Elliot Omozusi insists he is grateful to have been given the opportunity to show what type of character he is after his successful return to the club following a spell in prison.
The O’s defender has been a revelation both on and off the pitch and this has been recognised with Omozusi’s nomination for the PFA player in the community award.
Omozusi was sentenced to prison for witness intimidation back in 2011 but was brought back to Orient for his second spell just over a year ago. He was given a one-year deal last summer and Omozusi’s extensive work in the community could yet be rewarded at the Football League Awards next month.
Omozusi said: “It is a massive honour. It’s very satisfying to get recognition for something that means so much to me and also the club.”
The defender admitted: “I was always expecting there would be some negative feedback when I came back but deep down I always knew what type of person and character I am. I just needed a chance to show people and I’m happy that I’ve been able to do it.”
When asked about the work he has done in the community, Omozusi said: “I’ve got a story to tell so that's the main reason behind it. We have a programme for 16 to 18 year olds where we go out to schools and youth clubs. I start off with a brief explanation of who I am and what I do. Then I will talk about my time as a footballer and my personal life including going to prison and coming out.
“Then it opens up to the floor and the kids will just take over and the questions will flow. It’s not really structured and it is quite a laid back environment.”
The 25-year-old continued: “I love doing it and I like seeing the kids open up. When they started talking about their personal situation then they can relate to what I’ve done in the past.
“Hearing what I’ve done can sometimes help steer the kids, who have had a similar background to me, away from making mistakes.”
Omozusi added: “There are a few subjects that I find difficult to talk about but the more that you do it and speak about it the easier it becomes.
“When I returned to the club we sat down and put together some objectives. This was one of the most important ones and we decided I should go out and tell my story. There are kids in a similar situation who I can try and help and this will also help me and the club.”
When Russell Slade handed Omozusi a contract last summer and decided not to keep on Leon McSweeney it was met with some surprise.
But the former Norwich City and Charlton Athletic defender has been one of the O’s most consistent performers. Omozusi has become a key component of their defence and his displays have arguably done enough to earn a new contract next season.
“I hope that we can sort something out,” he said.
“There have been a few early discussions and I hope it will lead to something but at the moment we’re just trying to concentrate on the football side of things. If that goes well then it should take care of itself.”
Omozusi was reunited with Ben Alnwick on Saturday after the goalkeeper made his second debut for the club. The pair played together back in 2011 and Omozusi has no doubts he will prove an excellent addition while Jamie Jones is still injured.
The defender said: “I know Ben pretty well and he is a very good keeper. He is excellent to have around and he will add to the quality we have here so I look forward to working with him again. He will prove to be a massive signing for us.
“There are always going to be twists and turns with different keepers coming in. But we are old enough and ugly enough to have seen these things before so we will just do our best until Jamie is able to come back.”
Omozusi has fond memories of Orient’s last meeting with Peterborough United, when they won 3-1, but is not going to underestimate them this weekend despite their poor recent form.
He said: “It’s going to be a feisty one. I know they will be right up for it. Even though their recent results have not been great, they are still a good team and have an excellent squad.
“Winning at Peterborough was one of the highlights and the atmosphere was electric down there with the support we had.”