At some point in the not-too-distant future Orient will appoint their fifth manager in under a year. Days later he'll be fired. Before that, however, guest blogger Ed Francis of the Whipps Cross Weekly podcast has some advice for the latest recipient of the poison chalice of Brisbane Road...
|Orient: poisoned chalice|
At the time of writing, Leyton Orient are on the brink of announcing the lucky individual that will be tasked with scraping away the memory of a tough 14/15 season and pushing the club forwards as we begin a new life in League Two.
Sources in the know suggest it's going to be former Barnet manager and ex-O Ian Hendon, who will hopefully continue to demonstrate all of the traits that have helped him to rise quickly through the ranks of the West Ham United coaching staff over the past four years.
Regardless of the identity of the new gaffer, however, my hopes and desires for the summer and season ahead will largely remain the same. I humbly reproduce these in full for your critique below.
1. Sign up the deserving few
Owing to a mixture of flagging confidence and incoherent coaching, Orient's team performances last season were generally about as convincing as Danny Dyer cast in the lead role of a film about the life of Oscar Wilde.
Despite this, there were more than a few individual efforts glimpsed amongst the horror that were worthy of commendation – not least from some of the players whose contracts are up for renewal.
Chris Dagnall chased tirelessly after the ball week after week like it contained the antidote to a hideous virus he had only 90 minutes to beat. Josh Wright consistently crafted chances as neat and tidy as his own haircut.
Scott Cuthbert was commanding at the back despite being deployed in a number of positions and being forced to conceal his identity behind a mask for the final few games of the season in order to confuse opponents. And Gary Sawyer and Marvin Bartley kicked on to put in the finest shifts of their entire careers at Brisbane Road.
If the new manager has done an appropriate level of research, most of this shouldn't be news to him. So assuming any of the aforementioned players are still keen to pull on an Orient shirt again next season, he should be doing a round trip of their doorsteps with a Biro and an earnest smile over the week to come.
2. Be prepared to trust in youth where appropriate
|Might as well give this lot a go...|
While the senior Orient players that stay on after the summer will carry the jadedness of the last 12 months into the next season with them, players moving up from the development side won't. Ideally, they'll instead be able to offer a youthful hunger and ambition that could provide the injection of vitality that the playing side needs to get back on its feet.
Even in the worst case scenario, they probably can't serve up performances as actively damaging to the side's prospects and hazardous to my mental health as some of the players that ran out for us did last term.
Given the fantastic success achieved by the club's academy sides last season anyway, we should perhaps seize dropping down to an even lower division as an opportunity to give youngsters such as Scott Kashket and Charlie Grainger a chance to show that they can add something to the side.
3. Utilise the loan market properly
When times were at their hardest last season, some of our brightest moments came from the individuals that, erm, someone or other within the Orient hierarchy decided to bring down from the Premier League to cover the most deficient spots in our squad – in particular, teenage winger Ryan Hedges of Swansea and Aussie keeper Alex Cisak of Burnley.
Often, the quality of their contributions would leave you feeling like they were carrying with them the self-assurance and good coaching lessons that they'd picked up at clubs that play, y'know, just the two divisions higher than League One.
While these signings provided something of a crutch for a struggling and fractured side, they were secured far too late – by the time Cisak and Hedges were first-team regulars, the side was already partially capsized in Doo-Doo Creek and everyone was trying to fight each other with the paddles rather than use them to steer us out of danger.
Mobilising the club's scouts to pick up some top-level players quickly and effectively will be key to making a strong start in the fourth tier this year, while exploiting the loan market throughout the season will help us to keep up the momentum down the stretch – the same sort of impact we saw from temporary additions such as John Lundstram and Eldin Jakupovic in our glorious final full year under Russell Slade.
4. Be bold enough to stand up for yourself and the players
|Whatever you say, Francesco...|
While former manager Fabio Liverani might have brought a few appealing qualities to the table when he first arrived in east London last season – strong pedigree as a player, a tiny bit of experience managing in Serie A, and total consistency in his wardrobe week to week – his primary plus point for the owners would have been his unwillingness to really challenge their authority.
While a head coach coming into the job with a higher stock to his name would have probably pushed back more strongly against Francesco Becchetti's influence, Liverani often came across more like a very, very angry ambassador of the men upstairs – one who was all too willing to publicly share with them an open contempt for the men he was supposed to be managing, rather than working hard to unite the dressing room and address the root causes of the rot.
In the aftermath of all of that, the Orient squad will be unlikely to accept another yes-man coming in at the helm. The new manager has to be strong-headed and clear enough in his vision to form an independent view, commanding respect from day one by laying out his own plan for playing style and personnel and sticking to it.
As the season progresses, when push comes to shove, he'll need to be prepared to be an advocate for the players and fight their corner in the boardroom as well. If he can do that, he'll stand a much better chance of getting a disillusioned team onside and keeping them there – and he'll cement the trust of the fans very quickly in the process.
5. Remember what Leyton Orient is
Despite trying my hardest to be an optimist throughout most of last season, I have over the last few months developed a few creeping misgivings about what sort of endgame our chairman sees for Orient.
In the light of the travesty of our recent relegation, it feels insightful to revisit an interview Becchetti gave at the peak of our woes last season, where his pre-eminent concern seemed to be the success of a reality television programme conceived last year to air on his Agon Channel which revolves around the search for a new young star to sign for the club.
So to the new manager, if for some bizarre reason you do end up reading this and yet decide to write off everything else I've said as rambling nonsense (probably for the best, let's be fair), please at least take heed of my final plea.
No matter what anyone else might try to make you think from from tomorrow onwards – no matter what further structural changes are made around you, no matter who might be recruited for you, no matter who you're asked very very 'nicely' to play on matchdays: Leyton Orient does NOT exist for the sole purpose of providing context for a TV show.
It is not a sideshow, an attraction for raising the profile of Francesco Becchetti's television channel. It is, first and foremost, a football club – one which was actually on the brink of achieving incredible success given it's relative stature only one year ago, before a raft of unnecessary off-pitch distractions descended upon it.
All decisions the new man makes have to reflect this, and have to serve the sporting needs of the club ahead of any other going concerns. In the context of the health of the club as it plummets through the tiers of English football, this isn't merely a fan's desire – to put it bluntly, it could potentially mean the very real and stark difference between recovery on the one hand, and losing our Football League status entirely on the other.