After captaining Leyton Orient to the National League title last year Jobi McAnuff could be forgiven for taking his foot off the gas slightly, but his determination to succeed remains as strong as ever.
McAnuff’s joy at being crowned a champion was short-lived following the tragic death of manager Justin Edinburgh just weeks later, a person whom he and everyone associated with the club thought of very fondly.
From that, the experienced midfielder was offered the role of player-coach, to work alongside Danny Webb and now interim manager, Ross Embleton.
Being a senior player and captain, it has not been too much of a step-up for McAnuff, but he did admit that it has been a balancing act at times.
Speaking exclusively to Football League World’s Kealan Hughes, he said: “It’s been really enjoyable so far, it has been an interesting first few weeks of trying to get the balance of playing which is what I still want to do, trying to get fit and chipping in with the bits and bobs along the way,
“I’m very fortunate here in that we have two good coaches in Ross and Danny so in that respect I’m lucky I can learn a lot from them. I’m trying to take in as much as I can and really just support them as best as I can.”
McAnuff is very much a jovial character in the dressing room, and his influence both on and off the pitch was a huge factor in Orient’s success last year, so he is pleased that a slight change in role hasn’t affected how he is viewed too much.
“My relationship with the lads hasn’t changed, there’s a great set of boys [at the club] and I get on really well with them and enjoy working with them, and I’m glad it’s the same with the coaching group.
“When I’ve got the red player’s top on for training it’s still the same old Jobi but when I’ve got the coaching top on they have to be a little more careful of what they say,” he added jokingly.
Leyton Orient have won two of their opening four league games this season, and have already experienced the highs and the lows of League Two football, falling to a 3-0 defeat to Macclesfield as well as overcoming a 2-0 deficit to win away at Mansfield in the dying seconds.
For McAnuff, it has been an eye-opener seeing what the management staff go through, but is loving his involvement on matchday and in getting across the new methods and style of play that the Embleton and co. are trying to implement.
He said: “The ultimate is during the game when things are happening and you’ve got to make decisions quickly, you have to assess the game and decide things which you hope will help your team, so it has been really good to be in the thick of that.
“It’s about finding the right balance because we all believe we can improve players, improve the team and the way that we’re playing. We’ve got different ideas and it is a different set-up and a different way of doing things.
“It’s all a process and the results have certainly helped in that belief in terms of what we’re asking players to do and certainly for the fans to keep backing us to give us the support that we’re going to need. It’s not always going to be plain sailing and we obviously need their support as much as the players as we all embark upon a slightly different route for ourselves as well.”
It is clear from McAnuff’s attitude that he has full confidence in the playing squad, and he is keen to help them be the best they can be, as well as admitting this Orient side could pose a real danger to the opposition when they get things right.
The 37-year-old has so far been confined to the touchline after undergoing surgery a few weeks ago on a groin injury he picked up at the end of last season, and although he has one eye on the future, he is still hungry to get back fit and playing.
“Going to Orient was about getting the club and myself back in the league. That was my target and now my aim is to get back playing and enjoying football. If I’m still happy playing and contributing to the team then I’ll crack on but I certainly won’t be looking too far past this season.
“I’d certainly like to manage. As I’ve got older I’ve started to analyse things a bit deeper and I’ve taken things from the managers I’ve worked with, from the good ones and the not so good ones – in terms of things you wouldn’t do.
“This role has given me a great insight into things and a fast-tracking to getting involved in the coaching side. I’m taking everything I can from it to hopefully help me further down the line.
“You can’t please everyone all of the time but as long as you’re true to yourself, you’re honest and you respect players then that’s all I would ever ask back.”