22 May 2014

GUEST BLOG! "Orient is not just a club. It's a family"

In a tear-jerking guest blog, Orient fan and Times journalist James Masters explains why he's got "O's CD"... 

EVERY MORNING when I leave the house, I walk down the steps and slowly turn full circle while clapping a non-existent crowd.

I wave to the bushes, who in my mind represent the thousands of fans lining the stands, and then readjust my tie and walk out onto the main road as if nothing had happened.

Each and every day, I replicate that  same routine and yes, I know it's not what you would call normal, but I don't care. I do it anyway.

It is not so much a case of OCD - rather what I've termed as O'S CD.

It has been that way, more or less, since I can remember and after 30 years, it's probably never going to change.

Consumed by a unhealthy and obsessive love for Leyton Orient, I somehow believe that every little thing I do is connected to the success of the club.

In itself, that is ridiculous and yet, I cannot stop.

On Sunday, when Orient face Rotherham in the League One play-off final, I am sure that I will not be alone in performing such rituals, for only pirates could be classed as more superstitious than football fans.

The dream of a victory at Wembley is one that we've all held dear for more years than we care to remember.

Wembley 1999: Didn't quite work out
In 1999, Wembley only brought misery. We consoled ourselves with a reassuring "next time we'll do it".

Next time came around just two years later at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium and again it ended in defeat - a defeat which still rankles to this day.

"This year it will be different," is what I keep telling myself. And for once, I believe those words.

This time, older, ever slightly more mature, evidently balder and having somewhat miraculously managed to convince a lady to enter into an adult relationship with me, the realisation that it's not all about winning has finally revealed itself.

If football was all about winning then I'd probably not have plumped for Orient.

What I've come to learn is that, in all honesty, it's not even about football. It's about feeling like you belong.

It's about the four-year-old child who will arrive at Wembley and believe every week supporting Orient will be full of grandeur and glamour.

It's about the middle-aged supporter who, consumed by such bitter memories of years gone by and scarred with anguish, will drink in every last drop of the day knowing it may never come again.

It's about those who saw the East End blown to smithereens during the Blitz and sought refuge by clinging to the precarious fortunes of their local club.

It is about those who arrived as refugees from the shtetls and shtiebels of Eastern Europe and found somewhere they could call home.

It is about the keyboard warriors, the teenage tearaways, the romantics, the dreamers. It's about every single one of us.

For whichever walk of life we come from, and they are vast and plentiful, we all find ourselves searching for the same destination.

Leyton Orient is not just a football club. It is a family, a community, a place where people feel they belong. There is a togetherness, an atmosphere which is truly special, and a management which embraces those around it at every opportunity.

I've watched these players produce performances which they had no right to produce. I've witnessed displays of courage and resilience which no other Orient team has managed.

But it's not what they do on the pitch, but what they do off it, which helps the club cement itself at the epicentre of the local community.

For while the spectre of the Olympic Stadium and West Ham's impending move casts a shadow, this club strains ever sinew to reach the light and blossom in the harshest of times.

I've watched David Mooney spend hours in a care home carefully reassuring a 99-year-old fan that he will bring a trophy to show him at the end of the season.

I've seen Elliot Omozusi, a man who went to jail and did his time, emerge as a stronger person with a determination that the younger generation do not make the same mistakes as he once did.

I've heard of Russell Slade taking time out to send birthday cards to an 88-year-old supporter because he knows the importance of what 'community' means.

This is a club which has been reborn. It is a club which has had its very DNA transformed in the past year by Slade, a man who has understood what Leyton Orient is all about.

It has never been about solely winning - that much is obvious from the club's history - it is about making each and every person feel like they have a place they can call home.

It is about making each and every person, from the players to the supporters, feel that they are all in it together in a way George Osborne could only dream of.

Every single cog is as important whether that be Kevin Lisbie in attack, the famous bearded contingent who spend the entire contest stroking their fancy follicles, or the lady in the East stand who spends the entire 90 minutes reading her book.

Slade has woven together a spirit which has not been seen at Brisbane Road in many a year - and all that while opponents have waited for Orient's run to come to a shuddering halt.

That may yet come to pass at Wembley although defeat is scarcely worth contemplating.

But if the worst should happen, then ponder this.

At a time where the game's authorities consider introducing 'B' teams and a loan system which would render clubs as feeder sides and at a time where many 'smaller' clubs are struggling financially, the success of Orient is inspiring for real football fans across the country.

Not a single penny spent on players, no players in the League One Team of the Year, patronised whenever possible and consistently written off at every opportunity. But this group never gives up.

As Orient put Peterborough to the sword in the play-off semi-final, the Sky commentator coined the phrase, "The small club with a big heart."

A small club with a big heart perhaps, but don't define Orient by its size. Not any more. Define Orient by its ambitions.

Define it as the club which brings people together, which helps each and every person find their place in a jigsaw which only appears to grow with each passing day. It does not belong to you or I - it belongs to each and every one us.

And it is with that in mind that I will walk out my door on Sunday, jog down the steps, and slowly clap the non-existent crowd.

I will wave to the bushes, imagining thousands draped in red and white, chanting vociferously as I 'enter' Wembley stadium.

I'll adjust my tie, take a deep breath and then walk out onto the main road as if nothing has happened.

It may sound like madness to you, but I can't say I've ever felt like I belonged anywhere else.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...