29 November 2015

Leyton Orient 1 AFC Wimbledon 1, 28/10/15

Two of Hendon's substitutes against Wimbledon
A game in which... Orient went 1-0 up and then Ian Hendon substituted off the whole team and replaced them with 11 local bricklayers with the specific task of swiftly walling up the goal. I'm joking, of course: Ian Hendon's substitutions actually made even less sense than that and the fact that the manager was so ready to batten down the hatches at home against an average AFC Wimbledon side – even before we went down to 10 men – shows either a total lack of ambition or total lack of tactical nous. I'm opting for both. 

Jump off your seat moment... The moment a West Stand fan quite literally did jump off his seat at the final whistle and throw a bit of run-of-the-mill, seen-it-a-thousand-times-at-a-football-match abuse at Ian Hendon. And what did the manager do? Think to himself that since fans pay their money, they're entitled to their opinion? Consider that though he disagreed with the sentiment he was a professional and should not respond? No, Ian Hendon actually came tearing back to the touchline shouting "You talking to me?" like a deranged coke-head who's seen Taxi Driver 4,328 times. He then suggested the fan come back to the dressing room and say it to his face, despite the fact the fan was already saying it to his face. Next week: Hendon puts the club chef's head in a vice as a Joe-Pesci-in-Casino-inspired lesson for serving slightly lukewarm tomato soup. 

Give that man a medal... Imagine where Orient would be without Jay Simpson? That's right, in the Guinness Book of Records for being the only club in world football history to have gotten 20 games into a season without scoring a single goal. The striker is the sole reason that Ian Hendon is able to brush aside the deep chasms of concern about Orient's on-field performances, point at the league table and blithely state "We're still in touching distance of the play-offs." 

Taxi for... Ian Hendon. Sometimes this season his tactical decision-making has been baffling, sometimes it's been bewildering, but today it was just batshit mental. Ironically, it seemed that the manager had accidentally stumbled across a central defensive partnership that was actually holding firm in loanees Cole Kpekawa and the impressive Jean-Yves M'Voto. But then, with a one-goal lead and 35 minutes to go he elected to go 5-3-2 and bring on Mathieu Baudry wearing a sign around his neck that stated: "Hey, Wimbledon, I know you haven't had a single shot on target yet but why not just attack us for the rest of the game and see if you can do any better." 

In the dug out... Have I mentioned Ian Hendon's performance today? Well, the delights don't end there, for once Orient went down to 10 men the manager felt the best policy was to sit eight players in front of Alex Cisak and then hoof the ball long to a lone target man in the hope of hitting Wimbledon on the break. So naturally the lone target man he chose was winger Blair Turgott, who is well known for his heading, strength and ability to hold the ball up. This tactical ruse precipitated such relentless Wimbledon attacks that at one point their goalkeeper Ben Wilson was able to sweep up the ball in Orient's half

Meanwhile on Twitter... "The problem with Ian Hendon being 'one of our own'" wrote fan Laurie Hann as he hit a nail on the head with a hammer, "is that we are consistently shit." 

07 November 2015

FA Cup: Leyton Orient 6 Staines Town 1, 7/11/15

A game in which... Orient and Ian Hendon proved a point. The point was that if we're playing in the Ryman Premier League in the 2018/19 season we'll probably fare reasonably well. Just kidding, no one can complain about a 6-1 victory, but I'm not sure it tells us much about the Os' prospects for the rest of the league season. As for the opposition, I'm contractually obliged to make a reference to Ali G, so let's just say big up the Staines massive for their commitment to playing attractive, passing football, despite the scoreline.

Jump off your seat moment... Now, we all know Dean Cox likes to be the big fish in a little pond, but today he must have felt like a humpback whale in a puddle such was the ease in which he slotted his 30-yard free kick into the top corner of Staines' goal.

Give that man a medal... Today saw a blistering substitute performance from Scott Kashket and proof twice over that – contrary to recent evidence – Ollie Palmer is not biologically incapable of placing a ball into an empty net. But man of the match has to be Frazer Shaw, who was faultless in defence, penetrating in attack and set up two of the goals. What a way to mark his return to the starting XI.

Taxi for... Lloyd James. What a way not to mark his return to the starting XI: he misfired passes, repeatedly got caught in possession and missed one chance that was such a sitter it was actually delivered to him via Furniture Village.

In the dug out... Was Ian Hendon resting first choice players or were these his new first choice players? Has the diamond been ditched for good or was 4-4-2 simply the order of the day against Staines? Would James and Payne really play together in central midfield in a league match? No one knows the answer to these questions, least of all Ian Hendon.

Meanwhile on Twitter... Not only is Orient president Francesco Becchetti wanted by the Albanian authorities for fraud and money-laundering, but he's also under curfew until a hearing on 7 December. It's not all bad news though, because fan Fred Nathan has some friendly advice: "If I was him, I'd negotiate so he could be locked in his house at 3pm most Saturdays."

01 November 2015

Leyton Orient 0 Accrington Stanley 1, 31/10/15

A game in which... the entire Orient team scooped out their own brains with a spoon and placed candles inside their empty skulls in an apparent attempt to give Accrington a Halloween scare. It didn't work: the visitors needed no tricks and treated themselves to the easiest three points they're likely to get all season.

With ghastly defending, horrific attacking and an eerie absence of tactics, this was a bloodcurdling performance from Ian Hendon's team. Yes, the league table says we're still in the play-off places, but 11 points in the last 11 games paints a truer picture of the scale of our gruesome predicament.

Jump off your seat moment... Orient had one clear-cut chance in the entire game. One. Tragically that chance fell to Connor Essam, who would likely not score a goal were he to play football infinitely in a time-space continuum. Now, I'm not saying Essam has a head like a 50p piece, because that would be a hideous slur on a 50p piece, which can theoretically only spin a ball off in one of seven random directions. But there really is little point in the defender coming up for corners if – like today – he can't convert into an open net from two yards.

Essam and Baudry 
Give that man a medal... Dean Cox had to spend only another pointless 30 minutes or so on Ian Hendon's naughty step before the manager introduced him to the pitch, albeit bizarrely in place of the one player – John Marquis – who'd looked vaguely effective in the opening salvos of the game. And, God knows, once there the winger tried his little heart out, but must have felt like he'd arrived late at a Halloween party at which all his friends were taking their zombie costumes a bit too literally.

Taxi for... "Bradley Pritchard is a central midfielder and that's where he'll play," lied Ian Hendon at the start of the season before repeatedly sticking the former Charlton man out on the right where – as numerous former Orient managers have discovered and yet bizarrely ignored – he is utterly ineffective. The gaffer has now tried 4,567 different formations in his 18 games in charge, all of which contain both Pritchard and his footballing doppelgänger Sammy Moore in one guise or another. Unless Hendon knows of some ancient curse that says the hounds of hell will be unleashed on Brisbane Road should the pair ever be separated, it might be an idea to try dropping one of them.

In the dug out... Now, I am not suggesting that Ian Hendon should be sacked. (Though Becchetti pulled the trigger on Russell Slade for a run of results far less damaging than the current one.) But it would be helpful if the manager could give fans the slightest sense that he actually knows what he's doing rather than reverting to Liverani-esque behaviour such as inexplicably dropping star performers; publicly blaming his players in post-match press conferences; and double training sessions. What next: "Big house in the box"? The return of Gianvito Plasmati?

Meanwhile on Facebook... It's half-time and you're enjoying a Brisbane Road burger (ok, stay with me on this, you're going to have to use a bit of imagination). You need a little sit down, and where better to do it than the opposition dug out, as the fan in this video proves. Minutes later a pair of ever-vigilant stewards intervene, although should the interloper have chosen the home dug out they probably wouldn't have bothered. Tactically he may have done a better job than Ian Hendon in the second half...

17 October 2015

Leyton Orient 2 Oxford United 2, 17/10/15

A game in which... Orient's first half performance wasn't just dire, it was a stain on the whole of human history, like the Crusades, the Black Death or Amanda Holden. In fact, it was worse than that: it was a display of Fabio Liverani-esque ineptitude. That the Os rallied in the second half, showed some fight and came away with a point should be commended, but let that not paper over the cracks. Seven points from our last eight games is relegation form.

Jump off your seat moment... A first senior goal for youngster Scott Kashket, who was just a twinkle in his father's eye when Orient last played Oxford in League Two, nine years ago. He won the man of the match award in the Supporters Club too – quite something given he was only on the pitch for 43 seconds – and was soaked in Champagne by Mr Becchetti for his troubles. What's the president going to do if Kashket actually wins us a match one day – piss on him?

Give that man a medal... Ollie Palmer continues to confound. Put him in the starting line up and he trudges up and down like an ageing donkey giving sporadic rides to doleful toddlers in a faded seaside town. Bring him on at half time – as Ian Hendon did today – and he's a thoroughbred racehorse, all rippling muscles and lustrous hair. What I'm saying here by way of equestrian analogy is that he won a lot of headers and generally managed to point them in the right direction.

Taxi for... Plenty of candidates for this one today, including woeful performances from Dean Cox and Blair Turgott, but let's instead point the finger of shame at Mathieu Baudry. Today, not content with just a bandage on his head, he also added a Petr Cech-style protector. Next week he'll also include a sombrero and by the end of the season will play each game in the guise of an overloaded hatstand at a low-rent department store. I say this because presumably all this headgear is obscuring his vision: why else would have he simply planted the ball in front of Kemar Roofe for Oxford's first goal, then randomly scattergunned the ball around for the rest of the match?

In the dugout... Imagine this: you've gone into hospital for a routine wisdom teeth removal
operation, and during it the surgeon inadvertently severs your jugular vein, but then just about manages to sew it up again before you die from massive blood loss. Would you praise him for saving your life, or chastise him for almost killing you in the first place? Today Ian Hendon was that surgeon, making a catastrophic error in his team selection (4-4-2 but with no Payne or James?!) but then atoning for his error with some bold half-time substitutions.

Meanwhile on Twitter... When he's not spraying people with Champagne or allegedly laundering money through failed Albanian hydro-electric schemes, what does our esteemed president get up to? That's right, he leers out of car windows like a maniac – or, as TLC might say, hangs out the passenger side of his best friend's ride, trying to holler at Orient fan Billy Herring.

03 October 2015

Leyton Orient 3 Notts County 1, 3/10/15

A game in which... the entire Orient team remained locked in the dressing room for a full 30 minutes of the second half. And while Andy Hessenthaler tried unsuccessfully to pick the lock with his credit card ("Leave this to me lads, I saw it in a film") and Connor Essam sat in the corner weeping like a baby ("My sisters used to barricade me in a cupboard, ok") Notts County simply waltzed around the pitch unencumbered by opposition players.

Thankfully they only managed to score once during that time, and when Orient eventually broke free from their temporary prison, a poacher's effort from Jay Simpson and a belter from Sammy Moore allowed them to take all three points. A win – hurrah! – and a just-about deserved one after an impressive first half.

Jump off your seat moment... Only one candidate here: that's right, the moment when Ian Hendon killed a plummeting ball stone dead on the touchline almost if he didn't used to be a lower league journeyman. Just kidding, of course we must hail Sammy Moore's wonder-goal, a shot that dipped and swerved so much it was almost if he just booted it and got lucky. Jesus, just kidding again.

Sammy Moore in action today 
Give that man a medal... Sammy Moore. Because aside from his thunder-strike, he also volleyed in a sublime Bradley Pritchard dink – yeah, you heard – and put in a performance so industrious that Jeremy Corbyn is currently trying to renationalise it.

Taxi for... It was an improved performance from Ollie Palmer after Tuesday's catastrophe, but the big striker still left fans scratching their heads – and not just because there's been an outbreak of nits at Brisbane Road in the last week after resident practical joker Paul McCallum hid everyone's shampoo in Alessandro Angelieri's in-tray. Palmer's a decent player, for sure, but he needs to start putting away some of his chances or he'll soon be replaced by... Oh, hang on, there isn't anyone.

In the dug out... With the squad at its current size, it's little surprise that Ian Hendon's tactics are to simply play the 11 senior players he has available to him in a diamond formation and then bring on Blair Turgott with 30 minutes to go. (Notts County, by contrast, have about 96 players available for selection.) With the loanee additions that the manager promises are coming this week, he should be able to radically shake things up. Expect, for example, Blair Turgott to sometimes come on with just 25 minutes to go next time.

Mathieu Baudry in action today 
Meanwhile on Twitter... "No footballer has ever loved a head bandage as much as Mathieu Baudry,"tweeted fan James McMahon today in response to the fact that the French defender ended up swathed like an Egyptian mummy for the 476th game in succession. His latest head injury is so bad it requires plastic surgery, prompting a sympathetic tweet from Aussie larrikin Alex Cisak: "It's not like his looks can get any worse!" What a drongo.

29 September 2015

Leyton Orient 1 Carlisle United 2, 29/9/15

A game in which... the cracks in Leyton Orient became deep ravines, much in the way Andy
Hessenthaler's face has evolved over the years. For what might have previously been described as minor wobble has now become evidence that much more needs to be done if we're going to get out of this division.

Yes, yes we had loads of chances – approximately 478 in the first 15 minutes of the second half – but if you don't score them and then give away stupid goals it's futile to bemoan our luck. Especially for five games in a row. Jay Simpson is going to have off days, and Dean Cox can't score a wonder goal every week, so someone needs to figure out some other ways for Orient to win.

Jump off your seat moment... The moment when Andy Hessenthaler quite literally did jump off his seat in an apparent effort to play peacemaker in a mild verbal clash between Ian Hendon and Keith Curle. Turns out Orient's assistant boss is the world's worst peacemaker as his method of arbitration involved massively inflaming the situation then getting sent off. Next week: Hessenthaler attempts to reunite the Labour Party by punching Jeremy Corbyn and Liz Kendall in the face.

Give that man a medal... Poor Mathieu Baudry. Playing in League Two, he must feel like a sophisticated French epicurean forced to eat in an Aberdeen Angus Steak House every week. Against Carlisle tonight the centre back avoided metaphorically vomiting all over pitch (Connor Essam did that for him) and instead repeatedly chewed up and spat out the opposition attack. Nice goal too.

Taxi for... Is Ollie Palmer the new Shaun Batt / Jonathan Tehoué? By this I don't mean "Can he DJ?" or "Could he down a KFC Family Bucket in one gulp?", but rather: Is he a player that can only create impact off the bench? Because after a game-changing substitute appearance against Wycombe Wanderers, the big striker hasn't done much in his two subsequent starts, and tonight missed a couple of fairly presentable chances.

In the dug out... To diamond or not to diamond, that isn't the question according to Ian Hendon, who said after the game: "Don't talk to me about formations, pal, I got formations coming out of my arse. What we need is the rub of the green, and by that I mean I'm simply hoping that if I keep doing exactly the same thing over and over again then we might get lucky at some point. What's that expression about even a broken clock being correct twice a day? Well, I only need it to be correct once or sometimes twice a week, so we should be fine I think." I'm paraphrasing a bit here, obviously.

Meanwhile on Twitter... "Honeymoon period is over" tweeted fan BenLOFC after the match, quite correctly, though I'd suggest that if Orient's current form is a figurative post-wedding holiday then it is one in which the bride has run off with a local barman, the groom has third-degree sunburn and Olly Murs is the headline act at the hotel's cabaret night. On a more serious note, Orient clearly need more depth in their squad. I'd venture another striker, a more experienced left-back, and an additional winger. Think we're ok for central midfielders for the time being though...

20 September 2015

Leyton Orient 1 Wycombe Wanderers 1, 19/9/15

Action from Orient v Wycombe  
A game in which... Wycombe were so willing to wrestle Orient players to the ground yet feign injury at the mildest retaliation it would be no surprise if their entire squad were issued with spandex leotards and signed up for WWE Smackdown. I say this with only a little bit of massive disrespect because in many ways this was a consummate League Two performance from the away team and Orient were unable to match it for much of the game.

Luckily Ian Hendon has a plan B, which any idiot can see is much, much better than his plan A. So with the diamond ditched, substitute Ollie Palmer in immense form and the continued brilliance of Jay Simpson the Os managed to salvage a point. Can't complain when we're still top of the table, but Orient are going to need to better get to grips with the physical side of League Two if they're going to stay there.

Jump off your seat moment... There have been few times in Orient's history when fans could with near-certainty predict that if a striker had sight of goal, he'd score. Personally speaking I usually took the moment an Orient front man was put clean through as a cue to go get a cup of Bovril. No longer, for Jay Simpson is the lethal finisher we've been craving for years and today took his goal with typical panache.

"Stone Cold" Ollie Palmer 
Give that man a medal... If Wycombe Wanderers were pretenders to the WWE then Ollie Palmer was the real deal: a Stone Cold Steve Austin of League Two. In the 45 minutes that he was on the pitch the chiselled man-giant put in one of the most commanding, physical performances seen at Brisbane Road since the time Jonathan Tehoue piled in on Marc Laird for taking a spoonful of his half-time trifle.

Taxi for... The young lad – no doubt fuelled by nitrous oxide or insect urine or whatever it is the youth take for kicks these days – who decided to invade the pitch in the second half. Curiously no steward appeared to deem it necessary to intervene until it was finally left to a fluorescent-jacketed 92-year-old to stagger in slow motion towards the interloper, a scene eerily reminiscent of the entire Orient career of James Scowcroft.

"Come on Bradley, I'm sure you can manage 60 minutes"
In the dugout... Today Ian Hendon did not select Bradley Pritchard. Let that sink in for a moment, for it is the first time in Orient's 134-year history that the midfielder has not started and finished a game. Admittedly the former Charlton man was injured, but that didn't stop Fabio Liverani playing him on the wing on one occasion with two broken legs, third-degree burns and chlamydia. Man up Hendon! Aside from that, the manager claimed he was "delighted" with his team's performance, suggesting perhaps he was stuck in traffic until the 70th minute.

Meanwhile on Twitter... George Porter has been called up for England! No, not in his own mind. No, not on Fifa 16. Like, for real. Yep, the "Non-League Messi", as he's often referred to by no one but himself, got a call up to England C this week and wasted no time in boasting about it on Twitter. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. Except Jamie Jones I suppose...

13 September 2015

Cambridge United 1 Leyton Orient 1, 12/9/15

"I think they're giant cats, Maureen" 
A game in which... Leyton Orient's urban-dwelling fans were utterly bemused by the sight of a herd of cows outside of Cambridge's Abbey Stadium. Were they giants cats? Radioactive guinea pigs? And why was a bloke who looked suspiciously like David Mooney trying and failing to hit them on the arse with a banjo?

While this confusion reigned, a football match broke out – to some extent anyway. Orient dominated for certain periods and probably should've scored more, but without the benched Dean Cox the quality of the final ball was noticeably lacking. A point away from home is never a disaster, but it's fair to say this wasn't a game that'll live long in the... what was I saying again?

Jump off your seat moment... The exquisite, floated pass from Mathieu Baudry – performed totally blindfolded – that put Jay Simpson through to score Orient's equaliser. Worth mentioning too how well the Frenchman and Connor Essam are complementing each other in central defence: Baudry the footballing equivalent of an evening of foie gras, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and a discourse on the merits of Descartes; Essam more 14 pints of Fosters, a curry and a visit to A&E.

Give that man a medal... Bradley Pritchard is apparently going to play every single second of every single Orient match until the end of time. But at the moment that is no bad thing for the midfielder is proving the value of having someone run around a lot and play very short passes to nearby team mates. Once again the former Charlton man was instrumental in much of the Os' more forthright football.

Frazer Shaw 
Taxi for... So far he's been excellent but today wasn't the best day for Frazer Shaw. Once past the halfway line, the left back's powers seemed to drain from him, like Superman faced with Kryptonite; Indiana Jones in a pit of snakes; or Francesco Becchetti in the company of an Albanian law-enforcer. The fine young player that he is, Shaw will come good again though.

In the dug out... With Coxy carrying a knock, Ian Hendon reverted to a formation often favoured by Fabio Liverani: the four central midfielder classic. Where the current manager differed from his predecessor is that a) he didn't also select four central defenders b) he's not insane. And while fans might liked to have seen Blair Turgott given more time on the pitch, the fact we're still sitting on top of the league table suggests Hendon does still have some idea what he's doing.

Meanwhile in the press room... Robbie Simpson cupcakes! I kid you not, and Orient commentator Dave Victor had the photographic evidence to prove it. They reportedly came in two flavours: mediocrity and despair, and fell to pieces as soon as they got anywhere near your mouth. *taps microphone* *winks*

02 September 2015

Johnstone's Paint Trophy: Luton Town 2 Leyton Orient 1, 1/9/15

These two were on the bench for Orient
A game which... Ian Hendon did everything in his power to lose. He wore a tracksuit; he selected a bench made of up three 11-year-olds and two unfortunate holidaymakers who'd got lost on the way to Luton Airport; he played Bradley Pritchard at left midfield for part of the game; he deliberately substituted off all his reliable penalty-takers when the game was level at 85 minutes... And yet still Luton wouldn't take the bait until they guaranteed themselves victory by going down to 10 men.

So, Operation Concentrate On The League ended perfectly for Orient. And while for obvious reasons it wasn't our most fluid performance of the season, there were also some encouraging moments from this makeshift, youthful team.

Jump off your seat moment... The moment in the first half when Luton's creaking behemoth of a centre back Stephen McNulty tried to shepherd the ball back to his keeper only for Scott Kashket to dart in front of him and nearly steal a goal. Indeed, the battle between the pair throughout the game was reminiscent of an ageing rhinoceros trying to lazily swat an irritatingly persistent dung beetle with his tail. What I'm saying here – the dung beetle comparison notwithstanding – is that Kashket was pretty good.

Give that man a medal... Since Joe Maguire only signed on loan from Liverpool yesterday, he obviously didn't get the secret memo from Ian Hendon that spelled out in morse code: "WE MUST LOSE THIS GAME BUT MAKE IT LOOK A BIT LIKE WE AT LEAST TRIED TO WIN BECAUSE I THINK IT'S ILLEGAL TO THROW GAMES." What else could explain the fact he actually looked pretty assured in central defence?

Jack Marriott: princess
Quiz question... If you're a professional footballer who's just missed a point blank header in front of the opposition fans, who then mildly goad you, do you: a) ignore them, being that you're a professional footballer b) ignore them, being that you're a professional footballer, then score your next chance to shut them up or c) sarcastically applaud them, stick your middle finger up then get sent off? If you answered c) then you're Jack Marriott, in which case what the hell are you doing reading this blog? You should be out doing things more consistent with your apparent level of maturity, such as playing peek-a-boo or dressing up as a princess from Frozen.

In the dugout... According to Ian Hendon, a number of players were taken ill before and during this game, including Sean Clohessy who came off at half-time. Did someone spike Orient's traditional pre-match meal of a massive fry up at a greasy spoon cafe? Did someone (other than Ian Hendon and every single Orient fan) want the Os to lose at any cost? I do not know the answers to these questions, but I did see Andy Hessenthaler buying 37 packets of laxatives at a chemist on Leyton High Road earlier in the day. You do the math.

A "club source" pens news of Jack Payne's
impending signing back in 1843
Meanwhile on Twitter... "Football. Bloody hell," said Sir Alex Ferguson once of the unpredictability of our beloved sport. And given that we never quite know what's around the corner it probably makes sense not to promise to tattoo your own face if a certain player signs for your club. Or similarly, best not pledge to "shit in your own hands and clap" as Dan Slawinski did when the Jack Payne to Orient rumours began back in the year 1843. Jack: welcome to Orient. Dan: hope you've got some strong detergent.

29 August 2015

Leyton Orient 2 Bristol Rovers 0, 29/8/15

A game in which... Orient couldn't have been more workmanlike if they'd played the entire 90 minutes drinking Tetley tea, bearing their bum cracks and shouting sexist insults at women. Remember this was a Bristol Rovers side that haven't lost away from home for a year and the Os needed to be at their most patient and efficient – and were excellent in controlling large parts of the game. Add the touch of class that comes in the human form of Jay Simpson and you're looking at a team who probably won't ever lose again. (Send your complaints to me marked "Jonah" after Luton stuff us 8-0 on Tuesday.)

Shane Lowry
Jump off your seat moment... Three of them actually, all courtesy of the aforementioned Jay Simpson. The goal, of course – by way of some crazy-paving footwork – and then two sliding, last-ditch tackles down the other end of the pitch that demonstrated his utter commitment to the cause. What a joy it is to see such a talented player giving it his all in League Two rather than sulking like a spoilt three-year-old girl upset that not enough people have praised her pigtails in the last four minutes. Or Shane Lowry, same difference.

Give that man a medal... Jay Simpson again, obviously, but let's focus for a moment on the excellence of Sammy Moore. Fans rightly worried that without Romain Vincelot not only would Orient be short of quality beards, but that we'd be playing in the Ryman Isthmian League Division One South by 2019/20. (You do the math.) Not so! AFC Wimbledon fans used to sing "He's here, he's there, he's everywhere" to Moore, and not just because he used to surreptitiously follow people home after matches. His industrious performances should be equally valuable to Orient this season.

Taxi for... Referee Darren Drysdale. If the RAF sergeant took the same approach to his day job as he does to officiating football matches then I suspect he would discharge half his squadron for unregulation eyebrows while the other half would be given medals of honour for mistakenly dropping bombs on their own airbase. What I am saying here is that he was woefully inconsistent. Still, at least he didn't try to launch his own clothing range called Superdrysdale. Oh hang on...

In the dug out... Ian Hendon actually utilised three different formations at different times in this game, much like Fabio Liverani, although probably not because he'd forgotten how many players make up a football team. What is becoming evident is that the manager is a Top Man in more ways than just his choice of suits. He actually seems to know what he's doing.

Meanwhile on Twitter... Our esteemed president's match day behaviour is becoming increasingly bizarre, from his walk on before the season opener to high-fiving fans from his blacked out limousine after the Dagenham game. Today, according to reporter John Walker, Sr Becchetti was jumping up and down in the tunnel after the match with the joyous abandon of someone who'd just evaded capture by the Albanian police force. What next: running round the touchline naked? Apologising for single-handedly relegating us? The mind boggles...

19 August 2015

Leyton Orient 3 Stevenage 0, 18/8/15

A game in which... Orient stared League Two in the face and said "You're not as hard as you think
you are, pal. And you can give me my dinner money back too." Yep, this tough, well-disciplined Stevenage side were a good indication of the type of school bullying we can expect in this division but the Os matched them in intensity during the first 70 minutes, albeit without fully hitting their stride.

That all changed in the final 20 minutes when Orient blew away the opposition with some breathtaking attacking and three goals: one good, another excellent and another that's already contender for goal of the season. Go straight to the top of the class Blair Turgott. And stop picking your nose.

Deano bringing his mazy run to a conclusion 
Jump off your seat moment... So many to choose from, not least Blair Turgott's aforementioned screamer – volleyed straight in from a Sean Clohessy cross, itself a volley – but let's focus instead on the moment Dean Cox decided to dribble around the entire Stevenage team 42 times each. Had he been able to finish from his ridiculously mazy run, it would have been the best goal scored by anyone in any sport in all time. Instead he decided that the only fitting coup de grâce would be to cut a couple of breakdancing moves on the penalty spot while the ball bobbled away to safety. Still, great helicopter.

Give that man a medal... Comparing Bradley Pritchard's performances of this season with last is like comparing the complete works of Beethoven to the sound of a spoilt six-year-old screeching for more sugar while repeatedly scraping her fingernails down a blackboard. And then vomiting. Tonight the former Charlton man made sweet, sweet music in midfield with another display that hit the right notes. (Honourable mentions too to Sean Clohessy and Sammy Moore.)

Taxi for... Dean Wells. It was certainly a novel move on Stevenage's part to place a convicted football hooligan in their squad and tonight the defender came up against the team whose fans he'd fought outside Liverpool Street Station in 2010. It seemed, however, that without his firm to back him up, Wells the Hooligan was all mouth and no Stone Island trousers. With the might of Ollie Palmer bearing down on him in injury-time he ran for cover, stumbled over then lay on the ground trembling in fear as the Orient striker slotted the ball into the net. Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough? Oh, you're not.

In the dugout... Given that he's now selected the same XI for three League games running, it would be easy to describe Ian Hendon as the polar opposite of Fabio Liverani. But then again, it would be easy to describe anyone with even the faintest notion that football is a sport in which eleven players try to get a ball into their opponents' net the polar opposite to Fabio Liverani. What is evidently true is that the new manager has engendered a team spirit and has got the squad enjoying playing football. Something that only the most depraved of masochists could have said of last season.

Meanwhile on Twitter... Respect to Pór Bæring Ólafsson for travelling all the way from Iceland – the country, not the shop – to watch his beloved Leyton Orient. He got to meet Francesco Becchetti, but it wasn't all bad because Pór also rubbed shoulders with Paul McCallum and witnessed the Os in superb form. What a top geyser. (Yeah, sorry, my Iceland material is pretty limited.)

09 August 2015

Leyton Orient 2 Barnet 0, 8/8/15

A game which... was preceded by a sort of 80s rock band reunion version of the Cheery Os, which saw Francseco Becchetti, Alessandro Angelieri, Ian Hendon and two other random blokes take to the pitch. But just as quickly as fans thought "Hey, I didn't know Flock of Seagulls had reformed" and meted out a mild ripple of token applause, they were gone again.

If we were underwhelmed by that, then the first half really let us down when Orient were out-muscled by a physical, if profligate, Barnet side and it became apparent there was a huge Romain Vincelot-shaped vortex in the middle of the pitch. But in the second 45 minutes the home side were transformed, almost as if the half-time team talk was delivered in the English language, and put the opposition under the cosh with some neat passing and attacking verve. Seeds of promise, then...

Jump off your seat moment... What a joy it was in Orient's first chance of the game to see Paul McCallum rather than David Mooney clean through on goal. "At least he's not just going to try to chip the keeper," thought every fan who'd been exasperated by our former striker's season-and-a-half's worth of failed lobs. Hearts sank when McCallum did actually try – and inevitably fail – to chip the keeper, though the new front man did redeem himself later when he stuck his laces through a fortunate rebound to put Orient 2-0 up. This is League Two lads – leave the showboating on the training ground.  

Give that man a medal... It's one of the immutable laws of physics that if Bradley Pritchard is within a five-mile radius of a football match his bodily matter will instantly teleport and rematerialise in the starting XI. And so it was with grinding inevitably that the fifth Orient manager in succession deemed the midfielder worthy of selection, and a typically lightweight first-half performance left fans once again scratching their heads as to why. In the second half, however, Pritchard showed what he could really do – which is play very short passes near the touchline to players better able to cross the ball. As such he was instrumental in both Orient goals and made a good case for further influence this season.

Martin Allen. That's not the sea: it's his sweat
Taxi for... Martin Allen. Although it would have to be a taxi in which the interior was entirely covered in water-resistant plastic tarpaulin, such was the rate at which sweat was cascading from every crevice of the Barnet manager's ample body. Particularly from his arse crack, interestingly, making his choice of beige chinos a particularly curious one. Either that or Mag Dog had genuinely shit himself at the prospect of facing Orient, which really would be a first for an opposition manager.

In the dugout... When Dean Cox finally departs this earth and is presumably playing in the Heaven FC first XI, what are the chances that even God thinks it's a good idea to play him at the tip of a diamond? And so it was that Ian Hendon – like every Orient manager before him – figured to himself: "Hey, Tiny is my best player so let's get him more involved and play him behind the strikers." NO, IAN, NO. THIS NEVER WORKS. It's like chucking a dwarf into the path of 11 onrushing juggernauts. Leave Coxy out wide, where he can do far more damage.

Meanwhile on Twitter... "Football is back!" tweeted an excitable Jamie Jones, almost as if he'd forgotten he's going to spend the whole season sitting on the bench. Still, that should leave him plenty of time to bait the fans of the club that paid his wages for five and half seasons, eh Scouse?

14 May 2015

The 10 good things about the 2014/15 season

Cheer up you miserable fuckers. Just because we got relegated, have alienated all our players, have an uncertain future and are the laughing stock of the football world, it’s not all bad. In fact, there were plenty of good things about his season. Well, ten anyway, if you really scrape the bottom of a barrel. Here they are… 

1. The arrival of the most handsome man in football. If not the world… 
It's a novel approach for a football club to employ a professional interpreter and then ask him to be goalkeeping coach in his spare time. But never mind that, for it was enough to stare into Rob Gagliardi's dreamy eyes and be beguiled by his long, flowing locks as he calmly translated the demented ramblings of Fabio Liverani into English. Gagliardi is possibly one of the reasons the Orient players were entirely unable to concentrate throughout each game, for if someone that thunderingly handsome is delivering the team talk who can blame them for taking to the pitch with all sorts of conflicting emotions?

2. The second coming of Marvin Bartley 
There’s only one Orient player who can claim to have had a better season than last, and that’s Marvin Bartley, baby. The reason is that for the midfielder to have had a worse season than last, he’d have had to have scored 47 own goals or accidentally sliced off Kevin Lisbie’s legs with a kitchen knife. Still, improvement must be applauded and there were few sights as thrilling this season as Marvin Bartley bludgeoning his way through the midfield towards goal and almost certain dispossession. If he keeps improving at this rate by 2032 we’re going to have a hell of a fifth-choice central midfielder in our squad. 

3. The hallucinogenic madness of the man of the match awards
Dagnall: played out of his skin
In seasons past a couple of representatives from the matchday sponsors would rock up at Brisbane Road, try to be polite about the quality of the food in Theo’s restaurant and then award the man of the match to Dean Cox. Job done. Not this season though, where the man of the match awards have become some sort of avant-garde parody of the club. Against Crewe, for example, Chris Dagnall scored about 11 goals, made 39 assists and played out of his skin to such an extent he was tearing around the pitch in a blur of veins, arteries and mucus. Despite all that, the sponsors gave the man of the match award to Romain Vincelot, who was at the time back home watching his beard. 

4. The Orient podcasts
E10 Mess and a walking, talking bad hair day 
It’s typical isn’t it. You wait forever for an Orient podcast then four turn up at once. But what a pleasure it was to follow our catastrophe of a season in the company of Orient Ramble, E10 Mess, Orient Outlook and Whipps Cross Weekly. Each had its own unique charm – E10 Mess’s hilarious tribute songs; Whipp Cross Weekly’s incisive analysis; Orient Outlook’s revealing interviews; and Orient Ramble’s lengthy diversions into the merits of various savoury snacks – and each deserves a lot of credit for the amount of effort put in by their creators. 

5. The enigma of Gianvito Plasmati
Gianvito Plasmati 
If there’s one player who can hold his head up high this season, it’s Gianvito Plasmati. Only in the literal sense though: he's 6ft 6in. He introduced himself to Brisbane Road by emitting a bloodcurdling scream and poleaxing himself to the ground after hearing a whispered insult from a Preston midfielder. It went downhill from there, though it’s hard to dislike a guy who despite his many limitations played each game with all the bounding enthusiasm of a retarded cocker spaniel. He’ll probably tear up League Two.

6. The comeuppance of Jamie Jones and George Porter
Whatever possessed Jamie Jones to send (and then hastily delete) a tweet goading the fans of the club that gave him his chance in professional football and paid his wages for six seasons? Probably amoeba-like levels of stupidity. Still, the last laugh was on us as the goalkeeper was unceremoniously shipped out on loan from Preston. See you in League Two, Scouse! George Porter, meanwhile, is a bell-end of monumental proportions, but after mocking his former club’s relegation was on the receiving end of this zinger from Craig Delew: “From Burnley to Maidstone, if Carlsberg did failed careers..." 

7. Tell ‘em about the honey, Andrea
Andrea Dossena
Remember Andrea Dossena's volleyed scissor kick from the touchline in his home debut? Well that was the solitary highlight of the ex-Liverpool star's season as he subsequently took it upon himself to try to single-handedly relegate the club with defending of the most kamikaze order. So it was with much mirth that Orient fans greeted the news that Dossena had been arrested over a jar of Harrods honey, entirely forgetting to pay for it almost as if he was supposed to be marking it at a corner. Thereon the jokes wrote themselves: “Hope he hires a good lawyer because he’s no good at defending himself.” And so forth.

8. The performances of Eldin Jakupovic Mk II
What’s the world record for the number of goals conceded by a football club in a single season? Well, whatever it is Orient would have beaten it in 2014/15 were it not for the magnificence of Alex Cisak. With a defence failing calamitously to get to grips with zonal marking, the goalkeeper must have felt like a president being assassinated by knife-wielding assailants while his bodyguards fiercely guarded random patches of ground nearby. That he is even spoken about in the same breath as Eldin Jakupovic is testament to his contribution. 

9. The die-hard fantaticism of Giulia Salemi 
Giulia Salemi has been a die-hard fan of Leyton Orient since birth and has religiously followed the fortunes of the club her whole life by sometimes reading the BBC Sport website. It was for this reason she was chosen as the co-host of the Italian reality show “Leyton Orient". Coincidentally she is also a former Miss Italia and a model of some repute. Coincidentally she also just fired her agent. What to make of all of this? Well, why don’t you ask her yourself? She’s bound to be in the Coach and Horses before our key relegation clash with Barnet next season. 

10. The ever-patient Orient fans
Yes, that’s you lot. In a season in which the club didn’t bother to communicate, collaborate or try to win any matches the vast majority of Orient fans have shown vast wells of resilience and good humour. 1-0 down against Rochdale away, staring down the barrel of League Two and you were still singing your hearts out. Nearly 1,000 of you turned up to watch Orient get relegated at Swindon. And even when you were frustrated, you showed it in a uniquely Orient way, as captured in the tweet of the season from 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.” 

09 May 2015

How to relegate a football club in 11 easy steps by Francesco Becchetti

Think it's easy to take a club from the brink of the Championship to League Two in one season? Think again. It actually takes meticulous planning, as Francesco Becchetti has demonstrated. Here's how he did it... 

Step 1: Massively over-promise
"I'm already visioning a Championship club" 
"I'm already visioning a Championship club," said Francesco Becchetti at his opening press conference which – when viewed in hindsight – now seems like the crazed delusions of a megalomaniacal super-villain. "Being close to people is crucial to us"; "The spirit of family, of players, of people here will be reinforced"; "I've built a super laser-gun and I'll explode the moon unless you give me 100 trillion pounds."

Step 2: Install a sporting director 
Russell Slade, remember, had just built a tight-knit squad that got within a penalty kick of the Championship without paying a single transfer fee. Did he really need additional help in identifying and bringing in players? Let alone help from someone with no experience of the English game other than two seasons as a QPR player many years ago. Someone with no experience of the lower league transfer market. And someone with no experience of looking at his hair in a mirror and thinking, "Something is terribly, terribly wrong here."

Alessandro Angelieri
Step 3: Hire a hugely unqualified CEO 
Now, you might think that to be appointed a CEO of a football club you need some experience of being a CEO or some experience of football. Preferably both. You're wrong, because Alessandro Anglieri waltzed into the hot seat having allegedly never attended a single match in his life and with the professional experience of 17 years as a senior sales manager at a video systems provider. SEVENTEEN YEARS IN THE SAME JOB WITHOUT A SINGLE PROMOTION! So essentially instead of a visionary and ambitious leader, Francesco Becchetti hired Gareth Keenan from The Office.

Step 4: Issue an ultimatum to Orient's most successful manager in decades 
Admittedly Russell Slade's start to the season wasn't brilliant – one win, three draws and two losses in the first six league matches – but aside from 2013/14 that was pretty standard for the manager. Not good enough for Francesco Becchetti, however, who told Slade that he was for the chop should he not provide "redemption" in his next match. What staggering stupidity. "Parents often threaten to spank their children but usually do not carry out the threat," Becchetti subsequently explained, suggesting that a) he likes throwing his weight around, b) he knows little about how to motivate a football manager and c) that you probably shouldn't ask him to babysit for you.

Step 5: Enforce an omertà
The Orient comms team take their vow of silence
One of the great things about last season was the two-way communication between club and fans, including some fantastic behind-the-scenes content on social media. Under Becchetti – especially after Russell Slade's departure – Orient began to operate under the sort of code of silence more suited to a Buddhist monastery than a football club. But there was nothing Zen about it for caretaker manager Kevin Nugent who found himself in the utterly bizarre situation of having to announce his own offer of a contract, an offer that the club neither confirmed or denied and which the ever-helpful Mauro Milanese dismissed as a rumour. What a way to treat a loyal, decent servant of Leyton Orient.

Step 6: Put the interests of a TV show ahead of the club 
There's nothing wrong per se with creating an Italian reality TV show around the club, as long as you don't mind it making Orient the laughing stock of the football world. It's just a bit of fun, hey, and who doesn't like to watch videos of random Italian model-types lip-synching to bad songs in their pants? (1,981 views and counting!) But it's not just a bit of fun if – as this article suggests – the squad were refused increased win bonuses unless they consented to being filmed. And it's even less fun if the appointment of a manager with no experience of English football or English language was partly informed by the need to have a high-profile name attached to the club that the Italian TV audience could identify with. (I wrote about this at length here.)

Step 7: Appoint a manager on a wing and a prayer
Let's be generous and pretend that the appointment of Fabio Liverani was done for 100 per cent footballing reasons and was in no way related to the reality TV show. The question, then, must be: what in God's name were those football reasons? Here's my theory: Francesco Becchetti didn't just want success, he wanted success he could call his own. So not for him a manager who'd already achieved results in lower league English football. No, he wanted someone he could claim to have discovered, to have nurtured, to have given a platform for glory. He wanted to be Brian Epstein discovering the Beatles. Instead he's ended up being Tim Byrne, the man who brought the world Steps.

Ada: Survived the cull 
Step 8: Clear out anyone who knows anything about running a football club 
When Francesco Becchetti took over Orient, he said he'd be relying on the ongoing support of those that had made the club what it is. He was true to his word for about three or four minutes before – in the manner of an international property developer promising to preserve the spirt of a community pub then immediately knocking it down to build a block of luxury apartments – getting rid of everyone from the fitness coach to the cook. Ada the kit man reportedly only survived by hiding in Alessandro Angelieri's in-tray, where he remains undetected to this day. Matt Porter's advisory role was soon curtailed too. Nothing wrong in principle with the new owner bringing in his own people. Unless of course they monumentally fuck up, which brings me neatly to...

Step 9: Don't actually pay the players 
Most footballers, I'm sure, like what they do. But I'm also pretty sure they also like eating food, wearing clothes, paying their mortgage and going to Faces nightclub, Gants Hill. All of these things require money, which means they're going to pretty upset if their employers don't pay them. Astoundingly, in February, a "technical problem" meant that the Orient squad did not receive their wages on time. Sure, the players haven't covered themselves in glory this season either, but to deny them their basic employment rights seems a bit harsh.

Stuck in traffic
Step 10: Publicly bawl out one of your own players via a half-time announcement 
If one of the employees in Francesco Becchetti's waste management business is slightly late for work due to a major traffic accident, does he publicly humiliate them over the tannoy system? Of course he doesn't. He actually has them killed. JOKE! Stand down lawyers! Except, when Darius Henderson failed to arrive on time for the game against Port Vale for reasons entirely out of his control, Becchetti did exactly that, instructing PA Philip Othen to read out a message expressing his displeasure. A touch of class right up there with the ball skills of Sam Parkin or the humour of George Porter.

Step 11: Allegedly forget to file your accounts
At time of writing, the club are currently refusing to comment on the story that they are under a transfer embargo for failing to file their accounts on time. If this is true then this is mismanagement on a monumental scale. Or maybe I'm overreacting. I mean, it's not like we actually need to buy or sell any players this summer is it? Oh, hang on...

So there you have it. Brink of Championship to League Two in 11 easy steps courtesy of Francesco Becchetti. Still, don't be too upset, because the president has an answer: just refuse to allow the players to go on holiday at the end of the season and make them do a fortnight of double training. Then sell the club
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