Rian McLean, Michael Clark, Sam Telling, Sam Roach fashion shoot ()Rian McLean, Michael Clark, Sam Telling, Sam Roach fashion shoot () © Copyright

Terrace fashion returns

Four Leyton Orient youth players model looks that throw back to the golden age of football fashion

Most teenage lads like going to the cinema, playing FIFA or hanging around the shopping centre with their mates. A couple of years later they might start drinking alcopops or snakebite, then they throw up and get their pals to carry them home.

Young footballers, whether or not they make it to the promised land of the professional game, have to accept that teenagehood is a different experience. 

Rian McLean, Michael Clark, Sam Telling, Sam Roach fashion shoot ()

 Sam: T-shirt £9.90 Uniqlo; Jacket £595 Stone Island at Flannels; Joggers £35 Ellesse

Aged 16, when the players begin their scholarships, things remain typically teenage, the cinema trips, computer games and time spent after school with mates, but it’s the nights out that are off the cards. Young footballers must be home early on Friday night for academy games on Saturday mornings.

Being a scholar at a football club is a two-year competition to prove a player can handle the physical and mental rigours of full-time football. The ultimate prize is a professional contract.

Rian McLean, Michael Clark, Sam Telling, Sam Roach fashion shoot ()

Michael: Shirt £55 Luke; Jacket £130 Luke

Michael Clark, 18, is captain of the Leyton Orient academy. He used to spend time away from training catching up with schoolfriends, but over the past year or two they’ve drifted. Now he just spends most of his down time sleeping.

“You go from sitting at a desk at school all day to working out every day. So it takes it out of you. I thought I’d have got used to it, but I still find it really tiring.”

Rian McLean, Michael Clark, Sam Telling, Sam Roach fashion shoot ()

 

Academy football prioritises development, which means that players spend more time on the training field than the first team, who spend longer recuperating between fixtures.

“They know how to manage their bodies really well; I’m still learning when it’s too much.”

Rian McLean, Michael Clark, Sam Telling, Sam Roach fashion shoot ()

 Sam Roach: Necklace £14 Topman; T-shirt £30 Fila; Joggers £35 Ellesse

His teammate Sam Telling outlines the players’ routines:

“It varies week to week depending on schedule but we’re training four or five days. Most of the time it’s improving skills and tactical understanding. Then we do a bit of work in the gym, and short, sharp stuff to get quicker, then the day before a game you do more team-related, shape-based stuff.”

Rian McLean, Michael Clark, Sam Telling, Sam Roach fashion shoot ()

Rian wears: Top £25 Nike; Jacket £70 Nike; Joggers £35 Ellesse // Michael wears: Jacket £90 K-Way; Jeans £55 Jack&Jones at USC // Sam wears: Jacket £80 Ellesse; Joggers £115 Stone Island at Flannels

Clark, the rock at the heart of the under-18s back four, has been with Orient since he was nine. Telling is a left back who yo-yos up and down the wing, recommended to Orient by his schoolteacher. Midfielder Rian McLean was spotted playing Sunday league football in Barking, a scout arranged a trial with his dad and he signed for the Os the day after his 15th birthday. Keeper Sam Roach was involved with England at Under-16 level but moved to Marbella for a year with his family. He was snapped up by the east London club when he returned to the UK three years ago.

Rian McLean, Michael Clark, Sam Telling, Sam Roach fashion shoot ()

 Sam Telling wears Jacket £365, Stone Island at Flannels; Jeans £25.99, Pull&Bear

Roach is one of the jewels in the Orient youth set-up. He’s become the club’s third choice stopper, travelling with the first team to warm up the keepers in the match day squad. Each morning he spends an hour or so on goalkeeper-specific drills and is involved with the England youth set up, regularly taking time out from club duties for camps at St George’s Park.

Gradually the young players are offered opportunities to impress the pros. The academy share their training facility with the first team and youth players are regularly called across to join in 11-a-side practice matches with the first teamers.

Rian McLean, Michael Clark, Sam Telling, Sam Roach fashion shoot ()

Michael Clark wears Hat £160 Gucci at Flannels; Jacket £450 Gucci at Flannels; Jeans £55 Jack&Jones at USC

“It’s very different to under-18s, it’s a lot more intense,” says McLean of the practice games. “The quality’s a lot higher, so there’s less room for mistakes. The quickness, sharpness, the alertness of the players… when they get the ball they know what they want to do with it next, so they quickly move it on. They have less time to think, but they’re used to that. They encourage you, they don’t get on your back if you make mistakes or lose the ball, but they know what you can do and try and push you hard.”

Rian McLean, Michael Clark, Sam Telling, Sam Roach fashion shoot ()

Rian wears Top £39.95 Gabicci; Joggers £35 Ellesse // Sam Telling wears Top £75 Luke; Joggers £55 Luke 

As the season nears its climax, the players have an afternoon off and we’ve got them modelling contemporary sportswear. Some of the stuff’s brand new but often fashion works in cycles. Italian label Stone Island: a 1980s terrace staple, has enjoyed a resurgence in the last few years. You’d have been laughed at for wearing Champion five years ago but their new stuff is so, so on point.

If you hadn’t guessed, we’re getting pretty excited for Euro 2016 and keen to hear the player’s earliest recollections of watching England. Though he was only an infant at the time, Sam Telling grew up watching his grandfather’s VHS of Germany 1-5 England in September 2001. “I remember Gerrard scoring an absolute banger,” he says, audibly excited at the memory.

Rian McLean, Michael Clark, Sam Telling, Sam Roach fashion shoot

RIAN: Top £80 Champion; Joggers £35 Ellesse; Shoes £45 Hummel

In 2010, Sam Roach went to the World Cup. His dad took him and his older brother to South Africa where they saw England’s group match against Algeria in Cape Town. The tournament ended badly for Capello’s team in Bloemfontein but it sounds like the holiday of young Roach’s life.

“We stayed in the same hotel as the England players. Then as we left, Portugal were arriving in the hotel. We went up Table Mountain, abseiled down, and then walked up to the top again. That was a trek!”

Rian McLean, Michael Clark, Sam Telling, Sam Roach fashion shoot

Sam Roach: Top £75 Lyle&Scott; Joggers £35 Ellesse // Michael: Top £64.95 Gabicci; Jeans £55 Jack&Jones at USC

Abseiling down mountains is the kind of thing that’s no longer allowed. “There’s rules now” says Roach, about the details of a scholarship contract. “No skiing, no snowboarding, no motorbikes, all to prevent injuries.”

For fans, an international summer tournament is a feast of football, an excuse to spent more time in the pub or the cornerstone of magical drunken misadventures. Spare a thought for these 16, 17, 18-year-olds. They will be on the training pitch and in the gym, sacrificing their teenage summers for graft in the hope that one day they’ll make the cut.

Rian McLean, Michael Clark, Sam Telling, Sam Roach fashion shoot ()

(Left to right) Rian McLean: Jacket £80 Schott NYC; Necklace £14 Topman; Shirt £55 Luke // Michael Clark: Hat £38 Asos; Top £85 Champion // Sam Telling: Shirt £9.90 Uniqlo; Jacket £85 Luke // Sam Roach: Jacket £225 CP Company at Flannels

Photographer Jamie Baker

Styling Karen Buglass

Words Thomas Theodore

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