LISBIE’S LOYALTY FINDS ITS REWARD
FOCUS ON A STRIKER WHO STOOD BY
WHILE the futures of some of the biggest names in the Premier League are played out across the back pages it is refreshing to hear one former top-flight marksman admit money isn’t everything.
It is closing in on a decade since Kevin Lisbie struck a hat-trick for Charlton against Liverpool but still the 34-year-old’s services are both coveted and appreciated.
Only last January, Sheffield United, defeated in the previous season’s play-off final, pinpointed Lisbie as the man to supply the goals required to finally break back out of League One.
The deal appeared a no-brainer – Lisbie stood the chance to earn more money and potentially play out the twilight of his career in Championship but instead he opted to stick with manager Russell Slade at League One rivals Leyton Orient.
In the end the Blades were turned over by surprise package Yeovil in the play-offs and, while the new season is in its infancy, it is Orient who are looking far more likely to mirror the Glovers’ success come May.
With three goals in as many games Lisbie is thriving in an attack bolstered by the arrivals of Shaun Batt, 26, and Yohann Lasimant, 23, and admits he’s reaping the rewards of staying loyal – both on and off the pitch.
“I was very close to going to Sheffield United and it was just when I thought about the relationship that I have with the manager that I decided to stay,” said Lisbie.
“The gaffer pointed out that he understood me and that going up to Sheffield at this time in my career may not be the best thing, the manager there may not allow me to do the things I can here.
“I train three days a week and the manager allows me to do what I need to do to look after myself, he’s really good like that. My body won’t let me do the things that the likes of Shaun Batt can. I’m a lot older than those guys. That is everything to me at this stage in my career.
“The only reason I would have been going there would have been for more money and that’s not the best reason to do something.”
While money could not prise Lisbie away from Brisbane Road the striker is quick to dismiss any suggestions that turning down a move to one of League One’s biggest clubs shows he is happy to coast into retirement.
“I don’t think it shows I lack ambition,” added Lisbie, whose Orient side finished three points shy of a play-off place last season.
“If I had turned down Sheffield United and instead signed for Yeovil people would have said it was a lack of ambition – but look at who got promoted.
“If you look beyond who we are as a club and actually look at the squad, we have some of the best players in the league so we believe we should be making the top six.
“Last season we came so close and that was after we had a really bad start. When I first got here we had one point in September and last season we were around the relegation zone.
“We’ve won our first three games this season and I’ve scored a few goals as well so it is exactly what we wanted. We have the
same players that we had here last season. After turning down Sheffield United Lisbie signed a new 18-month deal with Orient and he wasn’t the only one to commit himself to the club with Slade extending his contract through until 2016.
Following David Moyes’ summer move to replace the retiring Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, Slade is now seventh in the list of longest-serving managers in the English leagues today.
“There was talk about the gaffer going so it helps the club and it helps the fans to know that he is going to be with us for at least another two years,” added Lisbie.
“He knows the lads so well and that really helps, he knows how to handle everyone and that’s really good for me.”
While three full seasons in charge are enough for Slade to be classed as a modern day veteran, Lisbie’s own longevity is something he is not yet contemplating.
The country was just coming to terms with Charles and Diana’s divorce when Lisbie made his Charlton debut in September 1996 but with the help of Slade the striker has no intention of hanging up his boots anytime soon.
“The signings in the summer will help me,” added Lisbie. “Last season I got injured playing against Yeovil in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and I missed two months. If we had more depth I wouldn’t have been playing in that game.
“Having three good strikers this season will make a difference. I’m hoping I have a good few more years in me yet.
STILL AMBITIOUS: Leyton Orient’s Kevin Lisbie in action