25 April 2015

Leyton Orient 1 Sheffield United 1, 25/4/15

A game which... left Orient clinging on to League One survival like Sylvester Stallone on a mountain ledge in Cliffhanger. Except Orient aren't Sylvester Stallone are they? Not even Sylvester Stallone in Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. What I am saying here is that this was another performance lacking in the muscle, passion and heroism you'd expect given the situation.

Sigh. I'll always love those players who got us to Wembley last season but something is deeply wrong if they can't properly raise themselves for a game like this. Orient had Alex Cisak to thank – again – for not being 2-0 down at half-time, and while Mathieu Baudry's bullet header gave some hope, Sheffield United's equaliser was all too inevitable. Still, I'll be at Swindon hoping that some sort of footballing and mathematical miracle will allow us to Escape to Victory...

Jump off your seat moment... I don't think Barry Hearn technically jumped off his seat, but he certainly stood up at half-time and – alone in the gallery – surveyed the carnage of a season that lay before him. One can only imagine what was going through his head, but I'm going to take a wild stab at "Yeah, on reflection, I probably shouldn't have said that thing about West Ham being petrified of the new owner."

Give that man a medal... I'm guessing that the Supporters' Club's end-of-season Star Man dinner is going to be an awkward affair. Or at least it would be if they didn't have the option of giving every single award to Alex Cisak who, since coming on loan from Burnley, has pretty much single-handedly given Orient a sliver of a chance of avoiding relegation. The goalkeeper was superb again today.

Taxi for... Actually no one played totally abysmally today so let's instead turn to our illustrious CEO Alessandro Angelieri who, at this week's Fan's Forum, gave his insight into why Orient are facing imminent relegation. Apparently it's all down to the fact that the players bought in the summer haven't performed as expected. So simple! Next week: Angelieri explains the sinking of the Titanic. "I think a couple of the passengers brought on quite heavy suitcases."

Fabio Liverani
"Fuck the technical shit..." Does anyone still think that Fabio Liverani has even the slightest idea what he's doing? I'm guessing not. But let's not blame him personally. Put it this way: if the owner of a Formula One team selected a 12-year-old schoolgirl to be his lead driver simply on the basis that she once negotiated a fairground dodgems ride without crashing too much, who would you point the finger at when she totalled the car within seven seconds? (For a less metaphorical explanation of why the blame goes right to the top at Orient read here.)

Meanwhile on Twitter... This tragi-comic observation from Os fan 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." Indeed we do. Next week: hundreds of Orient fans refuse to attend another game until early August after the club is relegated to League Two. See you there!

19 April 2015

How has it come to this?

Let's not begin the full post-mortem just yet. After all, there is still a mathematical chance that Orient can get the four or possibly six points from their last three games that'd keep them safe from relegation.

But I think it's fair to say that if they do – and that's an "if" written in sky-high letters – it will be in spite of, rather than because of the current manager.

Now, I don't want to attack Fabio Liverani personally. He seems a decent guy, and I'm sure he's trying as hard as he can to do a good job. But what is evidently clear to anyone with eyes and a brain, is that he is wholly ill-equipped to be managing an English League One football club in imminent danger of relegation. He always was.

So why was he here in the first place? Because of Francesco Becchetti's arrogance, naivety and commercial interests. Let me explain.


Look at the breezy confidence of our president in this TV interview back in February. Sure, by then he's realised that all the money he's pumped into the club isn't going to get Orient promoted in season one, but he seems to be operating on the arrogant assumption that we couldn't possibly get relegated.

And surely that's why he felt comfortable enough to appoint someone with no experience of English – let alone League One – football, no command of the English language, and a managerial career spanning six games. "It's a new era, things take a little time," he explained and was presumably happy by then for Liverani to learn on the job, finish mid-table and then push on for promotion next season.


The vast majority of football managers are ex-players and they all have to start somewhere. But there can't be many examples of ex-players starting their managerial career fighting a relegation battle in a league, country and language they have no experience of and making a success of it. So Becchetti's decision to place all his faith in the untested Fabio Liverani was a either a breathtaking gamble or staggering naivety. I'm going for the latter.

Commercial interests

Francesco Becchetti's TV channel is important to him. Nothing wrong with that – Barry Hearn had plenty of other commercial interests while owning the club. But the premise of the Leyton Orient reality show on Agon channel is that aspiring footballers from Italy get the chance to compete for a contract with a "prestigious" club (Becchetti's word, not mine.)

And there's nothing particularly "prestigious" about a club fighting relegation from the third tier. However, attach a high-profile ex-Italy international to the club and suddenly it seems a little more attractive to a TV audience. So I am being cynical in suggesting that the appointment of Liverani wasn't done for 100 per cent footballing reasons?

So what now? 

Are we going to get out of this? If so, it's going to be down to the players. And I still love those players. Sure, they have to accept some of the blame for this, but God knows they're not deliberately trying to get us relegated.

The truth is, you can't just chuck your 11 best players on the pitch and hope for the best. They need organisation, motivation, tactics, instructions, insight, plans...

I sit behind Fabio Liverani for home matches and see nothing much more than an obsessive devotion to micro-managing the position of a bewildered Ryan Hedges when we're defending set pieces. The manager is totally and utterly out of his depth.

So, with three games to go, I say this to the Orient squad: play for yourselves, play for the fans, play for that Somme badge on your shirt. Because only you can save us now...

14 April 2015

Leyton Orient 0 Doncaster Rovers 1, 14/4/15

A game in which... Orient decided to put the definition of insanity to the test in the second half by repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That involved repeatedly launching the ball long towards the opposition penalty area and expecting for something other than Rovers' gargantuan defender Rob Jones to head the ball away to safety.

It was truly bewildering to watch – especially given that in the first half the Os had knocked the ball about on the floor a bit and fashioned three big chances. Yeah, we missed all of them (no surprise there) and then conceded from a set piece (no surprise there) but thanks to results elsewhere somehow we're still not technically relegated (SURPRISE!).

Jump off your seat moment... The first-half moment when Darius Henderson performed the footballing equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack and somehow directed a point-blank strike straight at the Doncaster keeper when the whole goal was gaping at him. Still, let's be thankful for small mercies – at least he didn't pointlessly throw himself to the ground then kick the ball away to receive a yellow card. (He waited until the second half to do that.)

Give that man a medal... Now, Marvin Bartley has come in for some criticism in the past, mostly from a vocal minority consisting of everyone who's ever seen him play. But God knows the midfielder has improved of late and tonight – in the first half at least – was a battling presence and the source of some Orient's best attacking play. He also claimed the players were "disheartened" after the game, when perhaps we may have expected them to be "gutted", "mortified" or "livid". Still, at least they weren't just "a bit miffed".

Taxi for... He's only a youngster and can't be expected to single-handedly save Orient from relegation, but it wasn't Ryan Hedges's best night. And really there shouldn't be any excuse for the lack of ball control we saw tonight. I mean, it's not as if the manager is yelling incoherently towards him for the entire game, apparently trying to get him to move millimetres to the left or right. Oh, hang on...

"Fuck the technical shit"... which of course brings me to Fabio Liverani, who some might say displayed gung-ho bravado by throwing on four strikers at the death, while others might say, "But hey, if you take off both your wingers then who's left to pass the ball to them properly?" Yes, I'm still yet to see much evidence that the Italian has any idea what he's doing and he continues to spend each game micro-managing the marking at set pieces (hey, that went well!) rather than anything more visionary. Still, he said afterwards the lads are doing well in training, so it's not all bad news.

Meanwhile on Twitter... You think we've got it bad? Well, you'd be right. But not as bad as some Cardiff fans consider they've got it under Russell Slade. Here's one of the more amusing images accompanying the popular #SladeOut hashtag, as unearthed by Adam Meagher.

06 April 2015

Leyton Orient 3 Gillingham 3, 6/4/15

A game which... began with Andrea Dossena embarking on a crazed kamikaze mission to single-handedly relegate Orient; continued with a heroic last stand by Alex Cisak; and ended with a late Darius Henderson-inspired rally to rescue an unlikely point.

Thing is though, Orient shouldn't have to be rescuing a point at home to an average side like Gillingham but yet again our statuesque defending and wastefulness on the ball was our undoing. Sure, in the last 20 minutes we built up a head of steam – much as you would if you tried to heat up a swimming pool with a box of matches – but last-ditch fight-backs may not be enough to save Orient from relegation if we continue to be this sloppy at the back.

Josh Wright celebrates his goal 
Jump off your seat moment... Another game, another vital goal for The Only Way Is Essex reject Josh "Mark's brother" Wright. And boy did he celebrate – whooping and gesticulating like a hormonal teenager at his first Marbella boat party. Good work Josh!

Give that man a medal... Alex Cisak has impressed since coming in on loan from Burnley and appears to have given the Orient defence so much confidence that they are happy to stand around letting opposition players shoot freely at him for 90 consecutive minutes. The big Aussie must feel like he's ventured into the searing heat of the Outback with just four warm cans of Fosters for all the use his back line is, but today he was Jakupovic-esque and pulled off a series of crucial saves.

Andrea Dossena: Casual 
Taxi for... Andrea Dossena. The guy's clearly got class but the way he defends is so casual he might as well take to the pitch fully decked out in Stone Island clobber. With Gary Sawyer out for the rest of the season the Italian is going to have to start earning his dosh – fast. And when I say "fast" I mean "slightly quicker than ambling disinterestedly back towards the penalty area", which would be an improvement on today.

"Fuck the technical shit"... Now, it's easy to criticise team selection with the benefit of hindsight... so that's exactly what I'm going to do. Number one: after a battling clean sheet against Coventry, why drop Nathan Clarke for an out-of-match-practice Shane Lowry? Number two: Why rush Lloyd James back into the side when other options – Taylor? Bartley? Hell, even Pritchard (just kidding) – were available? Number three: Why leave McAnuff on the bench when he's been our most in-form winger of the last couple of months? Liverani still hasn't sorted out our defending of set pieces either. Apart from all that, love the guy!

Meanwhile on Twitter... "After setting off at the same time I did last week I'm an hour and fifteen minutes early" tweeted a clearly bewildered Darius Henderson before the game, almost as if he had never before encountered the phenomenon of external factors influencing the outcome of events. Next week: Darius becomes overheated and agitated while wearing a thick winter's coat on a sunny April day. "I didn't have this problem when I wore it in December," he tweets, highly confused.
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