25 April 2015

Leyton Orient 1 Sheffield United 1, 25/4/15

A game which... left Orient clinging on to League One survival like Sylvester Stallone on a mountain ledge in Cliffhanger. Except Orient aren't Sylvester Stallone are they? Not even Sylvester Stallone in Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. What I am saying here is that this was another performance lacking in the muscle, passion and heroism you'd expect given the situation.

Sigh. I'll always love those players who got us to Wembley last season but something is deeply wrong if they can't properly raise themselves for a game like this. Orient had Alex Cisak to thank – again – for not being 2-0 down at half-time, and while Mathieu Baudry's bullet header gave some hope, Sheffield United's equaliser was all too inevitable. Still, I'll be at Swindon hoping that some sort of footballing and mathematical miracle will allow us to Escape to Victory...

Jump off your seat moment... I don't think Barry Hearn technically jumped off his seat, but he certainly stood up at half-time and – alone in the gallery – surveyed the carnage of a season that lay before him. One can only imagine what was going through his head, but I'm going to take a wild stab at "Yeah, on reflection, I probably shouldn't have said that thing about West Ham being petrified of the new owner."

Give that man a medal... I'm guessing that the Supporters' Club's end-of-season Star Man dinner is going to be an awkward affair. Or at least it would be if they didn't have the option of giving every single award to Alex Cisak who, since coming on loan from Burnley, has pretty much single-handedly given Orient a sliver of a chance of avoiding relegation. The goalkeeper was superb again today.

Taxi for... Actually no one played totally abysmally today so let's instead turn to our illustrious CEO Alessandro Angelieri who, at this week's Fan's Forum, gave his insight into why Orient are facing imminent relegation. Apparently it's all down to the fact that the players bought in the summer haven't performed as expected. So simple! Next week: Angelieri explains the sinking of the Titanic. "I think a couple of the passengers brought on quite heavy suitcases."

Fabio Liverani
"Fuck the technical shit..." Does anyone still think that Fabio Liverani has even the slightest idea what he's doing? I'm guessing not. But let's not blame him personally. Put it this way: if the owner of a Formula One team selected a 12-year-old schoolgirl to be his lead driver simply on the basis that she once negotiated a fairground dodgems ride without crashing too much, who would you point the finger at when she totalled the car within seven seconds? (For a less metaphorical explanation of why the blame goes right to the top at Orient read here.)

Meanwhile on Twitter... This tragi-comic observation from Os fan Craig Rodhouse: "Only at Orient. A fan throws his season ticket at the bench on the last home game of the season. We know how to protest." Indeed we do. Next week: hundreds of Orient fans refuse to attend another game until early August after the club is relegated to League Two. See you there!

19 April 2015

How has it come to this?

Let's not begin the full post-mortem just yet. After all, there is still a mathematical chance that Orient can get the four or possibly six points from their last three games that'd keep them safe from relegation.

But I think it's fair to say that if they do – and that's an "if" written in sky-high letters – it will be in spite of, rather than because of the current manager.

Now, I don't want to attack Fabio Liverani personally. He seems a decent guy, and I'm sure he's trying as hard as he can to do a good job. But what is evidently clear to anyone with eyes and a brain, is that he is wholly ill-equipped to be managing an English League One football club in imminent danger of relegation. He always was.

So why was he here in the first place? Because of Francesco Becchetti's arrogance, naivety and commercial interests. Let me explain.


Look at the breezy confidence of our president in this TV interview back in February. Sure, by then he's realised that all the money he's pumped into the club isn't going to get Orient promoted in season one, but he seems to be operating on the arrogant assumption that we couldn't possibly get relegated.

And surely that's why he felt comfortable enough to appoint someone with no experience of English – let alone League One – football, no command of the English language, and a managerial career spanning six games. "It's a new era, things take a little time," he explained and was presumably happy by then for Liverani to learn on the job, finish mid-table and then push on for promotion next season.


The vast majority of football managers are ex-players and they all have to start somewhere. But there can't be many examples of ex-players starting their managerial career fighting a relegation battle in a league, country and language they have no experience of and making a success of it. So Becchetti's decision to place all his faith in the untested Fabio Liverani was a either a breathtaking gamble or staggering naivety. I'm going for the latter.

Commercial interests

Francesco Becchetti's TV channel is important to him. Nothing wrong with that – Barry Hearn had plenty of other commercial interests while owning the club. But the premise of the Leyton Orient reality show on Agon channel is that aspiring footballers from Italy get the chance to compete for a contract with a "prestigious" club (Becchetti's word, not mine.)

And there's nothing particularly "prestigious" about a club fighting relegation from the third tier. However, attach a high-profile ex-Italy international to the club and suddenly it seems a little more attractive to a TV audience. So I am being cynical in suggesting that the appointment of Liverani wasn't done for 100 per cent footballing reasons?

So what now? 

Are we going to get out of this? If so, it's going to be down to the players. And I still love those players. Sure, they have to accept some of the blame for this, but God knows they're not deliberately trying to get us relegated.

The truth is, you can't just chuck your 11 best players on the pitch and hope for the best. They need organisation, motivation, tactics, instructions, insight, plans...

I sit behind Fabio Liverani for home matches and see nothing much more than an obsessive devotion to micro-managing the position of a bewildered Ryan Hedges when we're defending set pieces. The manager is totally and utterly out of his depth.

So, with three games to go, I say this to the Orient squad: play for yourselves, play for the fans, play for that Somme badge on your shirt. Because only you can save us now...

14 April 2015

Leyton Orient 0 Doncaster Rovers 1, 14/4/15

1 comment:
A game in which... Orient decided to put the definition of insanity to the test in the second half by repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That involved repeatedly launching the ball long towards the opposition penalty area and expecting for something other than Rovers' gargantuan defender Rob Jones to head the ball away to safety.

It was truly bewildering to watch – especially given that in the first half the Os had knocked the ball about on the floor a bit and fashioned three big chances. Yeah, we missed all of them (no surprise there) and then conceded from a set piece (no surprise there) but thanks to results elsewhere somehow we're still not technically relegated (SURPRISE!).

Jump off your seat moment... The first-half moment when Darius Henderson performed the footballing equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack and somehow directed a point-blank strike straight at the Doncaster keeper when the whole goal was gaping at him. Still, let's be thankful for small mercies – at least he didn't pointlessly throw himself to the ground then kick the ball away to receive a yellow card. (He waited until the second half to do that.)

Give that man a medal... Now, Marvin Bartley has come in for some criticism in the past, mostly from a vocal minority consisting of everyone who's ever seen him play. But God knows the midfielder has improved of late and tonight – in the first half at least – was a battling presence and the source of some Orient's best attacking play. He also claimed the players were "disheartened" after the game, when perhaps we may have expected them to be "gutted", "mortified" or "livid". Still, at least they weren't just "a bit miffed".

Taxi for... He's only a youngster and can't be expected to single-handedly save Orient from relegation, but it wasn't Ryan Hedges's best night. And really there shouldn't be any excuse for the lack of ball control we saw tonight. I mean, it's not as if the manager is yelling incoherently towards him for the entire game, apparently trying to get him to move millimetres to the left or right. Oh, hang on...

"Fuck the technical shit"... which of course brings me to Fabio Liverani, who some might say displayed gung-ho bravado by throwing on four strikers at the death, while others might say, "But hey, if you take off both your wingers then who's left to pass the ball to them properly?" Yes, I'm still yet to see much evidence that the Italian has any idea what he's doing and he continues to spend each game micro-managing the marking at set pieces (hey, that went well!) rather than anything more visionary. Still, he said afterwards the lads are doing well in training, so it's not all bad news.

Meanwhile on Twitter... You think we've got it bad? Well, you'd be right. But not as bad as some Cardiff fans consider they've got it under Russell Slade. Here's one of the more amusing images accompanying the popular #SladeOut hashtag, as unearthed by Adam Meagher.

06 April 2015

Leyton Orient 3 Gillingham 3, 6/4/15

1 comment:
A game which... began with Andrea Dossena embarking on a crazed kamikaze mission to single-handedly relegate Orient; continued with a heroic last stand by Alex Cisak; and ended with a late Darius Henderson-inspired rally to rescue an unlikely point.

Thing is though, Orient shouldn't have to be rescuing a point at home to an average side like Gillingham but yet again our statuesque defending and wastefulness on the ball was our undoing. Sure, in the last 20 minutes we built up a head of steam – much as you would if you tried to heat up a swimming pool with a box of matches – but last-ditch fight-backs may not be enough to save Orient from relegation if we continue to be this sloppy at the back.

Josh Wright celebrates his goal 
Jump off your seat moment... Another game, another vital goal for The Only Way Is Essex reject Josh "Mark's brother" Wright. And boy did he celebrate – whooping and gesticulating like a hormonal teenager at his first Marbella boat party. Good work Josh!

Give that man a medal... Alex Cisak has impressed since coming in on loan from Burnley and appears to have given the Orient defence so much confidence that they are happy to stand around letting opposition players shoot freely at him for 90 consecutive minutes. The big Aussie must feel like he's ventured into the searing heat of the Outback with just four warm cans of Fosters for all the use his back line is, but today he was Jakupovic-esque and pulled off a series of crucial saves.

Andrea Dossena: Casual 
Taxi for... Andrea Dossena. The guy's clearly got class but the way he defends is so casual he might as well take to the pitch fully decked out in Stone Island clobber. With Gary Sawyer out for the rest of the season the Italian is going to have to start earning his dosh – fast. And when I say "fast" I mean "slightly quicker than ambling disinterestedly back towards the penalty area", which would be an improvement on today.

"Fuck the technical shit"... Now, it's easy to criticise team selection with the benefit of hindsight... so that's exactly what I'm going to do. Number one: after a battling clean sheet against Coventry, why drop Nathan Clarke for an out-of-match-practice Shane Lowry? Number two: Why rush Lloyd James back into the side when other options – Taylor? Bartley? Hell, even Pritchard (just kidding) – were available? Number three: Why leave McAnuff on the bench when he's been our most in-form winger of the last couple of months? Liverani still hasn't sorted out our defending of set pieces either. Apart from all that, love the guy!

Meanwhile on Twitter... "After setting off at the same time I did last week I'm an hour and fifteen minutes early" tweeted a clearly bewildered Darius Henderson before the game, almost as if he had never before encountered the phenomenon of external factors influencing the outcome of events. Next week: Darius becomes overheated and agitated while wearing a thick winter's coat on a sunny April day. "I didn't have this problem when I wore it in December," he tweets, highly confused.

29 March 2015

Leyton Orient 3 Port Vale 1, 28/3/15

1 comment:
A game which... played out like a trippy 60s movie, such was the mind-bending surreality of the afternoon. Where to even begin: Matt Baudry sparring with a pigeon? Matchday announcer Philip Othen being forced to read out a message from President Becchetti slagging off Darius Henderson for turning up late? Gianvito Plasmati getting on the pitch? David Mooney saying this: "In the first half I thought we were excellent"? Weirded-out, freaky shit, man.   

Let's start with the football: Orient were in fact apocalyptically atrocious in the first half. Mercifully someone appeared to spike Port Vale's half-time Powerade with LSD for the opponents played the second 45 minutes as if transfixed by the kaleidoscopic colours and shifting shapes of Brisbane Road. So while their opponents were pointing at clouds and giggling, the Os took advantage – they could hardly not – and at the end of the afternoon had three points to show for it, which thankfully proved not to be a hallucination. 

Jump off your seat moment... Dean Cox's stunning winner gets an honourable mention of course, but let's instead focus on Orient's second goal. Now, I'm not saying that the way Port Vale conceded was the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened in the whole history of Brisbane Road – that was David Mooney's woefully-missed penalty, minutes later – but by God it was cringeworthy. 

With the ball plummeting out of the sky substitute keeper Sam Johnson – whose performance suggested he was actually just a random bloke pulled out of the crowd – inexplicably stood immobile while a grateful Jake Taylor headed the ball nowhere useful, only for Vale defender Neill Collins to bewilderingly slice the ball into his own net. Guys, if we somehow stay up, you two will be fighting for our player of the season award. 

Give that man a medal... It's not often that a substitute gets a standing ovation as he takes to the pitch. In fact, as Gianvito Plasmati found out to his cost, some fans are more likely to boo our own players. (Come on guys, let's get off the lanky Italian's back. You wouldn't heckle a bowl of spaghetti bolognese before you even take a bite of it, would you? Even if every previous time you've eaten spaghetti bolognese it's made you violently ill.) 

Anyway, I'm talking the rapturous reception afforded to Lloyd James. And what a joy it was to see the return of a central midfielder who can pass the ball in a direction other than sideways or backwards. 

Taxi for... Chris Dagnall. Now, I'm not questioning the Scouse striker's hamster-in-a-wheel work-rate. But I am questioning the fact that Dagnall seems to have developed a nasty habit of hitting the woodwork when presented with a gaping open goal. He did it twice today (and once against Yeovil and once against Barnsley). And if we're going to get out of this relegation mess, we're going to need the striker to start burying his chances. Either that or we need to play Port Vale every week. 

"Fuck the technical shit"... Clearly our illustrious president Sr Becchetti has no confidence in Fabio Liverani's ability to motivate his team and today decided to take matters into his own hands. What happened was this: Darius Henderson turned up four hours late to the game after getting stuck in traffic, a fitting metaphor for the timing of his runs into the box on the football pitch. 

Presuming that the striker needed some sort of kick up his sizeable arse, the president issued instruction to matchday announcer Philip Othen to ironically thank him during the half-time announcements. ON WHAT FOOTBALLING PLANET IS THIS OK? That's right, Planet Orient. Next week: president Becchetti orders Gary Sawyer to sit on a naughty step for turning up to training with his shirt hanging out. 

Meanwhile on Twitter... "Magnanimous effort from the lads today..." wrote hipster keeper Adam Legzdins, almost certainly meaning "magnificent" not "magnanimous", unless he truly was heralding his teammates' generosity in forgiving an insult. 

Or maybe he was? Perhaps he'd mocked them for buying coffee at Starbucks or not knowing the difference between milk stout and porter ale? Who even knows anymore? Tune in next week for more from the psychedelic world of Leyton Orient... *Twilight Zone music* 

18 March 2015

Leyton Orient 0 Barnsley 0, 17/3/15

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

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.
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