Shane Lowry admits he has nothing but great memories from his time at Aston Villa and cannot wait to return with his new club.
The O’s have been handed a plum second round tie in the Capital One Cup at the Premier League club on Wednesday night and new signing Lowry is relishing the opportunity to go back to Villa Park.
The Australian-born defender started his career in England at Villa in 2005 and spent seven seasons with the Premier League club. Lowry made his debut for Villa in 2010 against Brighton & Hove Albion in the FA Cup but this was one of only a handful of appearances for the side as he went out on loan to teams such as Leeds United and Sheffield United.
He joined Millwall permanently two years ago before signing on a free transfer for Orient this summer and the cup draw has handed him an unexpected opportunity to be reunited with his old teammates.
Lowry said: “I’ve got a lot of friends there still [Villa]. I was disappointed in 2013 when we got them at the Den and I missed it through suspension. I was absolutely gutted and we beat them as well. But I’m looking forward to going back there. It’s a lovely stadium and it will be a great night out for the fans as well.
“I’ve got nothing but great memories. I had seven good years there and the academy is one of the best in the country. You just have to look at the team now and the players that are playing at a high level who have come through the academy.
“A lot of people won’t be expecting us to win as a League 1 club against a Premier League side. But they’ve got the commitment of the Premier League and anything can happen in a cup game.
“We’ll be going there trying to win the game and it will be a good cup tie. It’s a beautiful stadium and these are the kind of games you want to play in.”
Lowry had no qualms about dropping down from the Championship this summer and insists the only target for his new club is to win promotion next May.
“I came to this club to get promotion,” he said. “If you don’t have high expectations of yourself then there’s no point being in this game. The lads did extremely well last year with the size of squad they had getting to where they got to. It’s always hard coming back the next season after such heartbreak, but we’ve got a great bunch here and we’re looking forward to going for promotion.”
Lowry started the opening couple of league matches at left-back and, although the 25-year-old is more comfortable centrally, he is more than happy to play in different positions across the defence.
He said: “I’m flexible but personally I see myself as a left-sided centre half. I think that’s my best position but I have played a lot of football at left-back as well. I don’t mind doing either and I will play anywhere as long as I’m in the team. It’s up to me to try and nail a spot in the team and get my head down because we’ve got some good players in the squad who are all pushing each other on.”
Orient’s transfer activity has made them the envy of many clubs in the division and the O’s are now equipped with one of the strongest squads. Lowry believes the options that manager Russell Slade has at his disposal means no-one can take their place for granted.
Lowry said: “The three of them [Jobi McAnuff, Kevin Lisbie and Darius Henderson] have all played in the Premier League which says it all really. When you look at the bench it gives you confidence and gives the lads on the pitch a kick up the backside to keep playing well because if you don’t perform there’s quality on the bench to take your spot.
“Competition for places is healthy and I think it’s a good thing at a club. Hopefully we can take it and push on this year.”