Date: 23rd July 2013 at 12:00pm
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In his latest blog for VitalOrient Steven Roast discusses why this season could be important for Orient winger Dean Cox

Pre-season is a time for building fitness, working on new tactics and a bit of squad bonding, especially if you have a number of new arrivals. Friendlies are keenly anticipated as fans look out for the big name announcement amongst the usual non-league minnows. It`s something to keep us going through the summer and get a first look at the new boys. One thing every club and supporter fears around this time of year is hearing one of their key men has picked up an injury just weeks before the big kick off. That`s exactly what has happen to Orient and specifically our diminutive winger Dean Cox.

So how much of a blow will it be if he misses the big kick off. Since signing from Brighton, ‘Tiny` as he has become affectionately known as, has been one of the first names on Russell Slade`s team sheet. Due in no small part to his strong relationship with the O`s boss Cox signed a three and a half year contract extension early last year. While many of the 2010/11 side who performed miracles have moved on, Cox committed his immediate future to the O`s while his current deal still had 6 months to run. Having also turned down a move to then Championship Peterborough there is no doubt where his allegiances lie and his desire to continue working for Slade.

Recent opinion on Cox has been very much divided among the Orient faithful and the number 7 has taken some serious stick through social media and on the terraces. Hard to believe after 19 assists – the most in League One – in his debut season, 14 last season and 29 goals so far in his spell with the O`s. It`s a record that`s hard to ignore along with numerous quality performances that have played a massive part in two seventh place finishes in the league since Cox arrived.

On the flip side some feel that Cox has lost his way in recent months. Many point to performances dropping by his own high standards since he signed the new contract. Giving the ball away cheaply and failing to beat the first man with his crosses are also accusations thrown in Cox’s direction. Boasting the record he does though with assists he must be doing something right.

Charlie Daniels move to Bournemouth was a blow to the club in general but also seemed to have an effect on Cox form. Having a quality left back behind him, who could both defend and attack with equal effectiveness, the pair built up a good understanding. Missing the cover behind him and Daniels ability to bomb forward and fire in a cross or shot Cox was left to do it all alone without his partner in crime. Slade struggled to find an adequate replacement for Daniels until the signing of Gary Sawyer which didn`t help the situation. Often playing with a centre half or natural right back in the left back position didn`t offer the same support Cox had become accustomed to.

Another option used by Slade was to deploy Cox just behind the front man as the tip of the ‘diamond` in his much criticised 4-5-1 formation. Cox eye for goal does go some way to justifying this decision as one many occasion has he weighed in with vital strikes when needed. However on his day there is no one better out on the wing delivering the ammunition for the likes of Lisbie and Mooney. I`d also like to bet that is where they prefer to see him.

On the verge of what could be a defining season for Cox, as Orient look to improve on that seventh place, he could finally silence the boo boys and prove those who haven`t lost faith in him right. Slade has confirmed the injury could keep him out of the trip to Brunton Park so we play the waiting game as rumours are flying around quoting everything from a couple of weeks to six months on the sidelines. Critics will get their wish if the injury keeps Cox out of the season`s opener against Carlisle but I for one will be hoping to see his name on the first eleven team sheet as usual.

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