I played for Liverpool and Tottenham before witnessing riots and rubber bullets in Chile and have now rebuilt my career as title winner
Leyton Orient’s 112-year stay in the Football League ended with a 3-0 defeat to Crewe Alexandra in 2017.
Six years later it was a 1-0 win over Crewe that saw the O’s crowned League Two champions, and no one has a more unique sense of perspective on how funny football can be than Lawrence Vigouroux.
It was around this time four years ago that the Orient goalkeeper was pondering his next move after failing to agree a new contract at Swindon Town, where he once paid a £50 fine with 5,000 pennies.
In an exclusive interview with talkSPORT.com, Vigouroux said: “That was a big problem that mentally I had, because I was thinking I’d get a move somewhere, and no one in the country wanted me.”
Now Vigouroux returns to the third tier as one of the most coveted keepers in the EFL alongside manager Richie Wellens, who originally released him at Swindon.
Upon their reunion at Orient, Vigouroux told talkSPORT: “I said to him I’m more professional now. If you don’t want me playing, I completely understand that, because I’m not that kind of person anymore who will fight with whatever you say, and he said: ‘No, we need you’.
“Our relationship now is in a place where I speak to him every day at the training ground – if I don’t know what I’m doing tactically, it’s easy to ask him, and he always gives me the answer that I need to know.
“We’re in a really good place and I’ve got to thank him because, without him, I don’t know where we’d be this season.”
Whatever happened in their first spell working together, there can be no doubting that their reunion has proved a match made in heaven.
And it’s fitting that Vigouroux will get another crack at showing his worth in League One – a division entwined with most of the notable moments of his career.
The Camden-born star started in the youth set-up at then League One Brentford and, like the Bees, achieved a rapid ascent to the Premier League after joining Tottenham and later Liverpool’s academy.
In May 2015, he played the final 12 minutes of a Liverpool All-Star Charity Match organised by Steven Gerrard but, with first-team opportunities limited under Brendan Rodgers, he looked to head out on loan to gain experience.
The Chile international – qualifying through his Chilean father – joined Swindon Town in League One that August but his first season was a mixed one, having briefly been sent back to Anfield for the coin stunt [later returning after apologising] before suffering a season-ending leg injury in March.
Vigouroux admitted to talkSPORT: “I found it tough, I thought it would be a lot easier than it actually was.”
Despite these issues, he had impressed enough on the pitch that Swindon pulled out all the stops to sign him permanently.
Vigouroux’s performances saw him win Player of the Season in his first year after returning to the County Ground on a permanent basis.
In August 2018, his form saw him called up to the senior Chile setup as a replacement for Claudio Bravo.
But his tenure at Swindon was also dogged by accusations of poor discipline, with Wellens also dropping Vigouroux from his squad after publicly citing his poor attitude towards training during the latter’s final season at the club.
Vigouroux told talkSPORT: “I’ve always loved Swindon because they’re the first club that gave me an opportunity in the EFL. I had some great memories there.
“I went down there and it was amazing. To be fair, as a professional, personally, I could have been a lot better. But I think that’s what kind of ruined it for me there.”
Vigouroux was released by Swindon in May 2019 and, having been unable to settle on another club, he was forced to swap the Wiltshire countryside for the city of Concon, on the Pacific coast.
The goalkeeper, who had been called up by Chile for the first time earlier that season, joined Chilean outfit Everton de Vina del Mar.
The decision was far from easy as, although Vigouroux had relatives residing in Chile, he was forced to move away from a family of his own, with partner Shemika and their two children.
The now father-of-three told talkSPORT: “Definitely you have to learn from them [experiences], and I ended up leaving Swindon thinking I’d go somewhere else in England.
“I had nothing and that was a big problem that mentally I had, because I was thinking I’d get a move somewhere, and no one in the country wanted me.
“So then I had to end up going 15 hours away on a plane to Chile, to literally try and make a career.”
The choice to move away from his family was challenging enough but the tough tasks were far from over.
Vigouroux had moved abroad during the middle of the Chilean Primera Division with Argentine Cristian Campestrini already established as Everton’s number one goalkeeper.
He found himself a regular among the substitutes for the first time in his career but it wasn’t just the football he was watching.
The 2019 protests against inequality – sparked by a rise in rail fares – eventually forced the cancellation of the Chilean Primera Division.
But before that supermarkets were torched, locals rioted and a trail of destruction was left around the capital, Santiago, with over 30 dead.
Vigouroux explained to talkSPORT: “I knew that it would eventually get back to normal in terms of everything in the country, but that was also a factor [in wanting to leave], I was a bit scared when I was there.
“People were protesting everywhere, [I was] seeing stuff on fire, seeing people getting shot with rubber bullets.
“You have to ask the police or the army whether you can go to the supermarket and what time you’ll go into the supermarket because they wouldn’t let you go at any time, we had a curfew, you had to be home at 7pm every night, no one on the streets.
“It’s quite scary, really, and then you go from somewhere that’s so free and so open here [in England] to going over there where I don’t even know the rights of people and that was actually quite scary that if I was to go outside by accident, what would happen?
“Or if I was coming home late from somewhere, what can happen to me? That was quite scary!
“The people are not as rich as the people here, they don’t have as much money as the people here. It was actually really eye opening to be out there during that time.”
Vigouroux remained in close contact with his father back in England to understand what was happening in his new home.
The social unrest around Chile’s cost of living was sparked after fares for the Santiago Metro subway rose four per cent and a ten pesos hike for buses.
The latter eventually saw 17 stations burnt down, but crucially it also triggered a shift in government to redraft the country’s constitution.
Vigouroux told talkSPORT: “I always say a country is only as good as the people who live there. If you have a country that is full of people who don’t care about anything, the country will end up horrible.
“When you have people who care about other people and care about others who are less fortunate, it can only help the country as a whole.
“That was really heart-warming to see that, even though people were protesting and there were supermarkets on fire and stuff like that, actually, the message was heard enough to actually change the constitution, which was something that no one ever thought would happen.”
Six months and zero appearances after arriving in South America, Vigouroux returned to England with Orient in January 2020.
His second stint in the EFL has been an undisputed success, with two Player of the Season awards at Brisbane Road following his arrival.
This season alone Vigouroux has kept 24 clean sheets in 43 games and conceded just 29 times.
Not only is that four more than any other goalkeeper in the division – with Carlisle United’s Tomas Holy in second having played a game more – Vigouroux is first goalkeeper in Orient history to record 24 clean sheets in the league.
Vigouroux humbly claims: “We’ve got a lot of clean sheets here, but I wouldn’t say it’s down to me, not at all, I think it’s down to the whole squad as a collective.
“I’d love to sit here now and say it’s all because of me that we’ve got  clean sheets, but it would be wrong.
“There’s only a few handful of games where I thought I’ve actually earned this clean sheet today. But I’d say three quarters of them have been because we defend so well.”
But the fact remains that only three teams have conceded less than 30 goals in England’s top four divisions this season, and Vigouroux is a huge reason why Orient’s name is alongside Man City and Newcastle.
And the irony is not lost on the 29-year-old that the form of his life has come under Wellens.
The latter’s arrival at Orient in March 2022, with the club 20th in League Two, four points above the relegation zone, could have proven a watershed moment in Vigouroux’s career.
Instead, it provided him with an opportunity.
He told talkSPORT: “I was definitely worried, 100 percent I was very worried.
“Richie did text me straight away before it was announced and he wanted to meet me at a hotel in Waltham Abbey.
“We met there and we just spoke for about an hour and we actually got a lot out of our chests.
“I apologised for how I was, he said he had to do it [release him] because he needed me to change.
“He said it was the hardest thing releasing me but if he didn’t… who knows where I would have been now?”
No one will ever know the answer to that, but a much happier Vigouroux knows exactly where he is now.
He arrived in League One as a raw inexperienced 21-year-old – he returns to the third tier eight years later as a mature champion.
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