19 October 2014

Leyton Orient 0 MK Dons 0, 18/10/14

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A game which... optimists might describe as a point gained, pessimists would consider two points lost while everyone else will just ponder all the five billion ways they could have better spent that 90 minutes. Oh, Orient. Sure, you huffed and puffed a bit in the first half, but the contrast between this season and last – when you roared back from 1-0 down to beat MK Dons and remain top of the table – is huge. Huge, Nuge, huge...

Karl Robinson
Jump off your seat moment... For Karl Robinson it was every single moment the ball entered the Orient box, whereupon he'd leap around maniacally screeching for a phantom penalty. By the second half Orient's Kevin Dearden became so incensed with this behaviour that he confronted the MK manager, a scene which resembled an ill-conceived comedy sketch in which James Corden is berated by a giant slug.

Give that man a medal... A sterling performance from Shane Lowry today, including one Exocet of a shot with his left foot that, had it not bounced off the MK keeper, would probably by now be hurtling past Kiev. And he's no chicken when it comes to tackling either. Sorry. 

Darius Henderson
Taxi for... Darius Henderson. The big striker spent most of the game slugging it out with MK defender Kyle McFadzean like a punch-drunk ex-heavyweight persuaded back into the ring for one last shot at glory. Were Henderson starring in Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, Rocky V or Rocky: Assignment Miami Beach this would have constituted a fine performance. As a striker in League One, not so much. 

"Fuck the technical shit"... "I'm in charge of this football team," said Kevin Nugent defiantly after the game, ironically at the precise moment that his clandestine Italian paymasters were signing an unfit, low-scoring striker on his behalf. (Welcome to Orient, Gianvito Plasmati!) I can't even joke about this anymore: the fact that the club has not uttered a single word on Nugent's position is beyond belief, and it's a disgrace to treat a decent and loyal servant of Orient in this manner. 

Meanwhile in the programme... Props to Orient's media and communications officer Jonny Davies this week. Since the Italians introduced omertà to the club, Jonny now has exactly 24 hours of each day spare, so devoted some time to creating this sly little dig at Franchise FC – a heartfelt two-page paean to former Wimbledon home Plough Lane. Jonny: we're with you in spirit. 

04 October 2014

Leyton Orient 1 Swindon Town 2, 4/10/14

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Darius Henderson
A game in which... Orient's aggression, desire and passion made them extremely dangerous. Unfortunately that aggression, desire and passion was concentrated entirely into a five-second melee in added time that saw Dean Cox shout at Nathan Byrne's knee and Darius Henderson juggernaut himself into an unfortunate Swindon player who is now presumably extracting himself from the back of the West Stand. 

Other than that the Os were insipid, error-strewn and lacking in ideas. If this is the new dawn then perhaps we should have all stayed in bed.

Jump off your seat moment... The moment Jay Simpson was released on goal by a wayward Swindon back pass only to be called offside in direct contradiction of the actual rules of the game of football. One can only imagine what would have happened if the striker had been able to continue his run. I'll go out on a limb and say that he would have scuffed a weak shot into the corner flag. That's what you get if you take a gap year from your career to go backpacking round Thailand. 

Give that man a medal... Poor old Dean Cox. God knows he gave it his all today but one man alone cannot win football matches. At the moment the midfielder must feel a bit like Keith Richards trying to jam with the Leyton 1st district cub scouts brass band and Rochelle from the Saturdays. 

Taxi for... Now, it's easy to knock Marvin Bartley, so that's exactly what I'm going to do. I really can't imagine what the question is if he is the answer, unless it's "What would happen if you asked a qualified window fitter with no previous experience of football to play in midfield for a League One club?" 

"Fuck the technical shit"... Presumably to put clear blue water between himself and his former boss, Kevin Nugent opted to tinker with his formation throughout the game, starting with a 4-2-3-1, moving back to 4-4-2, giving 7-2-3-4 a bash, reverting to a 8-0-0-7-1 then seeing how he fared with 0-1-9-8-2. None of this had any discernible effect so he instead resorted to trying to substitute Chris Dagnall 20 minutes after he'd already brought him off. 

Let's face it, Nuge – a decent and loyal guy – probably isn't the right person to sort this whole sorry mess out. When you have a mess of this size, you need someone with proper experience of waste management. Oh, hang on... 

Meanwhile on Twitter... Hats off to James Turley for producing this meme referencing the infamous moment last season when a Swindon pitch invader tried to attack Jamie Jones. Still, there was no such nonsense from Robins fans this time round. Instead they tried to set fire to the East Stand twice and then one have-a-go-hero tried to take on eight of the Metropolitan Police's finest. Top work lads! 

01 October 2014

Our proud history: An open letter to Mr Becchetti

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Dear Mr Becchetti,

I have to confess, when you glided in to your first press conference as the new owner of Leyton Orient Football Club, I liked you.

Francisco Becchetti 
With your piercing eyes and your brooding charm, you reminded me a bit of Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker's Dracula.

You said that one of the things that attracted you to Orient was our proud history. You also said that you wouldn't put a timescale on the success you craved; that you would be patient. That was sensible. That was nice.

But I'm sorry to say, Mr Becchetti, that recent events have made me question whether all those nice things you said were actually true.

A quick history lesson

Now, I'm very conscious that there are all sorts of rumours and accusations flying around about the exact circumstances that led to Russell Slade's departure last week, but what does seem clear is that at some point around seven games into the season you let it be known that the manager's job was under imminent threat if results were not to improve quickly.

And that really upsets me. Because if – as you said – you truly appreciated Orient's proud history and the DNA of the club you bought, you wouldn't have done that.

After all, it only takes a cursory glance at Leyton Orient: The Complete Record by Neilson N Kaufman, The Centenary Handbook by Neilson N Kaufman or perhaps The Men Who Made Leyton Orient FC by Neilson N Kaufman to understand that – historically speaking – Orient do not kneejerk their managers out of a job at the merest hint of a few mediocre results.

Tommy Taylor, for example, spent five years in the job, despite nearly taking Orient into the Conference twice. As a consequence fans were rewarded with two play-off finals and the opportunity to watch 157 different midfielders in the space of a few seasons.

After securing promotion to League One in 2005/06 Martin Ling looked like he was going to take the club straight back down again for the majority of the following season. But chairman Barry Hearn showed loyalty to the manager, who eventually kept us up then took us to the summit of League One by Christmas 2007.

God knows, even Paul Brush was given two years, despite consistently inciting performances from the very depths of hell and signing Carl Hutchings

He's got no hair... 

Which brings me to Russell Slade – the manager you were very fortunate to inherit, Mr Becchetti. This is a man who in his four and a bit seasons with Leyton Orient saved us from relegation once, missed out on the play-offs by one position twice, drew with Arsenal in the fifth round of the FA Cup, and got us to within one penalty kick of the Championship. All without spending a single penny on transfer fees.

And what you should find particularly interesting is that in-between all that Russell Slade had a shocker of a season in 2011/12. Pretty much any other club would have sacked their manager before Christmas with the same run of results.

But I like to think we're not like pretty much any other club. Barry Hearn had the balls to stick with his man throughout that torrid time – and the rewards were plain to see.

And so to this season. Russell Slade didn't become a bad manager in seven games. In fact – and here's another bit of history for you, Mr Becchetti – the start to the season is entirely consistent with every other one in Slade's managerial career apart from the last. His teams always start appallingly. And then he turns it round. That's his thing.

Your club

So, Mr Becchetti, I don't know what would have happened if Russell Slade had stayed in his job. Hell, he'd have probably gone to Cardiff even if you hadn't hung the Sword of Damocles over his head.

But I do know this: the last few weeks have felt pretty unedifying as an Orient fan.

I don't want Orient to feel like any other club. I want success, sure, but not at any price.

I want us to remain a club staffed by decent, honourable people. A club where this year over 200 fans travel to northern France to pay respects at the graves of the three Orient players who lost their lives in the Battle of the Somme. A club where a player who missed a crucial play-off final penalty joins supporters in the bar post-match to apologise and commiserate. A genuine community club.

Which brings me on to ex-CEO Matt Porter. Most importantly, Matt was a fan of Orient. Always was. The fact that you apparently asked him to resign his position on the board and then today contradicted yourself by saying his position was always a "transitional" one (first we've heard of it!) really does make me question whether you truly appreciate who this club is and what it stands for.

Francisco Becchetti 
And so, a word of advice to you, Mr Becchetti, delivered by way of laborious metaphor (yeah, better get used to that if you're going to carry on reading this blog): You may have the brooding charm of Gary Oldman's Dracula, but that doesn't mean you have to go around ripping out people's throats with your teeth.

Lots of love,

Matt xxx

02 September 2014

Johnstone's Paint Trophy: Peterborough United 2 Leyton Orient 3, 2/9/14

1 comment:
Orient's formation tonight 
A game in which... Russell Slade didn't just rip up the football book of tactics, but doused it in petrol, set it alight and scattered its burning embers over the London Road turf. Yes, by fielding four central defenders, four central midfielders and two centre forwards, the manager played a team so lacking in width that it was like watching 11 players do the conga for 90 minutes.

Not that it prevented Orient recording a relatively straightforward victory over the league leaders – despite playing much of the second half with only 10 men – and there were plenty of signs that things are going in the right direction this season.

Jump off your seat moment... The moment that led to Orient's second goal when Lloyd James released Chris Dagnall with an outside-of-the-boot pass so sublime it was almost as if he actually meant it. Just kidding: this was no accident and was the leek-flavoured icing on the Welsh cake of a superb performance by Orient's midfield playmaker.

Give that man a medal... Despite Lloyd James's heroics and another commanding display by Gary Woods, it was Chris Dagnall who swiped the man-of-the-match fake Champagne tonight – and for good reason. The little Scouse terrier was a constant menace, scoring two goals and setting up the other. But don't listen to me, hear it from the man himself in his post-match interview in which he screeched: "Laaaaaaa wheeee laaaa eeeee llaaaa wheee laaa laaaa llama whee." Or something like that.

Don't worry Marvin, there's always this...
Taxi for... Oh Marvin Bartley. Stitched up like a kipper for Peterborough's first goal, wasteful in possession and demonstrating an alarming inability to control a football. It turns out the midfielder used to install double glazing for a living –  and he certainly continues to deliver twice the pane for Orient fans whenever he's on the pitch. Sorry.

"Fuck the technical shit"... What is Russell Slade's preferred staring XI? Well, it's September and still only one man knows the answer to this... so if anyone comes across that man can you ask him to tell Russell what it is. Woods or Legzdins in goal? Mooney or Henderson up front? Omozusi or Lowry at left back? Bartley or a packet of Monster Munch on the bench? Tough decisions for the manager.

Meanwhile on Twitter... Much consternation from Os fans tonight over the Sky Sports commentary team's relentless drooling over Peterborough. After the 34,000th mention of the fact that Posh have a relatively young team Kris Hood was moved to tweet this picture of their fresh-faced players. At one point co-commentator and professional idiot Garry Birtles got so over-excited he compared a Posh free kick to those of David Luiz. "Bit different because he plays for Peterborough and it went over the bar," deadpanned Os fan Edina. Touché.

18 August 2014

GUEST BLOG! Oldham Athletic 1 Leyton Orient 3, 16/8/14

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With Orient in the midst of their deepest crisis ever, having lost 100% of their league games so far this season, Andy Brown travelled to Oldham to see if they could dig themselves out of their hole. Here's what he wrote... 

A game in which… Like buses, you wait for one to come along and three turn up at once. Yup, not
only did Orient return to winning ways in the league with three goals, but strikers scored all them and Dean Cox took his tally of assists for the season to 50 (Ok, five, but that’s still insane for three matches).

Scott Cuthbert’s return to the back four had little impact in the first half as they continued to play with all the precision of Stevie Wonder playing darts. Forte raced through unchallenged to put Oldham 1-0 up, but Cox and Henderson (who’s already earned his own song) yet again proved the decisive double-act in goals and assists to help the Os to a comfortable second half and deserved away win.

Jump off your seat moment... David Mooney responded to criticism of his shocking 1.5 game barren spell with a well taken goal from a narrow angle. It was a team goal that bore all the hallmarks of Germany’s mauling of Brazil in the World Cup, with Cox and Henderson’s superb vision picking out Mooney, who took his time to finish well. I cannot remember him being caught offside at any point either, so you may want to bookmark this historic occasion for posterity.

Dean Cox: More assists than tattoos
Give that man a medal… Dean Cox now has more assists than tattoos this season, which is impressive. While credit goes to Pritchard and Vincelot for their second half impressions of whippets chasing a rabbit, and Henderson for a complete centre-forward performance, Cox provided the continued vision and class to take the game away from Oldham, with the pass and cross assists for the first and third goals and ball into Henderson for the second, scored by Mooney.

Taxi for… Inspector Gadget or Hornblower as he became known, the Os fan who throughout the game abused a succession of instruments, from a high pitched horn, to lower-pitched horns to kazoos that you would find in a cracker to jingle bells, all of which were greeted with a warm reception of “Shut the fuck up, you’re giving me tinnitus."

Not so much a one man band, more how I imagine Sweep would sound if introduced face-first into a blender.

“Fuck the technical shit”...  Orient did a fantastic Jekyll and Hyde impression, with an ugly, disjointed first half and sublimely controlled second half. “What I asked them to do at ten to three, they didn’t do until after four o’clock” complained Russell Slade in the post-match interview.

Whatever Slade said at half-time, it clearly worked, as the team tightened up second half and Oldham didn’t get a clear shot on goal. Meanwhile a slightly delusional Lee Johnson felt Oldham weren’t ruthless enough: "That's what's frustrating, to know how to have a team on the ropes and then to kill them, punish them”. Er, Ok Lee, only everyone else saw a different game.

Meanwhile on Vine... A couple of fine Vines in contention this week. Everyone’s least favourite diving prima donna Ashley Young appeared to suffer the ignominy of a seagull deftly aiming its faeces into his mouth during Man Utd’s defeat to Swansea-surely a sign from the big man upstairs?

Meanwhile the winner goes to Martin Shaw for spotting a cracking Vine of a pitch invader at the West Ham v Spurs game who proceeded to run up and chip a freekick over the West Ham wall. The best part is the reaction from the West Ham wall who wondered if it had gone in, the Spurs player ruing the missed chance and the fat steward running after him Benny Hill style. Football gold, only made better by the result.

10 August 2014

GUEST BLOG! Leyton Orient 1 Chesterfield 2, 9/8/14

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Who apart from every single Orient fan in the entire universe could have predicted we'd end up losing our first game of the season? Still, what do I care, I'm still in Berlin. Andy Brown, however, drew the short straw and was in attendance at Brisbane Road. Here's his view...

Expectations were this high
A game in which... Expectations were higher than Lindsey Lohan in a hot air balloon, given that our new Italian owner has pushed Orient’s annual wage bill from £20 and a packet of Twiglets to £50 billion in one summer.

So intense was the pressure on Russell Slade that Orient resorted to a Faustian pact with the dark Lords of the betting underworld in order to guarantee success. Instead, they ended up with a back four that looked like they’d met in the pub 20 minutes before kick-off.

Yup, this performance looked very much like a hangover from the play-offs, with an out-of-sorts back four, a midfield lacking creativity and forwards that looked blunt.

On the upside, it was the first game of the season, Legzdins, McAnuff and Henderson looked good and there’s a long way to go. So nobody is panicking yet, right?

Nathan Clarke in action
Jump off your seat moment… Nathan Clarke has been a pillar at the heart of the Orient defence so it was strange to see him outmuscled, outfought and frequently out of position all game. To cap off an out-of-sorts display, he opted to do his best LeBron James impression to twist and catch the ball as it was going over his head, preventing Chesterfield scoring. He was lucky to only get a yellow card.

Give that man a medal… Darius Henderson made the best Orient substitute appearance since Jonathan “KFC” Tehoue with the kind of physical performance that said “Fuck this, I’m going to let them know they’re in a game”. He scored a point blank rebound, something that Lisbie, Pritchard and others were incapable of doing at any other time during the game.

Taxi for… It was the first game and all that, but Orient’s defensive quartet (sounds more effete than back four, and they were) played with all the disciplined rigidity of an ice cream on a sun lounger (maybe forgiving Elliot Omozusi, who, despite having his pocket picked once, saved Orient a few times).

It’s early days, but suffice it to say it will be good to have Scott Cuthbert back in defence and the sooner the better. As for the others, hopefully this was the reminder they needed that the season started today.

“Fuck the technical shit”… “It wasn’t a bad performance but we need to improve in every area,” said the Riddler aka Russell Slade in a slightly bizarre and contradictory post-match interview. Plan A in the first half looked very much like last season, good passing and forward play, despite woeful finishing.

However, in the second half Plan B involved hoofing the ball high and long in the vain hope someone other than the Chesterfield centre halves would get to the ball first, which only changed when Henderson came on.

Not a vintage performance by any stretch, although McAnuff and Henderson showed promise in a tactical move that screamed “Shit, this lot are earning massive wages, I’d better get them on the pitch.”

Meanwhile on Twitter… Os fans waited all summer for a new shirt and sponsor, and when the deal with 666 Bet was finally revealed it presented an ideal opportunity for some amusing devil-related Photoshop tomfoolery. The Mirror picked up on the club’s rebranding as “Satan Orient” but it was Orient fan Lee who gets the plaudits this week for his superb re-imagining of Russell Slade as the Dark Lord with the new shirt.

08 August 2014

GUEST BLOG: "Money or not, this is still Orient"

1 comment:
At 3pm tomorrow a new era officially kicks off at Brisbane Road. Here Times and CNN journalist James Masters ponders what it all means for the team he's supported all his life...

100-year-old Os fan Leslie Richmond
meets Moses Odubajo 
At the sprightly age of 100, perhaps Leslie Richmond thought this chance would never come again.

Sitting in the chair of his care home in Ilford, Leslie could only sigh as he pondered another all too familiar chastening Orient experience.

It was in 1929 that he first flirted with Orient. On that fateful day, he arrived at Millfields Road to watch an FA Cup replay against Aston Villa with the two teams having drawn 0-0 in the original tie.

"That goalless draw was an excellent result," he said. "We brought them back to Brisbane Road and hoped for a good performance.... we lost 8-0."

Some 85 years might have passed since that day but not much has changed.

While such thrashings may be something of the past, the ability of Leyton Orient to wrestle failure from the jaws of success has long and often spectacularly been maintained.

In a phone call just days after the play-off final, Leslie pulled no punches while speaking about the latest heartache. "How they heck did they manage that," he asked incredulously. "How? How?"

I had no answer, nor did he. I was still struggling to get Chris Dagnall's penalty kick out of my head.

And yet it was the final part of the conversation which stuck with me. I'm not sure what I said to elicit such a response but I'm pretty sure I resigned myself to the fact that the dream was over and that what would transpire would be the end of the adventure.

"This is not the end... It is merely the beginning"
But with age comes wisdom and Leslie appears to have plenty in abundance. For no soon had I uttered such a foolish opinion, he moved to reassure me.

"The end you say? No, this is not the end," he said in a near whisper. "It is merely the beginning."

I was the Frodo to his Gandalf, the Harry Potter to his Dumbledore. Whatever he said, it made me feel young, naive and perhaps slightly silly.

Maybe Leslie had some inside knowledge or had been scrolling through Twitter, but he could not have been more correct if he had tried.

As I put the phone down, rumours of an impending takeover began to engulf Brisbane Road and the mention of a word so rarely heard in the local are was uttered – money.

And then it happened – gone was Barry Hearn, a man whose face had been synonymous with the club for as long as I could remember and in came a man which few had heard of and riches we'd never dared to dream of.

Francesco Becchetti
Francesco Becchetti, according to Hearn, has the money to not only take Leyton Orient into the Championship but his arrival should also strike fear into West Ham hearts.

But Hearn and those around him apart, few have any idea as to the intentions of Mr Becchetti.

The club has been quiet on the owner's plans since the press conference while at the time of writing, no sponsorship deals have been struck for the stadium naming rights nor the team's kit.

A new board has yet to be appointed and the new chief executive, replacing Matt Porter, who did a wonderful job in being the link between the club and its fans, started work only last week.

While Becchetti's future plans may not be clear, what is certain is that he retains a clear admiration for Slade as do those who have arrived in E10 since the Italian purchased the club.

But this is football and what counts are results. Should Slade make a slow start and Orient fail to be in the play off places by Christmas, then I would fear for him.

Last season it was Orient – the club which rose from the depths without paying as much as a single penny for a single player and somehow managing to muscle its way past its rivals only to fall at the final hurdle.

Now it has all changed. There is money. The wallet which appeared to have been lost has been found and while no transfer fees have been paid, wages have risen significantly.

With bigger wages comes bigger pressure and not just a financial one at that. There is now expectation that the likes of Henderson, Simpson and Lowry justify their earnings after signing deals with the club.

Simpson: pressure 
Whereas last season clubs would look at Orient and dismiss their achievements with such a small squad as 'lucky' or a 'fluke', they will now recognise the genuine quality and strength in depth the Os have at their disposal.

For manager Russell Slade this provides a a problem which he could scarcely ever have thought possible.

He will start the season with the strongest Orient squad the club has boasted in years.

Quality throughout, at least two good players in each position and without a single loanee in sight, this is a luxury Slade would never have dared to dream of. There can be no excuses.

Bristol City and Sheffield United apart, Orient possesses one of the most talented and exciting squads in League One and can no longer hide behind the facade of being the division's pauper.

It is a complete role reversal, a revolution, a change of quite epic proportions.

But money or not, this is still Orient. Where there is hope there is also fear, where there are dreams there are also nightmares. The pain of May still hurts, the image of Romain Vincelot beating the Wembley turf in frustration still lingers.

Romain Punch-The-Ground-A-Lot
The only good that can come of that defeat is to use that memory, that anguish, to inspire the next part of the story – the next chapter.

There is no reason why this year cannot be Orient's year – they will never be better equipped for the challenge.

It will be difficult, it will be testing but nothing worth having comes easily – all those who become part of the Orient family are all too aware of that.

Quite what Leslie makes of it all I'm not sure. We've not spoken since he imparted his wisdom upon me.

But if this is the beginning of something as he suggested, then I hope it's something special... and I hope Leslie starts his second century with an Orient-themed celebration come next May.
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