Leyton Orient forward Conor Wilkinson has heaped praise on captain Jobi McAnuff and highlighted the importance of the former Reading and West Ham United midfielder’s experience, speaking exclusively to Football League World.
Despite a narrow defeat at the hands of Forest Green Rovers on Saturday, the O’s are just one point outside the top seven after a strong start to the season.
The form of Wilkinson, who has scored 10 goals in all competitions already this term, has been integral to their success so far in 2020/21 but the 26-year-old has lauded the influence of McAnuff on the side.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Football League World, Wilkinson said of the Orient skipper: “He’s 39 years of age and he’s still one of the best players at the club. Every day we have little competitions with him and sometimes there actually is no beating him. Class is permanent.
“Today we had a free-kick competition. I was beating him on the left side, we come over to the right and he sticks three in the top corner and walks.
“He is good. He keeps us on the ground, keeps us going, and pushes us when we need to be pushed. Obviously, he knows how it is being a footballer and it’s always good to have someone at his age that’s been through different areas of football.”
In a career that has spanned more than 20 years, McAnuff has amassed more than 700 club appearances, including representing the likes of Reading, West Ham, and Watford, and has featured in all four tiers of English football.
He was integral in Orient’s return to the EFL in 2018/19 and after missing the majority of last season with a knee injury, has been a central figure in their play-off push this term.
Both McAnuff and Wilkinson are likely to be vitally important if the O’s are to win promotion to League One in the 2020/21 campaign, something that the latter believes is a possibility.
The 24-year-old knows that nothing comes easier in the EFL’s bottom tier, however, and is determined to finish the season with a flourish.
He explained: “As a collective, we haven’t seen enough games out. We were talking about it and we dropped nine points from winning positions. In the football league, it can be as tight as anything and nine points is a massive gap.
“We’ve lost 2-1 three times after going 1-0 up in all three games. As a collective, we need to cut that out, strengthen together and focus on the whole game rather than doing it for one half, thinking we’ve won the game and taking our foot off the gas.
“Personally, I’d want to get to 15 league goals as a minimum and maybe 5 or 10 assists.”
Orient’s next chance to close the gap on the top seven comes against one of Wilkinson’s former clubs, Bolton Wanderers, on Saturday.