Leyton Orient captain Nathan Clarke insists O's can handle increased expectations

Nathan Clarke believes Orient can handle increased expectations this season: Simon O'Connor

Nathan Clarke believes Orient can handle increased expectations this season: Simon O'Connor

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Orient captain Nathan Clarke believes the club can handle the increased expectations this season and live up to their billing as one of the favourites for promotion from League 1.

The O’s were under the radar last year and were the surprise package as they led the division for much of the season before finishing third in the table.

But this form, coupled with a busy summer of signings following the takeover by Francesco Becchetti, has seen the club listed as popular fourth favourites to win the title.

After their near miss last season, when they suffered a heartbreaking play-off final defeat at Wembley, Clarke is confident the side can challenge again for promotion.

The centre-back said: “It [being one of the favourites] makes a nice change and makes you want to go out there and prove people right. We had the old adage last year of proving people wrong and they were all waiting for us to slip up.

“But we’re going to have to be the ones to watch again. The manager’s kept hold of the squad and there's been some fantastic signings along with keeping hold of Coxy. A lot of the fans are delighted with that and it shows the intention of the club, the manager and the staff that we want this group to go as far as we can again.”

Clarke added: “You’ve got to believe we can do something special again this year. We were inches away last season and that really grinds on me. I want to go out there and do as well as I can and really carry on from last season. We had a fantastic group and we did something special but I believe the manager has kept hold of the squad and these one or two that have come in now are going to push us that extra step.”

Orient finished their pre-season unbeaten and Clarke believes this will help give them momentum as they look to make a strong start against Chesterfield on Saturday.

“I think it helps being unbeaten through pre-season,” he said. “We’re going out as a team knowing we can win every game and I think that’s how we’ve got to approach the season. I think we had an unbeaten run last pre-season and it did us well. If we can carry on grinding out results and pushing on then it serves us well for the season.”

The O’s have had two chances to perform in front of their fans with home draws against Queens Park Rangers and Ipswich Town. Clarke admits he relished getting back in front of the club’s supporters and is eager for this weekend’ss opening day to come around.

Clarke said: “It’s really good to be back and the stadium at the other end is coming along nicely. It just feels right at the moment and one or two additions will hopefully enjoy playing here.

“There’s excitement and the lads in there are buzzing and can’t wait for the season to get going. It helps that the manager’s brought in one or two new faces and really brings out the best in the players we’ve got. We already had a good squad that competed very well last year but these new additions will hopefully take us that next step. The lads can’t wait to get going and introduce the new guys into the squad.

“I can’t wait for the first game. You speak to fans outside and the buzz and the excitement following on from last season is there to be seen. Pre-season is one of those things where you've got to do the days and get through the running. But the excitement coming up is what every player wants.”

Russell Slade has been busy this summer bringing in seven new players including proven Championship players such as Jobi McAnuff and Darius Henderson. Clarke believes the new arrivals will fit in well at Brisbane Road. The “It’s always hard when you come to a new club. You’re hoping to slip straight in and I think us as a group have got to allow that and involve them as much as we can. I think it also helps that the manager does a lot of homework on certain players and makes sure we get the right mix and they come in here and fit in as well as they do. I think a few of the lads know each other and that process of breaking the ice really helps.

“The quality he [McAnuff] brings is a big boost. The manager’s done really well in his signings so far and seeing them round the dressing room gives you that extra little buzz that we can do something special this year.”

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