Fans were crying – it shows how much Orient means to them, says Koroma
PUBLISHED: 14:00 18 May 2019
PA Wire/PA Images
We spoke to Leyton Orient academy graduate Josh Koroma for our Redemption pullout about the supporters and a key game for him and the team last season
Josh Koroma is only 20, but has been at Leyton Orient for longer than most and so knows exactly how much promotion means to the club's loyal following.
He was part of the squad which suffered relegation in 2017 during a chaotic campaign when O's had five managers and ended the term with mainly under-18s playing.
Koroma had actually made his debut the previous season, but is now a fully-fledged member of Justin Edinburgh's team and hit a milestone last month.
Orient's academy graduate made his 100th appearances for the first team and his 11 goals this season played a big part in this National League title triumph.
When it was confirmed after a goalless draw against Braintree Town on April 27, everyone in the squad found out what it meant to the fans, who invaded the pitch to rejoice about a Football League return.
But Koroma always knew, he said: "Even when we got relegated the fans didn't moan at us young kids, so for that we will always have love for them and we wanted to do this for them mainly.
"Most have been supporting this club for years and through good times and bad times and I was here through a very dark time, but they stuck by us through thick and thin.
"To go up and see them happy, words can't explain it. People were crying and it shows how much the club means to them and to win promotion for them was better than anything."
Orient only had three points after three games, but Koroma's first goal of the campaign inspired a 2-1 win at Maidstone United.
From there O's were firmly on the march and they kickstarted the season with a 13-match unbeaten run where Macauley Bonne was on fire in September, October and November.
Koroma's partnership with the Orient number nine helped the club get to the summit and they hardly looked back once there.
Bonne grabbed 24 goals overall and the talented attackers pushed each other throughout, but with help from others.
"I enjoy playing with 'Macca' and he enjoys playing with me, but it is not only about me and him because we have James Alabi and Matty Harrold," Koroma said.
"They're two very good strikers and Jay Simpson as well and it is not only about on the pitch. All of them help us, especially in training, and they are older, so they've helped me understand where I should be off 'Macca' in games and they have taught me a lot.
"As well as 'Macca' and I get on, the others help with finishing, so our success on the pitch wouldn't happen without them off it and I just want to say thank you to them and to 'Macca' as well. He beats beaten up all game and I get the free role."
Before pre-season, Koroma wasn't guaranteed a starting berth, but a strong finish to the 2017/18 season had pushed him into the forefront of Edinburgh's plans.
A stunning summer where he scored a hatful of goals in friendly fixtures eventually made him undroppable and the rest is now history.
However a big turning point for Koroma and perhaps the team was the 1-1 draw away to Macclesfield Town on April 14.
The academy graduate, still a teenager at the time, partnered Bonne up front and caused the soon-to-be National League champions several problems.
Orient probably should have won the game, but afterwards knew they could follow in the footsteps of the Silkmen.
"Macclesfield won the league by a decent amount of points, but we didn't feel they had anything better than we had on that day," Koroma said.
"We matched them in every way and so after the game we did think if they can do it, why can't we? Player for player we probably had a better team, but well done to them for winning the title last season because they deserved it.
"From then and after pre-season and the start we had, we knew it could be our year because we have a great team and we did it."
The O's have one more fixture to play before they wrap up this fantastic campaign - at Wembley this weekend against AFC Fylde for the FA Trophy - and then everyone's focus will completely turn to playing in League Two again.
Koroma scored a hat-trick in the division last time and showed his potential, but also had difficulties, along with his other young colleagues, and yet this has only served as more motivation for next season.
He added: "Hopefully I can do better than I did last time in League Two because I would have liked to score a few more goals.
"The team we had then is nowhere near as good as the team we have now, so hopefully they will give me chances and I can stick them away.
"I am looking forward to having a good crack at League Two and hopefully we can do something like Tranmere Rovers; get into the play-offs or be pushing for automatic promotion because we have a very good and strong squad."
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Hackney Gazette. Click the link in the orange box below for details.