13 February 2015

GUEST POST! Divided we fall

Keen observers of Leyton Orient Football Club may have noticed that things aren't as rosy as they could be of late. In this guest post, the Whipps Cross Weekly podcast crew investigate why... 

When trying to process the unbridled horror that has been Leyton Orient’s 2014/15 season and figure out why, oh Lord why, this has all happened to us, many LOFC fans have tended to settle on laying the blame with the Italian-speaking contingent of the club’s management hierarchy. 

Francesco Becchetti gets his priorities straight
Owner Francesco Becchetti, chief executive Alessandro Angelieri, former director of football Mauro Milanese and more latterly the head coach Fabio Liverani have in most cases been lumped together collective, referred to under the banner of ‘the Italians’. 

They have been seen as unified force of incompetents drawn together through the power of cronyism, one which has both wreaked extensive harm on the club on and off the pitch.

They’ve tarnished Orient’s public image while demonstrating as much understanding of League One football as we have of how to compose a punchy, enjoyable blog post. 

Incompetents? Demonstrably. Unified? It really doesn’t appear so. That’s what is perhaps the most worrying thing, and could explain why we’ve fallen so very far, so very quickly.

It seems more likely that the camp at the top is more internally split than some might believe – the whole notion of an Italian ‘regime’ seems misguided, as in reality, the key figures at the club all seem to have spent the season vying to push the club in different directions.

Mauro Milanese
The key piece of evidence that supports this ‘king’s court’ theory was the departure of Mauro Milanese last month, for reasons that Liverani insists were personal rather than ‘technical’ or related to transfer and selection policy. 

After serving an ill-fated stint as manager of the side at the end of 2014 before returning straight back to his old director of football position, it was easy to get the impression that Milanese was merely a willing tool of the regime – a puppet to be shifted around between roles at Becchetti’s convenience. 

However, the weaknesses in this theory had begun to show long before Milanese’s January departure. In prior interviews and Q&A sessions with fans, Milanese had made the case across for a number of interesting and sound policies, particularly around player roles and reliance on the club’s academy to produce first-team talent. 

He outlined specific ideas that seemed eminently sensible, such as loaning out young forward Scott Kashket to a lower level rather than wasting him on the first-team bench. In practice, however, more or less none of these things actually happened. 

Why? Is it because Milanese was a slipperier customer than he might have appeared, able to play to the gallery whilst sticking to the agenda of his superiors? Perhaps, but his fallout with Becchetti seems difficult to comprehend if this truly was the case.

Alessandro Angelieri
The same can be said of Angelieri, who also seems to make noises around ambitions and preservation of club identity whenever a journo puts a mic in front of him that sound great but rarely match up to the reality of the situation.

Could it be that he too is merely a sweet-talking mouthpiece of the regime, or is he a man with the right ideas but no actual apparatus for getting them put into action?

Then there’s Liverani. In most people’s eyes, Furious Fabio may not be the right man to drive the club forward to bigger and better things, but he seems to have been hindered by not being able to construct his own squad.

Why are new players arriving at the club every few weeks who he clearly hasn’t requested and has no idea how to use, such as Ryan Hedges and Neil Eardley? 

Fabio Liverani
The signings themselves have been mixed: most of us have been impressed by Hedges and don’t understand why Liverani doesn’t use him more, while Eardley has already left.

The point is that the communication between Liverani and his employers seems bizarrely remote if we assume that he was brought in as another crony. 

The impression that we get from following the never-dull affairs at LOFC is that there is no coherent ‘gang’ at the helm of the club, steering it as one closer and closer to the whirlpool of relegation.

Instead, the house seems much more divided; it is entirely possible that positive strategies and ideas are emerging from within the club’s hierarchy, but wither on the vine because the structure or the will isn’t there to implement them. 

Perhaps this is a product of Wolf Hall-style infighting on the part of those orbiting around Becchetti- or possibly, it’s all because the big man himself just doesn’t listen to those around him.

Whatever the truth of the situation is, we’d hazard a guess that if the hierarchy had actually spent the season pulling together in the same direction, we might have ended in a mess slightly less deep than we currently find ourselves in.

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