28 June 2014

GUEST POST! The Italians are coming: A new dawn for Leyton Orient?

Italian businessman Francesco Becchetti is currently in talks to take over Leyton Orient by acquiring Barry Hearn’s stake in the club. Here Andy Brown runs the rule over our potential new owners…

Who is Francesco Becchetti?
Becchetti is a native of Rome, entrepreneur and CEO of BEG (Becchetti Energy Group), a multi-functional group that develops research in the field of renewable energy, processing waste (with energy objectives) and infrastructure for energy distribution. Word has it he's a billionaire.

What do we need to know about Becchetti Energy Group?

BEG (Becchetti Energy Group) is one of the leading Italian companies in the environmental field. Working in all stages of power production, this company's core business is in the production of renewable energy through the planning, production and managing of hydroelectric plants and systems for the collection and processing of urban waste, in Italy and abroad.

Any controversy? 
Not around Becchetti himself, though his uncle Manlio Cerroni - nicknamed Italy's "Trash King" - was arrested this year for trafficking waste materials.

What’s the connection between waste management and sport?
Supporting sport activities is part of BEG's DNA since its foundation, as demonstrated by the essential contribution to volleyball team Roma Volley's success.

BEG was the sponsor of the club which brought Roma to the top of the volley world in the Jubilee year, winning the championship and the CEV Cup in 2000, with Francesco Becchetti as the club's CEO. The Italian seemed keen to get on the ladder with a football club too, but an attempt to purchase Bologna fell through.

In March, according to Italian media, Becchetti undertook a trip to England with former Juventus and Roma director Gian Paolo Montali and former Siena and Catania coach Marco Giampaolo. He apparently visited with Reading, Birmingham and Leyton Orient.

What does all this mean for Orient?
It’s difficult to say what a takeover would mean for Orient. Certainly Becchetti is a very successful businessman, especially in the emerging markets of Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo around waste disposal and renewable energy.

He seems to have a passion for sport and a preferred management team, which leaves questions for Orient’s existing and very successful senior personnel. He has been keen to acquire a club, after also apparently also meeting with Reading and Birmingham earlier this year.

However, it’s unclear what Becchetti sees in Leyton Orient. Some would say exploiting the club’s potential and others would say a good foothold for a company in the UK that may be beneficial for his other business interests.

There are questions as to why attempts to buy Bologna fell through or why he decided against buying into Reading, but perhaps there are very good reasons.

One thought: if Becchetti truly is a billionaire, why has never made a play for Roma or Lazio? What is his game with Orient? Why England?

Ouch. That hurts.
Maybe details will emerge and he'll be a knight in shining armour for Leyton Orient. But then why let Moses Odubajo, our best young player, go? And Romain Vincelot (probably) too? Unless he plans to buy a bunch of Championship players?

I guess we'll find out in time, but I'm suspicious of non-homegrown benefactors, mainly because there is little reason for them to care about the club or community long term (see Cardiff, Hull, Birmingham).

That said, Barry Hearn has often stated his desire to walk away if the right buyer came on board, so it remains to be seen if both parties can agree, subject to FA approval. Should all things be agreed, uncertain times lie ahead following one of our most successful seasons in decades.

16 June 2014

Goodbye and thank you Jamie Jones: Leyton Orient will miss you. Sort of...

Shwan Jalal, Marek Stech, Paul Rachubka, Stuart Nelson…

Run through a list of some of the less illustrious names who’ve appeared between the sticks for Orient in our recent past and it’s easy to consider ourselves very lucky to have had a goalkeeper of the calibre of Jamie Jones for six seasons.

Bought as a 19-year-old in summer 2008 by Martin Ling in a momentary interlude in the manager’s obsessive but unfruitful search for a big striker, Jones established himself as number one in his second season, under new gaffer Geraint Williams.

In the 2010/11 season he was immense - pulling off countless gravity-defying saves to help Orient rise up the league and almost make the play-offs.

Shot-stopping - that was his stock-in-trade. He narrowed angles; he leapt; he clawed; he almost never spilled those low, skidding shots that regularly terrorise lower league goalkeepers.

Jones wasn’t flawless, of course - no goalkeepers are, and in League One fans have to accept some sort of fallibility in their number ones. The Scouser’s weak spot was coming off his line and commanding his area, though to be fair in his defining 2010/11 season that wasn’t particularly pronounced.

At the conclusion of that campaign Jones wasted no time in changing his Twitter bio to read: “League One goalkeeper - for now” - not exactly a chest-beating declaration of loyalty to the club that paid his wages but, hey, he was young, he was ambitious, he was a bit of a twat.

And besides, there were no knocks on the door from the Championship or the Premier League so Jones was a League One goalkeeper for a little bit longer.

And then he got crocked: a shoulder injury sustained in the summer of 2011 that wiped out all but the last five games of the coming season. Repeated recurrences and other injuries meant that Jones also missed large chunks of 2012/13 and 2013/14.

When he did play, the shot-stopping was still there, but the minor crack in his ability to command his area became a deep ravine. He reverted to the safety-first technique of punching, mostly unsuccessfully, wafting his right fist at high balls like an 11-year-old girl trying to land one on her irritating older brother.

Still, it was easy for fans to forgive the moments of aerial vulnerability when Jones would regularly keep Orient in games with his acrobatic saves. Such was his prowess when we played Swindon away this season that a deranged fan figured the only way to beat him was to come on the pitch and punch him.

Bosnia's number one: Eldin Jakupovic
But then our heads were turned in January 2014 when Bosnian Eldin Jakupovic glided into Brisbane Road like the dark, brooding love interest in a gothic romance novel.

Whether he was tearing off his line, rising majestically above the melee to claim the ball, or celebrating madly in front of opposition supporters after conceding a goal that was subsequently disallowed, Eldin was the goalkeeper that made Orient fans go gooey-eyed.

Unfortunately for Jones, after that fans could never look at him in the same way again; we averted our eyes, embarrassed yet still secretly exhilarated by our wild, whirlwind affair with Bosnia’s number one.

On his return to the team, Jones never gave less than 100 per cent, but it’s a sad truth that of the four goals Orient conceded in the play-offs, the goalkeeper was definitely at fault for two (Peterborough away and Rotherham’s first); probably at fault for another (Peterborough at home); and will be annoyed for being beaten from 35 yards by Alex Revell at Wembley

So while Jones is ambitious to play in the Championship - and touted himself to Preston to help him achieve that - it’s an unfortunate irony that were it not for his mistakes, Orient might already be there.

Still, there’s no need for Os fans to bear him any malice – like I said, Jones never gave less than 100 per cent and, arguably, is the best (permanent) keeper we’ve had at Brisbane Road in the last 30 years or so.

That said, when Orient play Preston next season, I hope that Russell Slade instructs his players to repeatedly pump high balls towards the opposition’s six-yard box. Where's Sam Parkin when you need him?

12 June 2014

Five ideas better than Greg Dyke's League Three proposals

According to FA Chairman Greg Dyke and his in-house philosopher Danny Mills, the purpose of every single football match in the whole country should be to help make the England team better. 

To that end they've proposed that Premier League B teams should be able to compete in the Football League – initially in a new League Three – as a way of nurturing English talent. 

Not to be outdone, the Football League themselves have come up with a plan to turn the Johnstone's Paint Trophy into a sort of Poundland version of the Champions League in which Premier League B teams can also compete.

I've already gone on a massive rant about why the FA's plan is both bonkers and dangerous. But then I figured: it's not fair of me to slag off their proposals if I can't come up with any alternatives myself.

Here are five ideas then, that will better help nurture English footballing talent:

1. The England's Got Talent League
Ask yourself this: who is the country’s leading visionary when it comes to developing talent? That’s right: Simon Cowell. So why not take a leaf out of the reality show impresario’s book when it come to building a national team of the future. In the England’s Got Talent League, then, matches are not decided by goals scored, but rather through the votes of a panel made up of the country’s brightest football brains - let’s say Danny Dyer, Rochelle from the Saturdays and Steve Claridge. Only the best players are allowed to proceed to next week’s fixtures. 
2. The Supernanny League One reason England always fail at major tournaments - apart from the fact all the other teams are better than us - is that our best players are either serving bans or getting sent off. The Supernanny League attempts to instil the required discipline in our squad of the future by replacing the referee with renowned TV child-minder Jo Frost. Under her authority, fouls, violent conduct, tantrums and bad language would be punished not with yellow or red cards, but by a visit to the naughty step.

3. The Ultimate Penalty Shootout League
Think about it: 1990, 1996, 1998, 2004, 2006, 2012… England almost always exit major tournaments by way of a penalty shoot-out. To address this, then, the Ultimate Penalty Shoot-Out League dispenses with all the boring passing and tackling stuff that typically makes up the first 90 minutes of a football match and instead gives each team 100 penalties. Imagine the tension when Hull City B need to score their final penalty to beat Aston Villa B on a bone-cold night at the KC Stadium.

4. The Pro-Celebrity League
England players need to perform on a world stage, in front of huge crowds and massive TV audiences. What better way to prepare our young talent, then, than to allow them to play alongside the celebrity supporters of their respective clubs? By insisting five of the 11 players in each Premier League B team are famous fans, you'd guarantee big audiences and highly-competitive football. Who wouldn't pay, for example, to watch Katy Perry try to dispossess Craig David when West Ham B take on Southampton B? Anyone? Anyone...? 

5. The Bonding League
It’s not just because England players cannot master even the most basic principles of passing and possession that we always fail at major tournaments. It’s also because the squad is riddled with the sort of in-fighting, squabbles and vendettas that always occur when Premier League players have to spend more than 10 minutes in each other’s company. To address this, then, the Bonding League dispenses with the football and instead asks the home side to invite their opponents to an evening of local culture at a venue of their choice. Imagine the friendships that could form, for example, when Stoke City B invite Crystal Palace B to a pottery-making class at a Staffordshire craft centre.

27 May 2014

GUEST BLOG! After the Lord Mayor’s Show: Where next for the “Group that never gives up”?

Instead of crying into his pint, Andy Brown - blogger for WAGU and The Two Unfortunates - has been looking at what happens next for the most successful Orient team in decades...

I write this on an overcast Bank Holiday Monday trying, as I suspect most Os fans are, to rationalise how we came so close to promotion again in a play-off final and yet fell short, for the third time in a row, to northern opponents.

Was it the West End of Wembley, the fact that the fourth team always seems to win play-offs or the fact that Slade didn’t bring on Robbie Simpson to score a 40-yard screamer in extra time?

This time we had real hope, unlike the dismal performance in 1999 or the team that fell short in 2001. Orient went into half-time with a 2-0 lead after a shaky start, but a combination of bad refereeing, Rotherham persistence and a wonder goal from ex-Orient striker Revell pegged the Os back.

Despite being the better team in extra-time, tiredness and a lack of cutting edge saw the game go to penalties, where Baudry and Dagnall missed to give promotion to Rotherham and leave us heartbroken.

Football is cruel, but in truth this game reflected our season; out ahead, only to be pegged back, then out ahead on penalties, only to be pegged back and miss out. It goes without saying that what Orient have achieved this season is phenomenal.

Joint LMA manager of the year Russell Slade has established a solid base of talented footballers that play good, passing football. With the vastly superior budgets of Wolves (and Brentford), it was always going to be hard to sustain an automatic push over 46 gruelling games, but third place was a massive achievement.

Nevertheless, the reality is we’ll be playing in League One again next season, travelling to Crewe and Scunthorpe rather than Leeds, Fulham and Middlesbrough.

As upset as I am, I’ll still get my season ticket, as I know many other Orient fans will - irrespective of what player or management changes happen in the summer. However, the question remains, where next for these players and this management team that came so close this season and how will Barry Hearn react to yesterday’s events?

Glass half-full scenario

Barry Hearn sees enough potential in Russell Slade and the key players to increase investment in the management team and playing squad to prevent fragmentation, very much as Brentford pushed on after falling short last season.

Key players Moses Odubajo and Dean Cox – even though they are under contract – stay rather than leaving for fees. Out of contract players Lloyd James and Elliot Omozusi decide to stay at the club. Hearn persuades Russell Slade to stay longer term and allows him to add to the squad in several key positions, setting Orient up well for a push on promotion again in the 2014/15 season.

Outcome: Orient finish top 6 again or pushing for automatic promotion.

Glass half-empty scenario

Russell Slade receives an offer from a Championship club and decides to leave. Offers come in for Dean Cox and Moses Odubajo and are accepted, while Elliot Omozusi and Lloyd James decide not to take up new contract offers and leave on free transfers.

A new manager needs to come in an entirely rebuild the midfield and get the new team to gel. Hearn stays true to form and invests zero in new players or improving the squad.

Outcome: Orient finish lower mid-table or fighting relegation.

Realistic scenario

Russell Slade stays. One of Cox or Odubajo leaves for good money. Orient bring in a winger to replace the departing player. James and Omozusi stay for another year. Most of this squad stays and Orient compete, once again, with a small squad.

The team doesn’t replicate this season’s success but still manages a top 10 finish. Tough decisions then need to be made in June 2015.

Outcome: Orient finish 10th

Overall it’s hard to know what to predict will happen after such an emotional day. Most of the key players are under contract, meaning that for them to leave, there will need to be good transfer fees.

But this team has been in the shop window all season, meaning a club of Orient’s size will not turn down a £1 million offer if it comes in for Moses Odubajo or a high fee for Dean Cox, both of whom are critical to this team.

Much of this also depends on Russell Slade. He was keen to talk to Barnsley when they wanted to discuss the job with him in 2011 and his stock is much higher after this season’s endeavours, which may make him hard to keep.

He may also feel he cannot go further with Orient and want a new challenge, after the disappointment of missing out in the play-offs. May and June’s movements will tell us much about the chances of this Orient team next season.

If this team stays together, there is a chance it could compete again next year. In the background, however, the Olympic Stadium and Barry Hearn’s desire to sell the club still loom large, leaving the long-term future of Orient questionable.

Orient fans are hoping the squad will stay together and grow, very much as Brentford have succeeded. But for that to happen, Hearn will need to invest even more, not just in the running of the club, but also in the playing staff, which would require a change in his philosophy or a sustainable club that succeeds on its own merits.

Either way, it has been a season to be proud of and I hope another is just around the corner. Up the Os!

26 May 2014

Play-off final: Leyton Orient 2 Rotherham United 2, 25/5/14

And so it all came down to the last kick of a ball. A season in which Orient defied odds, broke records, exceeded expectations, battled adversity and made new friends all hinged on Chris Dagnall's final spot kick.

The lifetime Orient fan in me knew he'd miss. Typical Orient, right? Two-nil up at half-time and we fucked it up. Typical Orient.

But maybe not. There was something different about this season. I sensed it first when Kevin Lisbie scored the late, late winner against Port Vale in September to preserve the winning run at the start of the campaign. The way the players, the crowd celebrated... It mattered more than usual, somehow.

The feeling built throughout the season. Coming from behind to win impressively away at Peterborough and Swindon. Grinding out four wins in a row in a bitter January. Winning the play-off semi-final on an electric night at Brisbane Road.

We had momentum, desire, a tight unit of talented, gutsy players. So when Dagnall stepped up to take that final penalty, though the lifetime Orient fan in me knew he'd miss, the deeply proud Orient fan of this season actually thought he'd score...

Play the game, not the occasion

The day didn't start that well. They say "play the game, not the occasion" and Orient did just that. Unfortunately the game they were playing appeared to be called "Let's spoon the ball into touch".

Orient celebrate Odubajo's goal
They settled down soon enough, mind - helped by Moses Odubajo's stunning goal. The celebration that followed was a strange one, as the Os players seemed to simultaneously congratulate the winger while admonishing him for taking his shirt off, much like a reluctantly aroused mother-of-the-bride forced to watch the Chippendales at her daughter's hen party.

Dean Cox's goal meant we went into half-time 2-0 up, and while no one who's watched Orient for more than three seconds of their life thought it was game over, the evidence of this season suggested this wonderful team would be able to see out a victory.

Revelling in it

It had to be, didn't it? 
But then there was Alex Revell. It had to be. Two goals for the former Orient favourite illustrated that in Rotherham, Orient had met their match.

Because ask any Millers fan the reasons behind their team's success this season and they'll tell you about their players' never-say-die attitude, their team spirit... Sound familiar? Yes, unfortunately this group never gives up either. (Though the £30 million of investment over the last five years probably helped too. Sour grapes? Don't mind if I do...)

With the scores level it was Orient who looked like they were trying to win the game (and with our penalty record this season, they had no choice) and Rotherham who were trying not to lose.

Twelve yards of heartbreak

And so it was penalties. We're shit at penalties. Though to be fair James, Lundstrum and Clarke all dispatched theirs with confidence and class. Two of Rotherham's spot kicks were what I like to call "coward's penalties" (straight down the middle) and Jamie Jones gave us temporary hope that Orient would prevail with one stunning save.

But, of course, it was not to be. No blame can be attached to Baudry and Dagnall. We would not have even been in the play-off final were it not for those two fine players.

Not so typical

So it hurts. It hurts real bad. I do not think I will ever get over this. Ever.

But let's remember that Orient have no monopoly on footballing heartbreak. Anyone who supports a club other than the handful in the world who can afford to be repeatedly successful will tell you that.

Are Orient fans feeling any worse than Brentford fans did at the same point last year? Any worse than the Peterborough fans who saw their team get relegated last season with record points? Probably not.

The boys of 05/06
In fact, there's no such thing as "typical Orient" - not really. And what I loved about yesterday and what I love about Orient are the untypical things. John Mackie, captain of the promotion-winning side of 2005/06 (nothing "typical" about that game at Oxford), galvanising his former team mates via Twitter to come and support their 2013/14 counterparts at Wembley.

Mathieu Baudry, after missing a crucial penalty, joining fans at the pub after the game to apologise and commiserate with them.

The almost 100 per cent lack of post-match recriminations from fans on Twitter and instead a groundswell of pride, honour and love for a team - heroes to a man - that has provided us with so many moments to savour in this wonderful season.

Yeah, it's shit that we're in League One again next season. This squad might get broken up. The manager might leave. We may never got a shot at the Championship like this one again.

But, you know, I wouldn't swap one second of it. Not one second. Apart from the one where Dagnall missed I suppose...

24 May 2014

Leyton Orient play-off final team 2001: Where are they now?

Eleven brave, talented warriors took to the pitch at the Millennium Stadium on 21 May 2001 for the Division Three play-off final. Unfortunately they were all wearing Blackpool shirts. 

Just kidding: there was actually a fair degree of guts and guile in that Orient side. Just not quite as much as Blackpool. Here's what the Orient players have been up to since...

The starting XI

Ashley Bayes

Who? Brilliant shot-stopping goalkeeper who quite possibly may have been a vampire, such was his aversion to crosses. Appeared to play every single game with an imaginary rope tethering him to his own goal line.
Where is he now? Goalkeeping coach at AFC Wimbledon. Released by Orient at the end of the 2001/02 season, Ash had spells at League of Ireland side Bohemian, Woking, Hornchurch, Grays Athletic, Crawley Town and Basingstoke Town. He also spent three seasons on the bench at Stevenage, although he put his time to good use.

Matthew Joseph

Who? Reliable, hard-working and classy right back in the fine tradition of Orient players so short you assume they're a ball boy until the game kicks off. Loyal Brisbane Road servant for seven seasons.
Where is he now? Released by Martin Ling at the end of the 2003/04 season, Matt went on to play one season for Canvey Island in the Conference, then a handful of games for Histon in the Conference South before retiring. After a spell as a youth coach at Tottenham Hotspur, Matt now works for the FA as a Regional Coach Development Manager. 

Matt Lockwood

Who? The goal-scoring left back, spot-kick specialist and Brisbane Road legend who, according to Barry Hearn, was a Premier League footballer playing in League Two.
Where is he now? Matt became a Premier League footballer - albeit in the Scottish Premier League. After unhappy spells at Nottingham Forest, Colchester, Barnet and Dagenham & Redbridge, he moved north of the border to sign for Dundee, and achieved promotion to the SPL with them at the end of the 2011/12 season. Currently a free agent after being released by Dundee in May 2014. We'll have you back, Matt!

Dean Smith

Who? Defensive rock who, though he could be outpaced by an overweight six-year-old, was a fearless, committed performer with a sizeable football brain.
Where is he now? After moving from Orient to Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship, and then playing his final season for Port Vale in League One, Smith became Orient's Youth Team coach and then assistant to manager Martin Ling, before the pair of them got the boot in January 2009. He moved to former club Walsall to be Head of Youth before being appointed manager in January 2011. He remains there to this day.

Simon Downer

Who? Young centre back - just 19 years old in the play-off final - who, when not injured (which was most of the time), had a fair degree of class about him.
Where is now? Sent out on loan to Aldershot in 2004, Downer left Orient at the end of that season and, over the subsequent years, became intimately acquainted with the treatment tables of Hornchurch, Weymouth, Grays Athletic, Wivenhoe Town and Sutton United. He temporarily retired to become a bricklayer but came back to play fairly regularly for Rushden & Diamonds in the Conference from January 2009 until the end of the 2009/10 season. He's still playing now for Sutton United in the Conference South.
Find him on Twitter: @sidowner

Andy Harris

Who? Gritty and talented South African midfielder who would regularly find himself on the end of loose balls at the edge of the opponents' penalty area, which he would summarily dispatch straight into Row Z with 100 per cent accuracy. Hence why it took him almost 200 games to score his first ever professional goal.
Where is he now? Let go by Paul Brush in 2003, Harris had spells with Chester City, Forest Green Rovers, Weymouth and Eastleigh. He returned to Weymouth in the for the 2009/10 season in the Conference South, where he briefly served as assistant manager and then caretaker manager. Harris has an IQ of 153, putting him in the top 2 per cent of the population, and appeared on an ITV show Britain's Brainiest Footballers in 2002. He's now putting his grey matter to good use as Head Coach of the football academy at Kingston Maurward College in Dorset.

Wim Walschaerts

Who? Exotic foriegn whizz kid... Well, maybe not, but a solid, hard-working midfielder with an unpronouceable name.
Where is now? The play-off final was Wim's last game for Orient, after which he returned to his native country and played for a handful of tongue-twisting Belgian sides, including KFC Strombeek in the second division. For Dutch-speakers, this is Wim being interviewed a few years ago when he played for K Berchem Sport. At the grand old age of 38 he was still playing for and captaining K Ternesse in the sixth tier of Belgian football, but finally retired at the close of the 2010/11 season.

David McGhee

Who? Defender-cum-midfield enforcer, David was nicknamed 'Mad Dog' because, well, he had tattoos and stuff. Consistent performer and often thrown up front by Tommy Taylor in the last five minutes of games Orient were losing, usually to no discernible effect. 
Where is he now? Off the radar. Released by Orient in 2002, he went on to play two seasons for Canvey Island in the Isthmian League Premier Division, then another for Chelmsford City at the same level. He played for Wivenhoe in the Isthmian League Division One South in the 2006/07 season.

Scott Houghton

Who? Chippy and chubby midfielder with a lot of bluster and the occasional moment of effectiveness, such as his goal in the play-off final.
Where is he now? Gave Tommy Taylor an earful for substituting him at the Millennium Stadium and was subsequently shipped out in February 2002. After seven appearances for Halifax Town and then handful more for Stevenage Borough, Scott decided it was a fair cop and became a policeman in Peterborough. He remained a fixture in non-league football, however, playing in the United Counties League Premier Divison for Wootton Blue Cross, Blackstones, St Neots (where he was also assistant manager and manager) and Arlesey Town (where he was also assistant manager). Scott also carved out a new career as a reality TV star in the Sky One show Cop Squad.
Find him on Twitter: @ScottHoughton71

Chris Tate

Who? The frizzy-haired striker from Scarborough who scored a wonder goal against Barnet in the run-up to the play-off final but was widely regarded by fans as hard-working, committed and mostly useless. Nonetheless, scored what remains the fastest ever goal in a play-off final to put Orient 1-0 up after 27 seconds.
Where is he now? Tate fell down the pecking order in the 2001/02 season to 37th-choice striker in Tommy Taylor's enormous, though mostly ineffective, squad. He was loaned out to Stevenage Borough and Chester City, but enjoyed something of a rennaisance under Paul Brush in 2002/03. Shipped out by Martin Ling at the end of the 2003/04 season, Tate signed for Mansfield Town but played only four games in 2004/05 and then spent the next two seasons playing in the lower tiers of Swedish football. Returing to the UK, he signed for Yorkshire side Goole Town in the Northern Premier League Division One South at the start of the 2006/07 season, and 
scored on his league debut. Retired at the end of the 2008/09 season and now runs a pub in his home town of York.

Jabo Ibehre

Who? Fans' favourite and Brisbane Road enigma. A striker who could confound defenders with breathtaking trickery, pace and strength, while at the same time spooning the ball over the crossbar with his elbow.
Where is he now? After spending the 2008/09 season at Walsall, Jabo moved to MK Dons. Despite a couple of loan spells at Southend and Stockport County, Jabo's become something of fans' favourite at Stadium MK and helped the team reach the play-offs in 2011/12. He moved to Colchester United in the 2012/13 season where he remains today.
Find him on Twitter: @ibehre

On the bench

Scott Barrett

Who? Reliable journeyman goalkeeper who joined Orient at the start of the 1999/2000 season from Gillingham. Mostly played back-up to Ashley Bayes.
Where is he now? After a long spell as first-choice keeper in the 2001/02 season, Barrett left Orient to become assistant manager at Grays Athletic alongside gaffer Mark Stimson. Since then, like a loyal puppy dog, Barrett has followed Stimson wherever he's gone, from Stevenage Borough to Gillingham to Barnet to Ryman Premier League club Thurrock, where he remains today.

John Martin

Who? A local East End lad done good - well, ok, anyway. Martin came up through the ranks at Orient and had a fair degree of promise, hampered only by the fact he had the all the physical stature of an 11-year-old girl.
Where is he now? After leaving Brisbane Road at the end of the 2002/03, Martin had unsuccessful stints at Farnborough Town and Hornchurch. Five happier seasons followed, where the midfielder played fairly regularly for Grays Athletic and then Stevenage Borough in the Conference. (Along with a brief loan spell at Ebbsfleet United.) At the start of the 2009/10 season Martin joined Chelmsford City in the Conference South, where he stayed for two seasons. In 2011/12 he played three games for Harlow Town, but these days plies his trade as a black cab driver.

Ahmet Brkovic

Who? Classy Croation midfielder who spent two seasons at Orient without, apparently, ever being fully trusted by manager Tommy Taylor.
Where is he now? Brkovic's substitute appearance in the play-off final was his last in an Orient shirt. He went on to have seven seasons at Luton, scoring 15 goals in their promotion season of 2004/05 and then a further eight in their first season in the Championship. In 2008/09 he appeared for Millwall in League One, before returning to Croatia to play for third tier side HNK Dubrovnik 1919, and he hasn't been heard of since. Presumably he's still searching for his missing vowel.

Steve Castle

Who? Leyton Orient legend and notorious pizza thief, Castle once scored 18 goals from midfield in a season. His third spell at Brisbane Road, however, was riddled with injuries and he was limited to a handful of appearances, including 23 minutes from the bench in the play-off final.
Where is he now? Loaned out to Stevenage Borough for a few games in the 2001/02 season, Castle returned to Orient to find he wasn't part of new manager Paul Brush's plans. In June 2002 he became player/coach for then Isthmian League side St Albans City and, after a brief spell as assistant manager at Peterborough - was made player/manager a year later, remaining there until October 2005. Since then he's managed Essex Olympian League side Tately FC, St Albans City again, Essex Senior League side Takeley FC and is now the gaffer at Southern League side Royston Town,  combining his duties with driving a cab in Bishop's Stortford.

Billy Beall

Who? Martin Ling had Loick Pires, Paul Brush had Tom Newey... and Tommy Taylor had Billy Beall. That is, a player who seems to enjoy the unwavering faith of the manager, to the absolute bemusement of any fan that's actually seen them play.
Where is he now? Billy Beall confounded the Brisbane Road critics by going to have a successful career in the Premier League... Just kidding, after leaving Orient in 2002 the midfielder plummetted towards pub football with spells at Cambridge City and then Farnborough Town. Released from the Hampshire side at the end of the 2003/04 season and not heard of since.

They should have been playing, if they hadn't stupidly got themselves suspended...

Steve Watts

Who? Preening but sometimes effective striker and part-time model who, when he wasn't being outpaced by the opposition team's mascot during the warm-up, was hanging out with Jordan in dodgy nightclubs. Watts' goal in the play-off semi-final against Hull City helped Orient reach the Millennium Stadium, but the two immature yellow cards he received in the same game ensured he was banned for the final itself.
Where is he now? After scoring 12 goals in the 2001/02 season, Watts was loaned out to Margate, Welling United, Lincoln City and Dagenham & Redbridge, before signing for Shrewsbury Town in March 2003. He then had spells at Dagenham & Redbridge and St Albans City, before returning to former club Fisher Athletic in the summer of 2004, scoring 95 goals in two and a half seasons and helping his team to promotion to the Conference South. He then played for Bromley, Eastleigh and Sutton United before retiring at the end of the 2010/11 season. Steve's now a professional poker player. Like his hair, however, the modelling work has receded.

Carl Griffiths

Who? Orient's best striker since Peter Kitchen. "He'd do fuck all, but he'd score a goal," was manager Tommy Taylor's opinion of 'Super' Carl Griffiths, who possibly ruined Orient's chances of play-off victory by getting sent off for violent conduct in a league game against Mansfield Town, ensuring he'd be suspended for the final.
Where is he now? Two seasons ago Griff was still playing - and scoring - at 39 years old for Barkingside FC in the Essex Senior League. His journey there encompassed two injury-hit seasons at Luton Town and then various spells at non-league clubs Harlow Town, Heybridge Swifts, King's Lynn, Braintree Town, Brentwood Town (where Carl also served as manager) and Maldon Town. In November 2010 he was appointed as manager of Ryman Premier League side Aveley FC, who he duly got relegated before being shown the door in November 2011. These days Carl runs his own travel company and scouts for the West Ham academy.

The manager

Tommy Taylor

Who? Former Orient player - a highly classy defender - who managed the club from November 1996 to October 2001, reaching two play-off finals and building a squad of what appeared to be about 350 players, a handful of which were good.
Where is he now? Since leaving Orient Tommy has been on the managerial merry-go-round, taking the reins at Darlington, Farnborough Town, Seba United in Jamaica, King's Lynn, Boston United and the Grenada national team. Tommy also had a brief three-month spell as Director of Football at Spanish fourth tier side FC Torrevieja in 2010, before taking the reins at Evo-Stik League Division One South side Belper Town from May to September 2011. He's currently managing Finnish second division side Palloseura Kemi Kings.

23 May 2014

Play-off final: The ten ways Orient can beat Rotherham

So in advance of Orient's biggest game in decades I thought I'd calm nerves by revealing 10 ways our east London heroes can win at Wembley. Worryingly I could only think of five. 

Luckily Os fan and Times journalist James Masters came up with another five, so together we present you the cold hard evidence that Orient will be in the Championship next season. Possibly. 

No need to dress up for the
Wembley cameras, Romain
1. Play the game, not the occasion
Yes it's Wembley, yes it's a big day out and yes, there will be half and half scarves, but it's important the players treat the game like any other. That means no waving to your loved ones on the way out of the tunnel, no stopping on the edge of the area to check out the big screen to see if your hair is in place and no smiling in the tunnel at your opponents. It's just another game. You're there to win - Wembley is not a place for losers.
James Masters

2. Out-sing the Millers
If you're one of the 19,000 new fans Orient seem to have acquired in the space of the week, you've got some catching up to do to learn all of our terrace chants. To be fair, that catching up will take you about seven seconds given we only have about three songs, but you'll need to sing them loudly and proudly to drown out the famously catchy Rotherham ditty "It's right grim oop north, but if thi'ivver does owt for nowt, allus do it for thissen".
Matt Simpson 

"We've got THIS much money!"
3. Don't mention the money
Steve Evans, who is rumoured to sleep in Egyptian cotton sheets, much to the dismay of the local UKIP councillors, hates nothing more than hearing how Rotherham have bought their success. The Millers have only paid for one player in their squad - one more than Orient, mind you. Forget the fact that chairman Tony Stewart has pumped in £30 million in the past five years and built a brand new stadium. Compare that to Orient who can't even get the Wi-Fi to work in the press box after running out of 10p pieces.
James Masters

4. Take out Revell 
Though there is no statistical evidence for it whatsoever, it is 100 per cent fact that all footballers score a goal whenever they play against a former club. Behold Rotherham's Alex Revell, then: he of chiselled jaw, ice-white teeth and one profitable season at Brisbane Road. The big striker has been strength training by trying to roll Steve Evans up a slight incline and will be a menace to Nathan Clarke and Mathieu Baudry throughout the final. Our defensive duo will need to be at their eye-bulging best.
Matt Simpson 

5. Don't concede early
You can't win the game in the first 10 minutes but you can certainly lose it. Don't start like Arsenal did last week at Wembley - still in the changing room with the headphones on whiling away time to what today's kids call "hip hop". Yes, Arsenal fought back but Orient probably aren't going to be able to bring Rosicky and Wilshere off the bench. Take a breath, stay calm and do what you've done all season. It's just another game.
James Masters 

Shaun Batt: unpredictable 
6. Unleash the Battman
When Russelll Slade brings Shaun Batt off the bench with 20 minutes to go - you can set your watch by it if you like - the Rotherham defence will know they're in for a rough time. The striker is delightfully unpredictable: sometimes, for example, he'll knock the ball 30 yards ahead of himself and then charge after it and sometimes he'll knock the ball 35 yards ahead of himself and charge after it. Two of Orient's three play-off semi-final goals were set up by the Battman, and he's sure to have a say in the final one way or the other.
Matt Simpson

7. Back our big man
Big games call for big game players and you won't find many men bigger than Kevin Dearden or Steve Evans. Dearden has grown into his role as a figure of fun, serenading fans with chants regarding his rather rotund waistline. Evans, whose list of misdemeanours is as long as his daily order a the local kebab shop, is far more prone to explode and lead to allegations of him pulling down his trousers. Wembley are apparently so concerned about the two men meeting that they've been given separate departure times to walk out the tunnel.
James Masters 

This guy's lined up to take a penalty for Orient
8. Do not let the game go to penalties
A word of advice: if the scores are still locked after extra-time you might as well cut your losses, leave early and beat the traffic rather than watch Orient lose a penalty shoot-out. The Os have already missed six out of 11 this season and in the vain hope of finding a reliable spot-kicker have rotated the duties between Mooney, Lisbie, Omozusi, James, Ada the groundsman and an 11-year-old boy who looked to have promise when he put one past Theo the Mascot in a sponsored shoot-out at half-time.
Matt Simpson

9. Keep it in the family
While Rotherham's "comical" duo the Chuckle Brothers might have got a giggle back in the 1990s with their famous "to me, to you" gag, Orient supporters the Lloyd-Webbers have brought the house down with their musical talent. While Julian chills out on the cello, Andrew has raked in the cash with Evita, Aspects of Love and Starlight Express - as well as Stephen Ward the musical, inspired by the Wolves and Ireland left-back. Nobody does a showstopper like Lloyd-Webber and his experience will be valuable to the Os on the biggest stage of them all - Wembley.
James Masters 

Robbie Simpson: secret weapon
10. Rely on our secret weapon
Every final needs a hero, and could it be that on Sunday that hero comes from the most unlikely place? Has Russell Slade been keeping Robbie Simpson well away from the pitch in the latter half of the season purely to preserve his strength and fitness for the ultimate play-off cameo? The answer is definitely no, but if Orient are losing with minutes to go, maybe - just maybe - the manager will throw one last roll of the dice and bring on Simpson. And then fate awaits...
Matt Simpson 

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