18 March 2015

Leyton Orient 0 Barnsley 0, 17/3/15

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A game in which... Orient did not concede a goal. Even though Barnsley are a classy side. Even though they had set pieces. Even though they went down to ten men.

And given that for the majority of the season our defence has been leaking like someone trying to collect water with a sieve from the foot of the Niagara Falls, this is some achievement. So, yeah, we didn't score ourselves either but God knows the players gave it their best shot and created enough chances to have emerged worthy winners. A point is better than none, but it's the performance that should give us all hope we can survive.

Jump off your seat moment... Picture what it might look like if you tried to raise a crumbling skyscraper a couple of millimetres off the ground using a car jack. This is some approximation of the moment Darius Henderson heaved himself towards a perfect Andrea Dossena cross, bits of plaster falling from him as he did so. The goal was gaping, yet somehow the big striker contrived to miss.

Give that man a medal... More excellence from Ryan Hedges, Luke O'Neill, Josh Wright and Alex Cisak tonight, but let's take a moment to discuss Nathan Clarke. Now, the club captain has come in for a lot of stick this season – some of it pretty disrespectful – simply because almost every single goal we've conceded has been due to a catastrophic error on his part. But tonight he was down to his no-nonsense best and has a clean sheet to show for it.

Taxi for... Take a look at this photo. You'd be pretty embarrassed if that was your brother, right? Well it is Josh Wright's brother, but that isn't one millionth as embarrassing as the corner Josh took in the first half in which he managed to stumble over the corner flag, scuff the ball a yard in front of him and then stand around sheepishly while his team mates came to the rescue. As they'd say on The Only Way Is Essex: awkward.

"Fuck the technical shit"... Were Fabio Liverani piloting a commercial airliner, I suspect he would spend the entire flight maniacally insisting that the cabin crew move the drinks trolleys two or three millimetres to the left while failing to notice that his plane was plummeting into the sea. What I'm saying here is that the Italian likes to incessantly and pointlessly micro-manage for the duration of each game. But while Orient carrying on playing as they are at the moment, I'm going to trust that he has some idea of what he's doing.

Kevin and his two brothers 
Meanwhile on Twitter... Plenty of tributes to Kevin Lisbie, who may have played his last game in an Orient shirt having gone out on loan to Stevenage. "Words can't describe how much I'll miss Lis," wrote Dean Cox, before going on to use words to describe how much he'll miss Lis: "Great bloke and absolute legend." Matt Porter, meanwhile, said: "Sometimes you get lucky with signings. Kevin Lisbie lived round the corner from the training ground", almost as if the club had no coherent scouting policy even before the Italians turned up. What is true is that there appears to be universal appreciation for a great player, a great club man and a great professional. Kev, we'll miss you.

14 March 2015

Leyton Orient 3 Yeovil Town 0, 14/3/15

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Yeovil Town
A game in which... Orient coasted to a routine victory – assuming, that is, that your 'routine' involves torturing wounded and helpless kittens. Yep, it's difficult to describe quite how pitiful Yeovil were except to say that they were almost as wretched as the Orient side of about six weeks ago.

Still, you can only beat what's put in front of you and in fact the home team played some pretty enticing football, especially during a first half in which they could have legitimately been four or five-nil up. Tougher tests will come for Orient – tying their own shoelaces, for example, or naming a fruit beginning with the letter 'a'  – but the signs were positive today.

Jump off your seat moment... Marvin Bartley has the unenviable task of replacing the injured Romain Vincelot for the rest of the season, which is a bit like asking Stacey Solomon to stand in for Brigitte Bardot. But God knows the former and future window-fitter tried his little heart out and it was his run and lay-off that led to the second goal.

Give that man a medal... Excellent performances all round, but in particular from Baudry, Cuthbert, McAnuff, Dossena and Hedges. And of course Chris Dagnall, as ever, scuttled round incessantly like a cockroach on a hot tin roof. But let's take this moment to hail a classy performance by on-loan right back Luke O'Neill (or "Nell" as Liverani insists on yelling at him), who's brought some stability and attacking impetus to the flank since his arrival from Burnley.

Taxi for... There were no bad performances from anyone in an Orient shirt so let's instead focus on the Yeovil fan who, presumably figuring that life was no longer worth living if he had to watch a single second more of the Glovers, chose to scale the girders into the roof of the East Stand. Given that the ancient stand is now held together by nothing more than a couple of safety pins, some sellotape and the shattered dreams of Peterborough fans, it's a miracle he survived. Still, he got arrested and ejected from the ground, so will probably consider missing the second half worth his trouble.

"Fuck the technical shit"... One can only imagine the sheer force of will it took Fabio Liverani to not select a fit Bradley Pritchard, but in doing so he managed to send out a starting XI that attacked with some verve. So fair play to him. It's still difficult, mind, to tell how much tactical insight is going on in between all the frantic touchline arm-waving, but given we won let's at least assume that his semaphore isn't actively detracting from our performances.

Meanwhile on Instagram... Say hello to Giulia Salemi, former Miss Italy, Agon Channel presenter and die-hard Leyton Orient fan since as far back as last week. I had the pleasure of interviewing Giulia this evening in my own imagination and discovered that her all-time favourite Orient legend is Ryan Hedges; her favourite goal ever is Ryan Hedges' strike against Yeovil Town today; and in all her time supporting Orient the player she'd most like to date is Ryan Hedges.

03 March 2015

Leyton Orient 1 Bristol City 3, 3/3/15

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Leyton Orient
A game which... left fans feeling both sorry for and proud of Leyton Orient, much in the way you may have patronisingly cheered on Eric the Eel in the Sydney Olympics. Yep, it was always going to be difficult for the Os to overcome a rampant, high-flying Bristol City but, hey, at least they didn't drown.

In fact, the home side did even better than that, fashioning the better of the chances and at times dominating play. But – surprise, surprise – Orient were hoisted on the petard of their own inability to defend properly for 90 unbroken minutes. Still, if we play like that against teams less clinical than the Robins then there's still a chance we won't be the ones left flailing round in the relegation zone while everyone else races to the finishing line.

Jump off your seat moment... Have you ever seen a giraffe try to tap dance? Or a sea-lion do the splits? Or a lamppost attempt a pirouette? Well, never mind, because if you were at Brisbane Road you would have seen Gianvito Plasmati perfectly execute a bicycle kick and for that you are truly, truly blessed.

Give that man a medal... If Jobi McAnuff's post-injury return to the side in 2015 was a film, it would be The Godfather Part II – a sequel far superior to the original. That said, McAnuff's early season performances were hardly The Godfather, were they? More like Run For Your Wife starring Danny Dyer, Denise Van Outen and the blonde one from Girls Aloud. What I'm trying to say here is McAnuff was good again tonight. And earlier this season he was shit.

Taxi for... Oh Mathieu Baudry. So elegant, so handsome, so cultured... so prone to momentary lapses in concentration that lead directly to opposition goals. The Frenchman almost opened up an alternate timeline of doom when he messily gave away a penalty against Oldham, and tonight his errors – once in failing to shepherd the ball out and once in giving away a pointless foul – gave Bristol two opportunities to score. Cuthbert back in central defence next week anyone?

"Fuck the technical shit"... So, everyone likes Fabio Liverani now that he made a couple of mild jokes at the Meet The Manager night? Christ, you lot are fickle. But, to be fair to the Italian, he does now seem to have figured out who his players are and what position they're actually supposed to play in. What do you mean that's a minimum requirement for a football manager? There's no pleasing some people.

Meanwhile on Twitter... A touching thank you tweet to Andrea Dossena from Orient fan Jan, who received a bunch of flowers from the suave Italian to say sorry for nearly killing her with a miscued shot. Imagine if Adrian Patulea had offered similar sentiments every time he skewed one into the crowd – he'd have had to buy a stake in Interflora.

21 February 2015

Leyton Orient 3 Oldham Athletic 0, 21/2/15

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Fabio Liverani
A game in which... Fabio Liverani ripped off his shirt, beat his chest and declared with a guttural, primal roar: "FUCK THE LOT OF YOU, I'M PLAYING WITH TWO WINGERS AND TWO LEFT-BACKS. WHAT YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?" Or maybe the manager was simply forced into selecting a team with a bit of width by virtue of Bradley Pritchard's injury.

Either way it worked, for this was a joyous return to the Orient of old: spirited, committed and energetic. It also demonstrated that we do actually have a talented group of players and if someone – Liverani? Donatelli? Nugent? Ada the kit man? – can get them to continue playing together as they did today we may still get out of this mess. 

Jump off your seat moment... The moment loanee goalkeeper Alex Cisak saved brilliantly from Jonathan Forte's penalty. If he puts in more fine performances like today's it might finally allow some closure for the Orient fans still heartbroken by the loss of our previous hero between the sticks. No, not Jamie Jones you bloody idiots, Eldin Jakupovic. *swoon* 

Jobi McAnuff marks his debut by wearing mascara
Give that man a medal... Any number of players could have been named man of the match today – Sawyer, Wright, Vincelot, Baudry or Cisak for starters – but let's instead celebrate a player making his Orient debut today: Jobi McAnuff. Yes, yes, the stats might tell you it was the winger's 25th appearance for the club, but it was the first time fans actually saw the player we thought we'd bought in the summer. 

Taxi for... Everyone played well, so let's just single out one moment involving the otherwise excellent Chris Dagnall. Put clean through on goal by Josh Wright, what would you expect the Liverpudlian language-mangler to do? a) Shoot b) Side-foot the ball to David Mooney who, instead of tapping it into an open net, elects to throw himself to the ground appealing for an imaginary foul, only to find he was 40 yards offside the whole time or c) back heel the ball 15 yards back up the pitch to a waiting Oldham defender. If you answered c, you're bonkers. But also correct. 

Liverani tinkers with today's formation
"Fuck the technical shit"... When today's team sheet was announced only those with a doctorate in applied mathematics could have figured out what formation that particular combination of 11 players could possibly line up in. Luckily Dean Cox put in a call to his old mucker Professor Jimmy Smith who advised "4-4-2 #LEGOOOOOO!" And so it was that Fabio Liverani inadvertently stumbled across a decent starting XI. (Albeit one that he will almost certainly ditch as soon as Bradley Pritchard is fit again.) 

Meanwhile on Twitter... This bizarre exchange between ex-England captains Will Carling and Michael Vaughan in which they discuss one-time Orient carthorse Colin West. (As discovered by Chas Portch.) What next, Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga debating the relative merits of James Scowcroft? Stephen Fry and Barack Obama arguing over Adrian Patulea?

19 February 2015

Leyton Orient 0 Bradford City 2, 18/2/15

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A game in which... Leyton Orient's players gave up defending for Lent. I'm joking of course – they actually gave up defending in August. Yep, after the false dawn of Saturday's victory over Chesterfield it was back to business as usual as a disorganised defence shipped their trademark two goals before half-time.

So that left the home side needing a miracle of Biblical proportions to overturn the deficit and I don't think even an omnipotent God has the power to defer victory on a team containing Bradley Pritchard and Marvin Bartley. Is there still hope of a resurrection? If Liverani is our saviour, I'm a devout unbeliever.

Jump off your seat moment... As a result of Fabio Liverani's innovative second-half tactic of "Just fucking lump it into the box and hope for the best, it's all I've got fellas" (translation courtesy of goalkeeping coach Rob Gagliardi) Orient did inadvertently force a couple of goal-mouth scrambles. Which was sort of mildly diverting in a similar way to observing someone struggle to keep their hat on in a strong wind, or watching a retarded puppy chasing its own tail. Which is something of a metaphor for... no, I can't even be bothered.

Give that man a medal... Various calls among Orient fans to make Marvin Bartley man of the match, which is a bit like awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to North Korea's Kim Jong-Un simply because he didn't happen to have anyone assassinated for 90 minutes on a Wednesday night. If it has to be someone, I'd give it to Omozusi.

Nathan Clarke had trouble against Hanson
Taxi for... Not the best night for Nathan Clarke who, due to a mistranslation of Fabio Liverani's instructions, was under the impression he was to be marking the 90s pop trio Hanson rather than the Bradford striker of the same name. Surely only this could explain why his performance hit such a low note?

"Fuck the technical shit"... Fabio Liverani continues to offer no evidence he has any idea what he's doing, which is perhaps to be expected given he has no experience, no track record and no knowledge of the league, the country, the players or the opposition. And what the hell is his aversion to Hedges? Did Liverani suffer some horrific gardening accident while practising topiary back in Italy? And why is he so reluctant to play with any width? The players were trying out there on the pitch, but it was quite clear that the team selection, the tactics (or lack of), the organisation and the communication weren't right. Still, he's good at waving his arms about, so every cloud...

Meanwhile on Twitter... Nice work from the E10 Mess crew who created a series of Orient-themed Valentine's Day cards earlier this week. My personal favourite was this Gianvito Plasmati-inspired one which I intended to give to my wife, but found myself strangely rooted to the spot while she breezed past me, then I twisted my ankle as I reluctantly began to trudge after her. Coincidence? I think not.

15 February 2015

GUEST POST! Chesterfield 2 Leyton Orient 3, 15/2/15

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Guest blogger Andy Brown has spent most of this season trawling round bleak northern towns watching Orient lose away from home. God knows the guy is due some luck, and he duly got it at Chesterfield. Here's Andy's take on the Os' spectacular win... 

A game which… looked like it would be as painful as a prolonged BDSM session with Christian Grey. But rather than read the script and bow out tamely, Orient embraced the spirit of lurve on Valentine’s Day and spread it among the 285 hardy souls that travelled to deepest, darkest Derbyshire in what has been a very one-way relationship this season.

Yup, with seemingly endless months of negativity about the malaise at Orient, reinforced by desperate performances on the pitch, this game had everything previous games lacked: persistence, positivity and, most of all, spirit. After going down twice, the Os came back twice and snatched a winner deep into injury time: 50 shades of last season rather than this one.

Chesterfield goalkeeper Tommy Lee
Jump off your seat moment… Despite being met with howls of derision at his substitution for Josh Wright, it was that twinkle-toed football genius Marvin Bartley’s cross that resulted in a mistimed punch from Tommy Lee, 11 minutes into injury time, and a toe poke home from Dean Cox to send the away fans into delirium. Granted, he often looks confused with a ball at his feet, but this event probably needs a T-shirt. Expect to see Liverani play Bartley on the wing against Bradford now.

Give that man a medal… A tie between David Mooney and Dean Cox. Both players never stopped working and showed flashes of class (the former a few moments of ineptitude as well) that typified Orient’s determination not to lose today. A class finish from Mooney for the second of his two goals, and winner for Cox, this was more like the performances we were used to seeing last year. And not an overpaid Italian in sight!

Taxi for… Elliot Omozusi. Where to start? Mistimed two-yard passes going straight out of play, simple balls going straight through his legs, and one of the most bizarre own goals I have ever seen that put Orient 2-1 down. Not a good day at the office, although he improved after his own goal. His counterpart Sawyer played a more solid game on the other side. Now to get both full backs and centre backs playing well together…

“Fuck the technical shit” With Fabio Liverani’s apparent desire to see every facet of Orient’s play go through Bradley Pritchard, it was surprising to see other players involved today… not that the players can understand the team talks anyway. It’s hard to know what to make of the frantically gesticulating Italian. He obviously seems to care, but from wanting to bin 11 players one game to being proud of them the next, he is somewhat schizophrenic in his assessment of performances.  

Meanwhile on Twitter… It’s been hard to miss the circus at Orient over the course of the season. So what’s the best way to advertise the goings in at the club? With a circus poster of course! This was created by Os fan Keith Williams. Respect, sir. 

13 February 2015

GUEST POST! Divided we fall

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Keen observers of Leyton Orient Football Club may have noticed that things aren't as rosy as they could be of late. In this guest post, the Whipps Cross Weekly podcast crew investigate why... 

When trying to process the unbridled horror that has been Leyton Orient’s 2014/15 season and figure out why, oh Lord why, this has all happened to us, many LOFC fans have tended to settle on laying the blame with the Italian-speaking contingent of the club’s management hierarchy. 

Francesco Becchetti gets his priorities straight
Owner Francesco Becchetti, chief executive Alessandro Angelieri, former director of football Mauro Milanese and more latterly the head coach Fabio Liverani have in most cases been lumped together collective, referred to under the banner of ‘the Italians’. 

They have been seen as unified force of incompetents drawn together through the power of cronyism, one which has both wreaked extensive harm on the club on and off the pitch.

They’ve tarnished Orient’s public image while demonstrating as much understanding of League One football as we have of how to compose a punchy, enjoyable blog post. 

Incompetents? Demonstrably. Unified? It really doesn’t appear so. That’s what is perhaps the most worrying thing, and could explain why we’ve fallen so very far, so very quickly.

It seems more likely that the camp at the top is more internally split than some might believe – the whole notion of an Italian ‘regime’ seems misguided, as in reality, the key figures at the club all seem to have spent the season vying to push the club in different directions.

Mauro Milanese
The key piece of evidence that supports this ‘king’s court’ theory was the departure of Mauro Milanese last month, for reasons that Liverani insists were personal rather than ‘technical’ or related to transfer and selection policy. 

After serving an ill-fated stint as manager of the side at the end of 2014 before returning straight back to his old director of football position, it was easy to get the impression that Milanese was merely a willing tool of the regime – a puppet to be shifted around between roles at Becchetti’s convenience. 

However, the weaknesses in this theory had begun to show long before Milanese’s January departure. In prior interviews and Q&A sessions with fans, Milanese had made the case across for a number of interesting and sound policies, particularly around player roles and reliance on the club’s academy to produce first-team talent. 

He outlined specific ideas that seemed eminently sensible, such as loaning out young forward Scott Kashket to a lower level rather than wasting him on the first-team bench. In practice, however, more or less none of these things actually happened. 

Why? Is it because Milanese was a slipperier customer than he might have appeared, able to play to the gallery whilst sticking to the agenda of his superiors? Perhaps, but his fallout with Becchetti seems difficult to comprehend if this truly was the case.

Alessandro Angelieri
The same can be said of Angelieri, who also seems to make noises around ambitions and preservation of club identity whenever a journo puts a mic in front of him that sound great but rarely match up to the reality of the situation.

Could it be that he too is merely a sweet-talking mouthpiece of the regime, or is he a man with the right ideas but no actual apparatus for getting them put into action?

Then there’s Liverani. In most people’s eyes, Furious Fabio may not be the right man to drive the club forward to bigger and better things, but he seems to have been hindered by not being able to construct his own squad.

Why are new players arriving at the club every few weeks who he clearly hasn’t requested and has no idea how to use, such as Ryan Hedges and Neil Eardley? 

Fabio Liverani
The signings themselves have been mixed: most of us have been impressed by Hedges and don’t understand why Liverani doesn’t use him more, while Eardley has already left.

The point is that the communication between Liverani and his employers seems bizarrely remote if we assume that he was brought in as another crony. 

The impression that we get from following the never-dull affairs at LOFC is that there is no coherent ‘gang’ at the helm of the club, steering it as one closer and closer to the whirlpool of relegation.

Instead, the house seems much more divided; it is entirely possible that positive strategies and ideas are emerging from within the club’s hierarchy, but wither on the vine because the structure or the will isn’t there to implement them. 

Perhaps this is a product of Wolf Hall-style infighting on the part of those orbiting around Becchetti- or possibly, it’s all because the big man himself just doesn’t listen to those around him.

Whatever the truth of the situation is, we’d hazard a guess that if the hierarchy had actually spent the season pulling together in the same direction, we might have ended in a mess slightly less deep than we currently find ourselves in.

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