to be part of the side playing there is an absolute pleasure. We’ll go there with great character and spirit. We’re very dogged and never stop. We’re relentless in what we do and we’ll work so hard to give this club success. I hope the fans enjoy the day and hopefully we can get over that line and get into the Championship.”
The O’s were not fancied to challenge for promotion at the start of this season and Cox admits he couldn’t have imagined this scenario back in August.
When asked if he envisaged a trip to Wembley, he replied: “Not a chance. Not with the budget that everyone’s got but I must say after ten games, when we were on that fantastic run, we started gaining belief. We were obviously bitterly disappointed not to get automatic promotion because we were there for so long.
“But I thought it was key that the two games at the end of the season, against Tranmere and MK Dons, we got a bit of momentum and took that into the Peterborough games.”
Orient were in the top two for most of the season but dropped out during the last couple of months. Cox believes having time to overcome the disappointment and prepare for the play-offs has benefited them now.
The 26-year-old said: “There was disappointment but the strength and the character of the team made sure it didn’t affect us too much. A lot of people said Leyton Orient were going to do a Tranmere but it hasn’t happened. We kept our end of the bargain by finishing third and Peterborough are a tough side with a lot of experience. We’ve come out winners and I’m absolutely delighted.
“I think it was key we had some time to get over the disappointment of missing out on automatic promotion. The gaffer set out the team, for the last league games, with the side that started against Peterborough so it was a platform to go out and put into practice what we’ve done in training. Luckily for us they were two wins and when you win it breeds confidence and that wins games.”
Cox believes Russell Slade has created a real togetherness and spirit within the club and feels he should have been the outright LMA League 1 manager of the year this season.
“We’ve got no people that sulk,” he said. “There’s some people that don’t play a lot and might sulk but here there’s just a feelgood factor. The gaffer makes everyone feel part of it and has to take full credit for that. To be honest, to get the award joint with Kenny Jackett [Wolves] was a bit insulting because he’s had one hell of a budget and we’ve managed to get to Wembley on absolute peanuts.”