02 August 2011

Leyton Orient's 10 worst summer signings of the century

Orient, it's fair to say, have a pretty mixed record in the summer transfer market. Sometimes we'll sign a player who turns out to be dud, while at other times we'll sign a player who turns out to be a dud, but then miraculously goes on to play in the Premier League.

And before you start complaining, this is about performances in an Orient shirt, rather than the quality of the player over the course of their career.

Here, then, after literally seconds of painstaking research, is my top 10 worst summer signings of the century...

10. Lee Thorpe (signed summer 2002)

The theory: The summer of 2002 was the chance for new manager Paul Brush to throw off the shackles of the Tommy Taylor era, to begin a brave new world at Brisbane Road, to bring pride back to Leyton Orient. But instead of all that he signed Lee Thorpe.
The reality: While the ex-Lincoln man was definitely the more effective of his occasional strike partnership with Gary Taylor-Fletcher, that is essentially like claiming that Paris Hilton is an intellectual giant when compared to a lamppost.
Where is he now? After floating around League Two for a number of years, Thorpe made 20 appearances for Evo-Stik Division One North side AFC Fylde, before retiring from football in December 2011 to concentrate on coaching.

9. Alan White (2004)

The theory: Martin Ling's first full season in charge of Orient found him trying to shore up a defence that had shipped 65 league goals during the previous campaign. Key to this was ex-Colchester United centre back Alan White.
The reality: White helped Ling's Orient ship 67 league goals over the course of the season.
Where is he now? After a few seasons of League Two kick and rush for various clubs including Notts County and Darlington, White signed for Blyth Spartans in the Conference North in 2011 and scored an own goal on his debut. Was transferred to fellow Conference North outfit Harrogate Town in 2012 and turned out a handful of times for them last season.

8. Adrian Patulea (2009)

The theory: "Adrian Patulea is an out-and-out goal scorer," said manager Geraint Williams on signing the Romanian from Lincoln City in 2009. "He just loves being in and around the 18-yard box."
The reality: Adrian certainly did love being in and around the 18-yard box and could regularly be seen there during the substitutes' half-time kickabouts. When actually involved in a game, Patulea - who laboured under the nickname Dracula - was about as useful as a vegetarian buffet to a vampire.
Where is he now? After failing to impress at Hereford United, Adrian returned to his native Romania in August 2011 to play for second tier side FC Farul Constanta, before joining CSMS Lasi - apparently a football club and not, as the name suggests, the Romanian police force's special dog unit.

7. Aaron Brown (2010)

The theory: For his first full season in charge, boss Russell Slade needed to shore up a back line that had nearly got Orient relegated. Eschewing the Brisbane Road tradition of signing defenders under 5ft 6in, he plumped for promising Aldershot big lad Aaron Brown.
The reality: Brown spent the majority of the season on the bench, occasionally lumbering inanely up the touchline like a school kid with a growth spurt who's not allowed to play with the other boys in case he breaks them. On the pitch, he almost single-handedly lost Orient's FA Cup tie against non-league Droylsden.
Where is he now? Aaron returned to Aldershot for the 2011/12 season, where he played 10 games before, presumably in a case of mistaken identity, he was snapped up by Graham Westley's Preston. Although playing four games for the Lilywhites - including one as striker! - he was released as the end of the season and joined Maltese side Floriana, who didn't bother to pay him. Joined Irish side Limerick in March 2013.

6. Jamie Cureton (2011)

The theory: Despite scoring 18 goals in the 2010/11 season, 37-year-old Scott McGleish was released on account of his ageing joints. Russell Slade presumably wanted a sprightly youngster to lead his attack, so he signed 35-year-old Jamie Cureton.
The reality: Orient's new tactics for that season of playing 4-4-FUCKING LUMP IT hardly suited a proven goal poacher like Cureton. That said, on the rare occasions the former Exeter man did find himself with the ball at his feet in front of goal he showed all the prowess of a stage-frightened eight-year-old asked to deliver the Battle of Agincourt speech from Shakespeare's Henry V. He scored one meaningless goal in 19 meaningless appearances.
Where is he now? About to start banging them in for Cheltenham Town in League Two, having netted 15 times for Exeter City in 2012/13.

5. Michael Symes (2012)

The theory: Perceiving that League One had become a lot more physical, Russell Slade wanted to bring in some strength up front.
The reality: Symes had strength, it was just all the other skills required of a professional footballer that were missing. Imagine going out to buy an iPad and coming back with an abacus. Symes was that abacus, and you could count on him to be 15 yards off the pace, lumbering round the pitch like an overweight hippopotamus woozily trying to shake off the effects of a tranquiliser dart.
Where is he now? Back at Brisbane Road after a loan spell at Burton Albion and desperate to show what he can do. Which is apparently putting 37 doughnuts in his mouth at the same time.

4. James Scowcroft (2009)

The theory: "He's clever, he can lead the line really well for us," said manager Geraint Williams of his new signing James Scowcroft in the summer of 2009. Williams wanted a striker with experience, and there was no denying that the former Crystal Palace man had pedigree.
The reality: Scowcroft had pedigree, but apparently it was Pedigree Chum. Or at least something was weighing him down. Zero goals in 26 appearances tells its own story.
Where is he now? After a brief spell at Ryman Premier League outfit Bury Town on a pay to play deal - he paid them, presumably - Scowcroft retired from football. Now coaches at Ipswich Town and writes for The Independent.

3. Joe Dolan (2005)

The theory: Martin Ling set to put right his frankly abysmal record of signing centre backs with the capture of 6ft 4in Joe Dolan in 2005. A former Chelsea trainee and fixture in the Millwall defence, what could possibly go wrong?
The reality: What could possibly go right? This hulking mass of walking ineptitude made only two first team appearances, the second of which found him in a battle with Bristol Rovers' Junior Agogo that was so painfully mismatched it was like watching Vladimir Klitschko go 12 rounds with Dale Winton.
Where is he now? Joe has played for 12 clubs since leaving Orient, mostly in the Conference South. He returned to Brisbane Road last season with Bromley for an FA Cup match, then went on to play for Havant & Waterlooville, scoring an injury-time winner that saved them from relegation in their last game of the 2011/12 season. They rewarded him by not renewing his contract, and he's since retired from playing. Now Head of Education at Crystal Palace Football Club. (Insert your own joke here.)

2. Clayton Fortune (2006)

The theory: Orient had just been promoted to League One, had lost Gabriel Zakuani to Fulham and were relying on the creaking legs of John Mackie at the back. Help was needed, and Martin Ling deemed that that help was going to come from Port Vale man Clayton Fortune.
The reality: Even now Orient fans still scratch their head in bemusement over Clayton Fortune. Did Ling actually intend to sign his cousin Jonathan Fortune? Was he being filmed for a Channel 4 Faking It documentary? Was the whole thing a dream? Over the two years that Fortune was one of Orient's highest paid players he turned out a grand total of 10 times, each and every one a pantomime horse display of comedy defending.
Where is he now? Played for Weston-super-Mare in the Conference South before making seven appearances for Aldershot in 2010/11. Retired from football and now describes himself as "Agent. Coach. Retail Supervisor." Presumably working in JD Sports, then.

1. Gary Taylor-Fletcher (2001)

The theory: When manager Tommy Taylor saw Gary Fletcher (as he was then) turn out for Northwich Victoria against the Os in the 2000/01 FA Cup he presumably thought to himself, "One day that boy's going to play in the Premier League." £50,000 later and the striker was turning out in an Orient shirt.
The reality: While Tommy Taylor spent 2010/11 admiring Taylor-Fletcher on Match Of The Day and getting a tattoo proclaiming 'I told you so' on his forehead, Orient fans can only shudder at the memory of two seasons of crimes against football so ghastly that even Hannibal Lecter might have thought them a bit excessive.
Where is he now? Regularly rubbing Orient fans' faces in the dirt while playing for Blackpool.


  1. And there I was looking forward to the new season...

    Hadland's goal was a cracker though.

  2. Still maintain Fletcher wasn't as bad for us as everyone makes out. Used incredibly badly by both Taylor and Brush and had something about him, rather than just being outright shite like the rest of this list.

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  3. You could always see that taylor-Fletcher was a decent player playing for a team that didn't play football . How was it meant to work when orients tactics for the time was to kick the ball into the corner and box in the throw in ..

  4. i would still insert melligan in that list. maybe you can do a top 10 martin ling's worst signings

  5. My logic for putting Taylor-Fletcher at number one was this: Clearly he is a decent player (as were Danny Granville and James Scowcroft in their time) but the list is about their performances in an Orient shirt. Also, there's the question of value and expectation. Taylor-Fletcher cost £50k, wore the number nine shirt and arrived with great fanfare. Then he was resolutely atrocious. Hence the number one spot.

  6. Paul Terry could be one as well! and i know we didnt buy loick pires but why we kept him for so long i dont know! plus Aaron Brown should be number one he is awful soo slow!

  7. I remember at Droylsden sitting in front of the non substitutes travelling O's squad who verbally rubbished him. And yet on an awful night and an almost frozen pitch in which he had an atrocious game he was one of the few who played with vigour and energy and enthusiasm.

    A late goal earned a replay that led to the only financially profitable season of Bazza's ownership, so just maybe his involvement in that one game had a critical effect of 'upping' the play of those around him.

    At the time he played with the energy if not skill that Slade seemed to be seeking. What interested me about him, was that as far as Slade was concerned he was well known to him having been in his team at Yeovil.

    He left Yeovil(Slade) on bad terms but nonetheless extracted Brown - I wonder why, exactly?

  8. Scowcroft is also a very regular and major contributor to the Sports pages of the East Anglian Daily Times.

    I particularly recall them giving out free ones at Colchester when O's played and there was much contributed by him in that issue but not a word about Orient!


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  10. Here's some that would easily have made it into my top ten:

    1) Vaughan Ryan
    2) Colin West
    3) David Stride
    4) Micheal Symes
    5) Tony Kelly
    6) Justin Channing
    7) Andy Harris
    8) Danny Chapman
    9) Jamie Cureton
    10) Les Sealey

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