19 November 2016

Leyton Orient 1 Blackpool 2, 19/11/16

A game in which... Leyton Orient's players showed solidarity with the fan protests by standing still from the 18th minute onwards. All except Alan Dunne, that is, who took things one step further and actually tried to sabotage not only the match, but the very concept of football itself.

Happy clappies may point to the tiniest glimmer of briskness in Orient's first-half performance, albeit with the total absence of any end product. But defensive calamities and the post-team talk catastrophe of a second half meant defeat – a club record of seven in a row at home – was inevitable. 

Or to put it another way: we are monumentally shit. 


Jump off your seat moment #1... WE SCORED A GOAL WE SCORED A GOAL WE SCORED A GOAL WE SCORED A MEANINGLESS GOAL! I'll say one thing about Paul McCallum: if you plop the ball on his head in the penalty area he'll pretty likely score, almost like he was created to restore the balance to a universe in which Ollie Palmer exists. 

Give that man a medal... Nigel Atangana again. Why? Because of his reaction when Blackpool scored their first. The goal was a result of a howler by Yves Erichot, who was clearly mortified and appeared to be crying actual tears. Everyone bar Atangana looked to the floor, shoulders sunken, and muttered "You fucking idiot" at Erichot under their breaths. Not brave Nigel. He was the only one who went to console the fucking idiot. The only one who was talking at the rest of the team, trying to gee them up, the only one showing any passion, any commitment. There is zero team spirit in this squad. Zero. 

Taxi for... Robbie Weir, who apparently misinterpreted today's protest as We Want Our Club Foot Back. In September the Orient captain – yes, he really is the captain – wrote this on Twitter: "Since I've joined the club I have been awful. And when you think it can't get any worst [sic] – it does! I would like to apologise to everyone associated with the club. I will turn this around." I actually quite respected him for that. If only more players gave honest appraisals of their performances via Twitter. ("Since I joined the club my performances have massively increased the likelihood of an imminent apocalypse" - Connor Essam.) Still waiting for Robbie to turn this around, mind. In your own time, pal... 

In the dug out... On the touchline Alberto Cavasin gives the impression of a man who until this moment has spent the entire 60 years of his life isolated from all human contact and left to fend for himself in an Amazonian rainforest. He is frozen in bemused wonderment at what lies before him and has not an inkling of how to react to this strange world, let alone communicate with it. Why are people kicking a ball around? Why are people watching them kick a ball around? Why is Alan Dunne repeatedly kicking the ball into the people watching? Either that or – as fan Laurie Hann suggested – he was doing a solo mannequin challenge for the entire 90 minutes. 


Jump off your seat moment #2... The moment fan Marc Shaffer literally did jump off his seat to abuse Alberto Cavasin in Italian via Google Translate. His message: Stai diventando licenziato al mattino. You're getting sacked in the morning... 

30 October 2016

Leyton Orient 0 Crewe Alexandra 2, 29/10/16

A game in which... it became apparent that there must be something more than Francesco Becchetti's rank incompetence, belligerence, arrogance, megalomania and psychopathy that's driven Orient from the brink of the Championship to the brink of the Conference. I think on top of that he must also have a personal vendetta against Os supporters and is deliberately taking us down just to spite each and every one of us.

Far-fetched? Maybe, but not as goggle-eyed mental as the idea that it's somehow the fans' fault for not getting behind the team enough. Anyways, anyways, the game... Well, Orient actually looked vaguely League Two competent – if 100 per cent unthreatening – for the first 25 minutes or so before the ever-predictable defensive cock-ups and consequent two-goal deficit led to drop in footballing ability of such magnitude that I was slightly concerned it might cause the universe to collapse in on itself.


Jump off your seat moment... The substitution of Nigel Atangana, a decision that will go down in human history as the worst since the captain of the Titanic said to his first mate, "Yeah, I hardly think we need to worry about some little iceberg – full speed ahead!" In the swirling ineptitude that engulfs Brisbane Road every fortnight the French midfielder at least seems to have some basic grasp of the minimum requirements of a professional footballer.

Give that man a medal... Ada the kit man, on the basis that as far as I know no Orient player has yet taken to the pitch in odd socks or the wrong-coloured shorts or naked under the Becchetti regime – pretty much the only thing on or off the pitch that hasn't gone cataclysmically wrong. Hats off to Ada for sticking it out – I suspect that [METAPHOR ALERT!] in the event of a nuclear winter he and the cockroaches would be the lone survivors on our scorched planet.


Taxi for... Jens Janse. Who even is this guy? *Looks up Wikipedia* Ah right, well, it was always going to take something special to actually stand out as worse than the rest of the Orient team today, but by God the Dutch right back gave it his best shot by literally passing to a Crewe player every time he got the ball. Thing is though, even he seems to have some sort of pedigree, as does pretty much every other player in the team – including a number of promotion winners. So why are they playing with such lack of confidence, spirit and ability? Could they all coincidentally have lost their talents at exactly the same time? Or could perhaps the deep malaise at the heart of the club be affecting on-field performances? Just a thought.

In the dug out... When you're 2-0 down at home at half-time, taking off a striker and reverting to 4-5-1 is certainly a novel approach. And I'm using the word "novel" here in the sense of Katie Price's 2015 tome Make My Wish Come True, in which a young showbiz reporter goes undercover to expose a cheating TV chef, but risks losing her best friend in doing so. With a record of four losses in five games Alberto Cavasin is clearly going to get the chop soon enough so I can hardly be bothered to expend the energy slagging him off. Also, I could not hope to get close to the comic heights he hits in his own post-match interview. (Choice quote from an incredulous Dave Victor: "So you thought about taking off the substitute??!) Probably a nice enough bloke – hasn't offered any fans out yet so he's one up on Ian Hendon in my book. Not a hope in hell of turning this round, mind. Next.


Meanwhile on Twitter... "Great training today, we are ready for tomorrow's match against Crewe Alexandra" declared the Mr Alberto Cavasin almost as if someone was writing his tweets for him in English and almost as if Orient were actually ready for the match against Crewe, rather than being physically and emotionally exhausted by the double training sessions Francesco Becchetti had insisted upon all week, almost as if he were a qualified sports scientist. It's almost as if no one knows what the fuck they're doing, hey? Almost...

17 September 2016

Leyton Orient 0 Yeovil Town 1, 17/9/16

A game which... was so soul-destroyingly predictable that Francesco Becchetti might as well have given the squad a day off and instead broadcast a big-screen replay of one of the countless other insipid home defeats of his tenure. In fact, that is the sort of mental thing he might actually do.

Thing is, despite today's evidence to the contrary, the current squad does consist of decent players, but the lack of any discernible team spirit, determination, morale or collective responsibility is surely symptomatic of the toxic culture that now prevails at our once beloved club. Still, on the bright side, we're still five points clear of the relegation zone.

Jump off your seat moment... Didn't we get a corner at some point? In the context of the rest of the game we really should have celebrated that with champagne, a conga down the aisles, a victory bus tour through the streets of Leyton and a Roman orgy. What actually happened was that whoever took it - seriously, you expect me to remember who it was? - smashed it straight into the first defender. Probably. Whatever.

We won a corner! Celebrate! 
Give that man a medal... Poor Jay Simpson. Surely the only thing worse than being frozen out of this team is actually having to play in this team, and so it was that the striker came on with 25 minutes to go. Lively he was too, albeit only in the sense that a three-toed sloth might be described as lively in comparison to 10 blocks of concrete.

Taxi for... Francesco Becchetti for airily wafting away the complaints of fans from his gallery standpoint as if he was a Roman emperor dismissively ordering the lions be set upon the bunch of fucking peasants he no doubt believes us to be. Come to think of it, don't discount the possibility that he might actually bring lions to Brisbane Road, for that would make about as much logical sense as sacking Dean Cox. Or signing Gianvito Plasmati. Or buying the club in the first place.


In the dug out... What, you may ask yourself, is Andy Hessenthaler – probably a decent enough bloke – doing here in the current circumstances? Well, one thing he's not doing is instructing his team to do anything other than lump the ball towards Jordan Bowery / Paul McCallum / Ollie Palmer and hope for the best. Anyway, it's a moot point for I suspect one or two more defeats will spell the end of his short tenure and Francesco Becchetti will finally cut out the middle man and simply appoint himself as manager.

Meanwhile in the press...  Ben Chorley this week waded into the Orient controversy with the same type of reckless abandon with which he'd regularly decimate lower league strikers. "I think Orient could be in League Two for a few years yet," he said with so much optimism that we'll somehow avoid relegation to the conference that I can only assume he'd just drunk two pints of MDMA. He continued: "It's a great club. Everything around it is good, but the problem is the owner." Oh really, Ben? We thought it was all Leon McSweeney's fault...

16 August 2016

Leyton Orient 3 Stevenage 0, 16/8/16

A game in which... Orient proved that they're not necessarily as shit as every single performance of the last two seasons might suggest. In fact I'd go as far as to say that this was the most enjoyable 90 minutes at Brisbane Road since the play-off semi-final of 2013/14.

Stevenage were rubbish, obviously, but you can only beat what's put in front of you, unless that's Newport and you lose. But Orient were in swashbuckling form, penetrating the opposition defence time and again with the near-forgotten tactic of actually passing the ball along the ground. Throw in some highly promising individual performances – Kelly, Massey and Erichot for starters – and it starts to look like things aren't quite as dire as they seemed on Saturday. Let the good times roll.

Jump off your seat moment... The moment Dean Cox – God knows it's good to have him back – scored with a header from the edge of the box, a feat that until tonight every single expert from the world of science and Professor Brian Cox had deemed physically impossible. From a Stevenage point of view this is beyond embarrassing: like Sir Bradley Wiggins being overtaken by a kid on a tricycle; or Lionel Messi being nutmegged by Bradley Pritchard.


Give that man a medal... Well done to Harry Cornick Jr for repeatedly getting dangerous balls into the box like an inverse Sean Clohessy. This was the type of blistering loanee winger performance that Ryan Hedges could have put in had he not had Fabio Liverani screaming insanely into his brain for 90 relentless minutes every time he played. But if this is the shape of things to come from Cornick, and Simpson stays and shakes off the rust, we may actually score more goals.

Taxi for... What a joy it was to see Jamie Jones kicking the ball with the same reckless regard for consequence with which he manages his Twitter account. How pleasurable it was to see him fumbling crosses almost like he was playing for Orient during the 2013/14 play-off final. And it would be an utter dereliction of duty of me not to end this paragraph with the words: Enjoy your relegation battle, Jamie.

Jamie Jones reaches for a cross
In the dug out... Positioning Dean Cox in a more central role is usually the last roll of the dice of an under-pressure Orient manager and it never works. Tonight, by total accident, this ruse actually paid off for Andy Hessenthaler and the 4-2-3-1 formation presumably dictated to him by the president looked to have promise. The thing is: Orient do have a good team on paper. Of course, that doesn't help you get promoted: after all, Ian Hendon should have been a good manager on paper, until it turned out that paper just bore a picture of a sunburnt holidaymaker furiously berating Ryan Air ground staff for the fact he's left his own passport in the hotel room. Where was I? Yes, Orient have a good team on paper and if Hessenthaler – let's just call him Yessenthaler and be done with it – can negotiate around the lunatics running the club then we may have a chance of achieving something.

Meanwhile on Twitter... "Just got told the biggest load of nonsense in my life" tweeted Paul McCallum, minutes before kick off, almost as if an Ian Hendon tactical team talk from last season had finally registered in his brain. Make of that what you will, but in the meantime let's turn to our former manager himself. Yes, his fiery-fingered wife Linda Hendon has been at it again, with this: "Ian Hendon and I have been informed by Becchetti that we are not welcome at Brisbane Road to support Orient or Hess. #completeclownofachairman." Which suggests that Linda and Ian were trying to score free seats rather than just paying like the rest of us mugs. Unless of course Mr Becchetti scrutinises the sale of every ticket to ensure no one inappropriate turns up. Wouldn't put it past him. Though in which case how did Connor Essam slip through the net so many times? The plot thickens...




17 April 2016

Leyton Orient 3 Dagenham & Redbridge 2, 16/4/16

A game in which... Francesco Becchetti proved – through his astute team selection – that he's more than just a psychopathic workplace bully and is actually in possession of a shrewd footballing brain. Who but him, after all, could have predicted that Orient's three goals would come courtesy of crosses from the much-maligned Sean Clohessy and Blair Turgott?

The three points and improved attacking performance were positives, of course, but the fact that in the closing minutes Orient were desperately clinging on to a narrow home victory over the worst club in professional football probably suggests no one should be partying too hard tonight. Worse still, in Francesco Becchetti's mind the result no doubt vindicates his latest round of lunatic decisions, meaning us fans can expect more of the madness while the club falls apart around us.

Jump off your seat moment... Take your pick from one of the many moments in which Armand Gnanduillet was either scoring or missing or being booed or being cheered or cupping his ear at the crowd or applauding the crowd or shooting at goal when Jay Simpson was unmarked and clean through to his right or not shooting at goal when clean through himself. To say that the Frenchman is an enigma would be an understatement on a par with describing the seventh circle of hell as "on the warm side". Or at least I assume it is – I'll check when Francesco Becchetti was last there and get his view on it.

Give that man a medal... "No man can test God's timing," tweeted Blair Turgott after his man of the match performance today, suggesting that he has waited all season to finally demonstrate his value to the team. The winger was a constant menace to the Dagenham & Redbridge defence – I say "defence", I mean "some random blokes standing around pointing a bit while Orient practised their attacking drills" – and well deserved his two assists.

Taxi for... Francesco Becchetti, naturally. So bizarre and damaging has been his behaviour and decision-making during his tenure at Orient that the official confirmation from Andy Hessenthaler that the president is now part of a committee that selects the team does not appear to have sent quite the seismic shockwaves that it should have. God knows I hope he never donates some of his billions to a hospital otherwise he'll be there in the operating theatre, Chianti in one hand, scalpel in the other, butchering patients on a daily basis but reassuring grieving relatives by recording video messages explaining how passionate he is about the medical facilities and that everything will be ok if they all stick together.

Nolan-watch... President Becchetti's masterplan to unleash the full potential of Kevin Nolan as a player by releasing him from the shackles of management had only 427 fatal flaws. One of which was that Kevin – who'd never been less than clear that the reason he came to Orient was to manage – was unlikely to be particularly motivated by playing under the cloud of the abject humiliation associated with being removed from his job after 14 matches. This was all moot anyway, as Kev was injured. So if he's out for the rest of the season does that mean he can resume management Mr Becchetti?

Meanwhile on Twitter... "No matter what you do, good or bad, people are always gonna have something to say about it. Keep your head up, stay strong and just breathe." No, not lyrics from a Christina Aguilera bonus track, but an inspirational quote posted by Orient's goalkeeping coach-turned-translator-turned-head of recruitment-turned goalkeeper coach again Rob Gagliardi. What prompted this? The negative reactions of fans to the news that loyal servant Lee Harrison had inexplicably been fired in favour of the Italian at the behest of Mr Becchetti, who entirely forgot to mention this grubby little episode in his video call to arms. Still, Forza Orient and all that...

07 April 2016

GUEST BLOG: How a Bermondsey social worker nurtured the precocious talent of Laurie Cunningham

Sunday Times sports picture editor Dermot Kavanagh is currently writing the first full biography of Orient legend Laurie Cunningham. To whet your appetites, here he reveals how the influence of social worker and youth football coach Bob Cottingham helped lay Laurie's path to Leyton Orient... 

Young Laurie
Laurie Cunningham has been in the news recently with four different organisations choosing to remember him. English Heritage announced in February that a blue plaque is to be unveiled at his home in Finsbury Park later this year, and, on the week of what would have been his 60th birthday, Waltham Forest Council launched a joint venture with Leyton Orient FC and Kick It Out to fundraise for a statue of him to be sited at Coronation Gardens.

Cunningham'stime at Orient is well documented. The five years he spent at Brisbane Road after he arrived as a gauche teenager and was transformed in to a dazzling young star are rightly credited to the careful management and patient guidance of George Petchey and his assistant Peter Angell. 

But one other deserves to be given his due for playing his part in nurturing the precocious talent that Cunningham possessed. After being rejected by his local club Arsenal in 1972 and being told he was “not the right material” Cunningham could easily have walked away from the game if it wasn't for a man called Bob Cottingham.

Born in Yorkshire in 1922, Cottingham worked as a social worker in Bermondsey, south London, where he established a five-a-side team for the youngsters in his care. Then he moved to north London and worked in Islington where he founded a football team called Highgate North Hill named after the primary school where his son was a pupil. 

Cottingham was serious about football and attended a residential FA coaching course at Loughborough College in the summer of 1966, the week after England won the World Cup, and was influenced by the great Hungarian side of the 1950s led by Ferenc Puskas, who broke the mould of European football when they thrashed England 6-3 and 7-1 in the space of 12 months. 

The schoolboy team Cottingham assembled at Highgate was a true reflection of the area where he lived and included Turkish, Greek and Caribbean boys among its squad and they dominated the Regents Park League for years.

Cunningham joined in 1967 at the age of 11 and immediately made an impact. His natural athleticism and energy was irrepressible. Cottingham gave him free rein as a marauding winger and built the team around his startling pace. 

Cunningham became a regular visitor to the Cottingham home in Muswell Hill where he often stayed for meals,joined in family excursions and played football until dusk in the large back garden with family and friends. 

On match days Cottingham picked him up from Finsbury Park in his camper van, remembering to bring a spare pair of boots or socks for the forgetful youngster, and after matches, it was all back to Muswell Hill for hot dogs and orange squash. 

The idyllic environment, based around a love of football, must have held a strong appeal to the young Cunningham and was perfect for developing his talent.

Then in 1968 Cottingham organised an unusual football tour in Austria that doubled up as a family holiday. Highgate played in a mini-tournament against the youth teams of the national side and Rapid Vienna among others. 

Twelve boys travelled to Vienna by train and ferry and were billeted with local families. The boys made quite an impact: some had long hair, one was a skinhead with boots and braces and then there was Cunningham sharply dressed, but most startlingly to the conservative Viennese, black. 

The boys drew attention wherever they went, either playing in the park or on a day trip to the nearby Alps. As interest grew a TV camera crew was despatched to film them and interview Cunningham, who was inevitably the team's top scorer. His photograph appeared on the front page of a daily newspaper as well. 

When the trip came to an end after two weeks the boys were given a farewell reception at the Town Hall where a buffet was held in their honour by the Lady Mayoress. Cunningham had been the star of the tournament.

Back in London, Highgate continued their dominance in league and cup competitions and by the age of 14, Arsenal came calling for Cunningham. But when they rejected him at the age of 16, Cottingham was determined to find another London club that was sympathetic to his mercurial talent. 

At Orient, after an impressive trial in front of Petchey, he found a nurturing club who were prepared to devote time and energy to his young charge. Peter Angell told the young player that football like chess was a game where brains meant more than anything and you always have time to play while George Petchey assured him that if he carried on the way he was he would play for England one day. 

The rest, as they say, is history - the sort of history that is now being recognised with a statue and a blue plaque.

Different Class: Fashion, Football and Funk – The Story of Laurie Cunningham will be published by Unbound Books. Anyone who makes a pledge can have their name in the front of the book as an Orient fan. 

Read about Laurie Cunningham's time at Orient in this extract from my book Leyton Orient Greats. 

06 March 2016

Leyton Orient 0 Luton Town 1, 5/3/16

A game in which... It was proved scientifically, philosophically and legally that Orient are still just a bit shit. Not chronic-dysentry-call-999-NOW! shit as we were under Ian Hendon. More like the type of shit that clings defiantly to the toilet bowl despite repeated flushes. Will.i.am, were it in human form.

Now, credit to Kevin Nolan for mostly shoring up the defence – Luton only had the one big chance really – but he still has a big job to do to eke out some sort of guile, some creativity, some surprise from this largely uninspiring squad.

Jump off your seat moment... Is it Neymar? Is it Ronaldo? Is it the final of the World Dressage Championships? No, it's Jerome Binnom-Williams doing step-overs in ultra slow-motion in an ill-fated attempt bamboozle the Luton defence. That said, the left-back actually looks half-decent at times and could well be the difference between Orient finishing 11th or 12th come the end of the season. 

Give that man a medal... Scott Cuthbert. He had Ollie Palmer so deeply in his pocket that it's likely he'll not notice he's there again until he eventually sticks his kit in the washing machine and finds a bearded bloke in a red shirt clambering out of it then theatrically throwing himself to the ground claiming a head injury.  

Taxi for... Sean Clohessy. I'm presuming that his selection at right midfield is based on the infinite monkey theorem which states that if you sit a primate in front of a typewriter for an infinite amount of time at some point it will inadvertently produce the complete works of Shakespeare. Similarly, were he given until the end of the universe, it is conceivable that Sean Clohessy might at some point put a decent ball into the box. Didn't happen today, mind, so instead the former Southend man offered a fan out a half-time. As you were. 

Nolan-watch... Imagine this scenario: Kevin Nolan, on a day off and craving some peace and quiet, goes to an east London park with the intention of calmly completing a jigsaw puzzle. But when he begins the task, he finds that not only are most of the pieces either damaged or missing, but that there is also a group of drunk and obnoxious Italian tourists in the vicinity who keep coming over and smashing up the little progress he has made for the sheer hell of it. What I'm saying here is the manager is actually doing a pretty good job, all things considered. 

Meanwhile on the opposition bench... We need to talk about Kevin. Firstly: Nugent, who was a loyal servant to Orient despite the fact he was demoted further and further down the hierarchy every time Sr Becchetti pulled the trigger on another manager, to the point where his final role profile at the club simply read "Hold a clipboard." Then of course there was also Kevin Dearden, who was a loyal servant to the club's restaurants and cafes. Given the current state of Orient, mind, I'm pretty sure where both of them would rather be sitting...
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