25 October 2017

Leyton Orient 0 Gateshead FC 2, 24/10/17

Imagine a team assembled by Paul Brush, coached by Fabio Liverani, motivated by Alberto Cavasin and given tactical instruction by a packet of cheese and onion crisps. That team would've made swift work of the Orient side that lost 2-0 at home to Gateshead tonight. 

Now, Orient have certainly suffered bigger defeats in the past and, by God, there were some calamitous performances in the Becchetti days. But in the context of a bottom-of-the-National League clash against a side who haven't won in six, and who haven't won away all season, tonight's loss could be considered the ultimate nadir of a football club whose entire history is a nadir in itself.

But anyway, don't listen to me, listen to Steve Davis. Here's what the "manager" had to say about how tonight's catastrophe unfolded:

"I have to hold my hand up. The system didn't work and I needed to change that." 

Ok. The "system" – let's call it that, shall we? – Davis began the game with was the 5-3-2 that has served him so well in the previous four or five games in that we haven't lost every single one of them. Fifteen minutes – and one goal down – later and the manager ditched that in favour of playing our top-scoring striker wide out on the left; our non-scoring striker in the middle; one of the two right backs on the wing; and our two wingers in central midfield.

Somehow that didn't work, so via a couple of other short-lived, transitional formations, Davis eventually opted for a trusty 4-4-2, with our right back at left back; and three wingers across the midfield four. By the end of the game I think we were playing 3-2-5-2-4 or something, but by then I'd lost the will to live.

Now, you could say that this constant tinkering demonstrates that Davis has an astute, nimble football brain. But if you did say that you'd be sectioned.

"It was a very scrappy match." 

Thing is, by calling the game "scrappy", Steve, you're sort of implying that both teams were complicit in a less-than-pedigree spectacle. This is bullshit. Gateshead were efficient enough. Conversely, each Orient player reacted as if every single nightmare in their life had been visually illustrated on the ball such that they became rigid with terror every time it span towards them.

"The way we reacted after the second goal was very disappointing. We just gave up." 

I dunno, it looked to me like Orient had given up shortly after kick off, Steve. Or perhaps on the way to the game. Or perhaps after you slagged off the whole team after Saturday's defeat. Or perhaps when you were appointed manager in the first place.

"Dave's miss was a real turning point." 

This could be true, in the sense that it could bring an abrupt end to the whole Football's Funniest Bloopers genre. I mean, no future compilation of howlers could ever compete with just looping Mooney's miss over and over again. As a turning point in the game: less so, in that "turning points' usually infer that something has changed from before to after.  In this case, Orient were equally abysmal either side of it.

"That was the poorest home performance we've had."

Add ".... in the entire history of the club" and you may have hit the nail on the head there Steve.

"We were second best straight away." 

That is very flattering, as there were blades of grass, small insects and discarded globules of player mucus out on the pitch that could well lay claim to being better than Orient tonight.

"The young players are finding the pressure difficult to deal with."

Oh yeah, it's definitely all their fault isn't it? If anything the young players have been the ones showing the most resilience and grit, while seasoned professionals (such as Ellis and MacAnuff tonight, for example) have been woeful. Next.

"I know I'm the right person to turn this around." 

There really is precious little evidence to support this, is there? No one wants to return to the trigger-happy days of the Becchetti regime where gaffers were fired for having the wrong socks, or playing Scott Kashket. But then again there's nothing "stable" about persisting with a demonstrably inept manager with a penchant for blaming everyone but himself for the unfolding disaster.

You can't blame Davis for individual player mistakes, and no one really expected us to get promoted this season. But this group of players should be doing much better than they currently are and the visceral lack of understanding between them on the pitch; the apparent lack of team spirit and fight; the absence of any discernible plan; and the bizarre press conferences don't exactly support the idea that in Davis we've got the right man to take the club forward. (Here) we go again...

09 August 2017

Leyton Orient 3 Solihull Moors 1, 9/8/17

[Caveat: Thanks to British Airways I actually arrived 30 minutes late for this game, so what you'll read below contains even more made up stuff than usual. View From The West Stand: Keeping editorial standards low since 2010. #fakenews] 

A game in which... Orient proved that the National League is actually a doddle and that we'll win the division at a canter. JOKE, JOKE... alright, calm down everyone, why so serious? I'll tell you this much though: there was enough promise in last night's performance to suggest that the Os have a pretty good chance of winning every game they play on the actual-sized pitch of Brisbane Road.

So given that we will lose every single away fixture, by my calculations that means we'll end up with 69 points and hence just miss out on the play-offs. And given everything that's happened to the club in recent times, that would be an absolute disgrace. Travis out. ANOTHER JOKE! Jesus, what is it with you lot today?

Moment of magic... The moment David Mooney slid into the box to poke a Jake Caprice cross into the net, evoking memories of the heady days before he started trying to chip the keeper with every single goal attempt. And what better epitomised the joyous fact that we have #OurClub back than the sound of "... he used to be shite, but now he's alright..." ringing out from all four sides of the ground apart from the West Stand?

Praise be to... Jake Caprice. Orient have a proud history of attacking right backs, from Stan Charlton to... nope, that's it. Stephen Purches? Anyway: Caprice has stepovers in his locker, and that's where they should stay, under a heavy duty padlock. But nonetheless the "model" professional (I'm required by law to make that joke) was a constant menace to the workers of Solihull's Jaguar Land Rover plant and laid on the cross for David Mooney's goal. You beauty.

The bit where I moan about something or slag someone off... Yes, that's right, just because Nigel Travis, Kent Teague et al saved Leyton Orient from the brink of extinction that does not make anyone associated with the club exempt from this blog's solemn duty to gratuitously complain about stuff. To wit: Steve Davis's post-match interviews, which I would generously describe as "soul-crushingly boring" and less generously describe as PLEASE-GOD-FIND-ME-SOME-PAINT-TO-WATCH-DRYING-MAKE-THIS-STOP-PLEASE-PLEASE-NO-MORE. Almost makes you yearn for the inexplicably hostile and aggressive interview technique of Ian Hendon. Almost.

New regime watch... "We need a big, strong, powerful forward," said Steve Davis in the wake of the Sutton defeat, no doubt channelling the words of his boss, Martin Ling. Curiously, the baby Ling's first words at the tender age of 13 months were "We need a big, strong, powerful forward" and Orient's director of football has been on a life mission to find one ever since. Without success. One season Ling tried to convince us that 5ft 9in Ryan Jarvis was the big, strong, powerful forward we'd all been waiting for. Another time he signed local brickie Sam Parkin. The quest goes on...

Meanwhile on TV... 

"Hi Sam, it's your mum."
"Hi mum. Did you see the game on telly?"
"No I was out I'm afraid. But I told all my friends from the church to watch"
"Ah, right..."
"You did comb your hair didn't you?"
"Yes mum"
"And you didn't bite your nails with all those TV cameras around?"
"And no picking your nose?"
"No mum"
"Of course, sorry Sammy, I know you wouldn't embarrass me on the telly"
"Erm, there was just one thing..."

03 August 2017

GUEST BLOG! James Masters: "At our lowest ebb, we were there together"

Orient lost every single game journalist and lifelong fan James Masters attended last season. Here he writes about how close we came to losing much more than football matches – and the renewed hope he has for the club's future... 

By the end, I was numb.

Try as hard as I might, I could not feel a thing.

What I longed for was some sense of anger, of frustration. What I got was silence.

What I yearned for was the rage of burning injustice to ignite and spark off a reaction inside the empty chasm which I had become.

But there was nothing. What I had held so dear for so long had been taken from me.

In a world where there is so much horror and tragedy, it seems trivial to lose oneself over one man's unerring quest to decimate a football club and raze it to the ground.

Perhaps it is churlish, when you consider the brutality of the world in which we live, to consider the desperate plight of one's football club in such grandiose terms.

And yet, perhaps it is precisely because we live in a world where there is such a constant source of upheaval and doubt, that the opportunity to escape from the toil of daily life, is so important.

For some that solace comes through prayer or meditation. For others it may be exercise, reading, or travel.

I make no secret of the fact that for many years now, Orient has been the source of my escapism

Orient allowed me to forget. It washed over my fears of social awkwardness, my own foibles, and provided the opportunity to cast my worries aside and instead focus on the most important of the world’s trivialities, Orient.

And yet, for the past three years, that has been so very difficult both in terms of results, and in terms of losing that one place where you can lose yourself. I lost my happy place.

Even now, some 30 years on from my first ever visit, I can still remember the spark of excitement in the pit of my stomach which rose upon the sight of Brisbane Road. Never did I imagine a time where that spark would be extinguished.

But I do not want to dwell on the past few years. We’ve spoken about it, dissected every minute detail and replayed it over and over in our minds. There is little we can do to change it now. 

Instead, it is time to look forward, gathering the lessons of the disastrous era and ensuring they are never forgotten. For while the past may be painful to look back upon, to commit the same mistakes once again would be folly. Now, there is only way to look and that is forward.

What this season will bring is beyond any of our wisdom. From a logical point of view, it would take something remarkable for a team full of new players with barely a few weeks of pre-season under their belt to achieve promotion this year. 

I do not doubt the quality or spirit of the squad, nor the expertise of the management, but factors such as continuity and time are crucial to long-term success, two luxuries we have not been able to enjoy. Let us not run before we can walk.

That aside, a season of stability bordering on the boring dare I say, would be rather welcome. For all the unrest and upheaval of the past three years, an opportunity to start again, to gather ourselves and re-establish the club should not be dismissed lightly. 

Of course, promotion and an instant return to the Football League would be wonderful, a dream, something all of us are working towards. But there must also be a level of realisation of the situation we find ourselves in. 

The new owners have already pledged they are here for the long term, the return of Martin Ling and Matthew Porter are two pieces of business which although simple, underline their understanding of this club.

Over 3,500 season tickets have been sold, a remarkable number given Orient’s dreadful past few years and the fact this will be their first season in non-league football for 112 years. But the drop into non-league football was never likely to deter those who hold Orient so dear for it has never been about the football, has it?

It’s about having our club back. It’s about looking forward to your weekends again, making new memories, sharing laughs with friends, travelling around the country in hope rather than resignation. 

It’s about the singing, the last minute winners, the grotesque burger vans which have you checking your armpits as the smell wafts through the air. It’s about being where you want to be, reclaiming your pride and valuing that sense of belonging.

Now, more than ever, that sense of belonging is crucial. It is crucial because we lost it. It was taken from us, right in front of our very noses and at the time it seemed there was little that we could do about it. And yet, at our lowest ebb, we were there, together. The small club with a big heart – the heart which belongs to all of us – the fans – got going once again.

I will never be able to express my gratitude to LOFT for all the work they have done. To those who organised the protests, the fundraising, the social media campaigns and the constant television and radio interviews, this is because of you. 

To the football fans from hundreds of other clubs across the world who gave us their support in our time of need to the journalists who helped spread our story, this is all because of you. 

It is because of those staff members who stayed even when they were not being paid because they believed that something good would come of all this. Even when some staff members were forced to leave their homes because they couldn’t afford the rent, they left only out of desperation and with a sadness in their stomachs. 

The staff and the supporters refused to give in to a man who was so hell bent on destruction, he could not see what was right in front of him – a group who never gives up.

Forget the team from 2013 – it’s our slogan now. We’re the group who never gives up. Every single supporter knows how close we came to losing our club, we will not let a day go by where we do not appreciate what we have.

And so if you take anything from the past few years, take this thought. For however chastening the past few years have been, however many times you have felt helpless, bewildered and disenfranchised, we won out. 

It was not the way we wanted it. Nobody would have wanted relegation from the Football League unless it meant the end of Becchetti. That the two coincided was more his doing than ours. But we’re still here, and he’s not.

It’s our club. It will always be our club. It belongs to every single one of us who were ever fortunate enough to be introduced to Leyton Orient. We may never be as big as Arsenal or Tottenham, nor as successful as Manchester United, but being a Leyton Orient fan has never been about the football alone. It’s about belonging, having a club we can each call our own.

When we return to Brisbane Road on Tuesday night for our first home game in the National League, we will come back together at the start of the next chapter. It’s in our hands now and the future is what we make of it. It is ours to shape. 

So, when you take your seat, say hello to the person who sits next to you, take your time to soak in the atmosphere and the new season feel. And then, take a breath, and perhaps allow yourself to realise just how lucky we are to have our Orient back, or any Orient at all.

06 July 2017

Interview: Kent Teague "I have a history with Beyonce that's difficult to overcome"

Throughout the summer Orient fans had little better to do than to stare endlessly at the Twitter profile of a mysterious Texan investor, hoping beyond hope that his background photo of a London tube sign would become in focus enough to reveal the name "Leyton". 

This, as we now know, was the precursor to Kent Teague becoming the principal shareholder and new vice-chairman of the Orient. God bless America, y'all!

So why did he do it? Where's he going to take us? And what's his beef with Beyonce? I made up some faintly ridiculous questions to try to find out...

You said you’ve wanted to own a football club for 30 years. Did you ever imagine you’d end up with an east London team in the fifth tier of English football?
No! Not in my wildest dreams. I've tried very diligently to own an American soccer club which hasn't worked out yet. So there's no way I thought the first club would be in the UK. But I think it is desirable to own a club in London so that part of it has worked out really, really well. 

Why football as opposed to proper American sports like basketball, baseball or cheerleading?
I have looked at American Football, basketball, baseball, hockey... But I have three daughters and all of them play soccer. I've been either their coach or assistant coach so I understand the rules of the game and have loved it for a very long time. I'm talking 20 years. 

Before Leyton Orient, who did you support? 
Brazil. I happened to go to Rio de Janiero for my 40th birthday party about 15 years ago and at that time Brazil were world class. And I think I came home from that trip with three different versions of the jersey. I had a Ronaldo jersey, a Ronaldinho jersey and there was another one. And I wore them every other day of my life. 

Is there anything Leyton Orient can learn from American sports?
Maybe there are things commercially that English football could learn from American-style business. But technically from a football perspective – coaching, style of play – no, I don't think there are specifics that are going to make Leyton Orient better because we're American. 

Is there anything Leyton Orient can learn from Texan rodeos?
I hope not! Can you guys learn a lot from wearing a cowboy hat? Probably not. These are cultural differences. Things that are valuable in Texas don't necessarily translate to anywhere else.   

You’re the principal shareholder and vice-chairman of Leyton Orient: what are you personally going to bring to the party?
I have a very strong analytical capacity. I don't fear making a decision, or making a decision quickly. And the third thing that I do really well – I hope – is build rapport with people. 

Your name sounds like a superhero: What’s your superpower going to be when it comes to Orient?
Cryptic Kent, huh? I absolutely love that by the way. Honestly I've taken it on as an alter-ego. I hope that my superpower is that I help everyone else have a fantastic experience of being a Leyton Orient fan. 

Great, although that's not technically a superpower. What about being invisible so you can spy in the opposition dressing room? 
I will say something about that. Even if we knew the tactics of the opposition team, I do think that the creativity that's required to be a footballer is extremely important. And I know that with creativity sometimes comes mistakes. So I expect that our players are going to make mistakes on the field, and I hope that our fans are going to be extremely encouraging of our players to go ahead and make mistakes because I think out of them will come the magic that we want. 

When Barry Hearn first took over the club he introduced weddings at half-time on the pitch. Do you have any similar ideas to liven up our Saturday afternoons? 
I do have ideas that float through my head, but I think the fans and staff are going to generate the best ideas. I read every tweet, I read everything on Facebook and I'm reading the forums. We're looking for the best ideas. We want the fan experience to be phenomenal. If they want weddings, we can do weddings! 

What have learnt about Leyton Orient fans so far? Are we mental? 
Yes! Yes! Yes! And I'm excited about that because I share the same level of being a nutter. But I'll tell you what I've learned about the fans. The emails that I get, the Linked In notes, the tweets, the things I see on the forums, on Facebook, the passion, the love, the devotion, the identity that the fans have with Leyton Orient is phenomenal, fantastic, amazing... It's hard for me to describe the emotion I feel when I think about how brilliant the fans are of Leyton Orient. It's the reason I'm involved in the club. 

You said you’ve read a couple of history books about the club. Was one of them the crtically-acclaimed Leyton Orient Greats by Matt Simpson? 
Ha ha... No it wasn't. But my friend Damon [Goduto] has bought your book and so I'll be reading it on my way to London. 

What stood out for you about the history of our club in the books you have read? 
One of the books I read was about the effect World War I had on the club – about the three fallen heroes. It was very moving. 

Fast forward 10 years: What will be different about Leyton Orient to where it is now?
Not much. East London will probably change dramatically over the next 10 years, but Leyton Orient will remain a significant part of its social fabric. Hopefully we will have won and drawn more than we've lost. Hopefully we're graced by fantastic performances by our players that we all remember together and raise a pint to in the pub. Hopefully we'll have phenomenal coaches and players that go on to greatness with other clubs. 

Do you see us returning to being a club that alternates between League One and League Two, or can we take it further? 
In the short term, six or eight years, it's League Two or League One. Given where we are today it'll take us two, three, four years to go up a particular division. Where we go beyond that I just don't know. I think it's possible to be a Championship side but I hesitate to say that as it takes a little bit of luck and a different way of thinking, and honestly I don't know yet what that means. What I am committed to is making sure that from a financial, staff and coaching perspective that we have a great deal of stability over the next 10 or 20 years. I hope that translates to success on the pitch, but we'll have to wait and see. We're very realistic about how hard this is. 
It's going to be tough for a Texan to assimilate into east London culture. Let's see how you're getting on: 

Jellied eels or chicken fried steak?
Now, am I in east London or am I Texas? Chicken fried steak is what I have every Sunday with my family. But I'm probably not going to choose chicken fried steak if I'm in London. 

I wouldn't if I were you. Next: Chas & Dave or Beyonce?
See now this is not fair because Beyonce is from Houston, Texas, and I know some people who drove her around to gigs when she was a teenager. So I have a history with Beyonce that's a little difficult to overcome. So it has to be Beyonce. 

Well London's finest singalong-a-Cockney scallywags are going to pretty upset by that... 
They can take it up with Jay-Z and the twins! 

Last one: Bob Hoskins or Tommy Lee Jones? 
See this is not fair because Tommy Lee Jones is a Texan. You keep giving me Texan problems! 

I never said these questions would be easy, Kent
I've been to London 25 or 30 times, but I've spent 55 years in Texas so it's impossible for me to choose things in London over Texas. Unless I'm in London. 

Kent, you've been an absolute gentleman. Thanks for saving our club.
You're welcome. 

30 June 2017

The heroes and villains of the Becchetti era 2014-2017

In news that has brought joy to the hearts of every Orient fan, new chairman Nigel Travis has promised to get the club back to where it belongs. And where it belongs is in a League One relegation battle. 

It's a long road back to those glory days, so before we embark on the journey, let me take one final glance at the absolute carnage behind us with a selection of the heroes and the villains from Francesco Becchetti's catastrophic tenure of the club... 

HERO: Phillip Othen  
I think we've all come to love matchday announcer Phillip Othen for his brazen disregard for the conventions of colour matching in his choice of clothing; his Geordie-hen-night-esque refusal to wear a coat; and the fact that despite not being paid he carried on banging out the announcements almost as if he actually enjoyed it. That, and some subversive choices of pre-match songs over the aural torture instrument that doubles up as the Brisbane Road tannoy: Taxman by The Beatles; Charmless Man by Blur; Frankie by Sister Sledge... You didn't quite have the balls to play I Fucking Hate You by Godsmack though, did you Phil?

VILLAIN: Alessandro Angelieri 
To be fair, the former CEO of Leyton Orient is only a villain in the sense that an actor playing Captain Hook in a production of Peter Pan at a decrepit end-of-the-pier theatre is a villain. And really the analogy only stands up if that actor repeatedly forgets his lines, knocks over scenery and then inadvertently burns the whole theatre to the ground. Oh Alessandro. I mean, if anything a man who exists with no apparent sign of a brain should be lauded as a miracle of science, rather than lambasted for his stratospheric incompetence.

HERO: Linda Hendon
Were it not for the intervention of Linda, the prevailing memory of the Ian Hendon era would be the spectacle of Sean Clohessy hitting the nearest defender with an attempted cross, repeating on an endless loop like an infinite version of Chinese water torture. Luckily, however, the manager's wife-to-be was not going to let the fact that her husband was inexplicably aggressive towards fans and media stop her dishing out her own form of social media justice. Highlights included labelling mild-mannered fan Elliot Byrne as the "least intelligent person on Twitter" and flipping her lid when – post-sacking – she and Ian were apparently denied a free ticket to watch a game. A woman scorned...

VILLAIN: The Plymouth Herald  
Orient's stunning last-gasp 3-2 victory away at high-fliers Plymouth in February gave fans a glimmer of hope that perhaps relegation wasn't inevitable. Until, that is, the Plymouth Herald mounted a campaign against Liam Kelly for mildly shoving a six foot, 17-year-old ball boy. "KELLY SHOULD BE TORTURED TO DEATH FOR HIS BLOODTHIRSTY MURDER ATTEMPT ON A CHILD" ran their headlines for days and days, almost as if there is no news at all in Plymouth ever. A grown man, who is also a journalist, literally wrote some words calling for the FA to "impose a significant punishment" on Kelly and called the incident "shocking". The ball boy himself has now become the most famous person ever to hail from Plymouth, and is sometimes almost recognised as far and wide as nearby Saltash and Botusfleming. Kelly, of course, got a six-game ban...

HERO: Michael Collins 
It's hard to single out just one player from the last three seasons because every single player was absolute dog shit. JOKE! Plaudits of course to the entire youth team, Dean Cox, Jay Simpson and... yep, that's about it apart from Michael Collins. Pop into Brisbane Road right now and you're still likely to see him storming around the pitch, fighting the lost cause with every last breath – all without actually being paid. A king among men.

VILLAIN: Rob Gagliardi 
Early in Becchetti's tenure, Ryman Rob had the hardest job in the world: namely translating Fabio Liverani's demented ramblings into English. Luckily for the handsome Italian – via a stint as goalkeeping coach – he was then bumped upstairs to be head of recruitment. And who can blame him for accepting the role? After all, if I was entirely unqualified to do anything at all I'd probably take a well-paid job as a brain surgeon if someone was lunatic enough to offer it to me. And if I did, I would still probably cause far less horror with my scalpel than Gagliardi's signings of Jens Janse, Teddy Mezague and Ulrich N'Nomo inflicted on the football pitch.

HERO: Frederico Morais  
By 2017 an increasingly unhinged Francesco Becchetti was getting through coaching staff quicker than his pre-match bottles of Valpolicella. On April Fools' Day, Stone Island model Omar Riza made his debut in the manager's hot seat for a clash with Wycombe Wanderers, only to get sent off at half-time. That led to the bizarre spectacle of previously unknown 13-year-old boy Frederico Morais fulfilling the second-half coaching duties on the touchline, yelling instructions such as "STOP GOAL-HANGING!", "SCRAMBLE GOALKEEPERS!" and "IF YOU DON'T PASS TO US WE'RE TAKING THE BALL HOME!" And fair play to the young lad, he prevented the opposition scoring any goals during his 45-minute stint.

VILLAIN: Francesco Becchetti 
In reality we all know there's only one villain in all of this. I've called Francesco Becchetti many things over the years – a lot of it libellous. Spiteful, incompetent, psychopathic, vain... no doubt he's all of those things. What became apparent during his final couple of months as owner of Leyton Orient was that he is also a rank coward. A coward for not having the guts to offer even a single word of explanation to fans or media as to how things had gone quite so badly. No apology for putting families in jeopardy by not paying wages. No justification for buying a leather jacket with a canary-yellow collar. His parting shot: an evidently-ghostwritten quote that even so provided a final insight into his deluded mind-state: "I have, unfortunately, not been able to dedicate myself to following the club as closely as I would have wanted." As if the reason for the whole catastrophe was his lack of involvement rather than the diametric opposite. Thankfully it's been proved that Leyton Orient is sturdy enough to withstand the attacks of a lunatic owner hellbent on destroying it. We survived, and now the only way is up. Metaphorically, that is. Technically we could end up in a National League relegation battle. But as long as Francesco Becchetti is nowhere near it, that's just fine by me...

Not massively bored or offended by any of this? Here's a selection of other posts I've written during the Becchetti era: 

Orient v Colchester and the pitch invasion 29/4/17 

An open letter to Francesco Becchetti 17/3/17 

The 10 good things about the 2014/15 season 14/5/2015

How to relegate a football club in 11 easy steps 9/5/2015

How has it come to this? 19/4/15

Our proud history: An open letter to Francesco Becchetti 1/10/14

30 April 2017

Leyton Orient 1 Colchester United 3, 29/4/17

Let me tell you about a  genuine recurring nightmare of mine. It always begins with me wearing the red of Leyton Orient and about to take to the pitch at Brisbane Road for a league match. But then, of course, I realise that my football ability – or lack of – means that I'm going to be exposed, humiliated, found out.

This must be what it's like to be Gianvito Plasmati in real life. But I tell you the story not to make a cheap crack at our former striker, but to say that in my wildest dreams I did imagine being on the pitch at Brisbane Road during a match – though not of course for the reasons that did actually lead me to the centre circle at 4:40pm yesterday afternoon. 

How did I get there? Let's rewind a bit. I've written at length about the toxic cocktail of vanity, incompetence and spite on the part of our owner Francesco Becchetti that has directly taken Orient from the brink of the Championship to relegation out of the Football League in just three catastrophic seasons – along with the real and present danger that the club will be liquidated out of existence at a 12 June appointment with the High Court

The Italian billionaire's most recent gambit was not paying any of the players or staff of the club their March wages until the last week of April. Why? Only two possible explanations spring to my mind: 

1) Becchetti really is so evil he would deliberately plunge honest, hardworking staff into financial strife 
2) He gave amoeba-brained CEO Alessandro Angelieri the responsibility for wage payment 

Alessandro Angelieri
And so, one might think, that despite wilful inaction from the EFL throughout the entirety of Becchetti's gross mismanagement of Leyton Orient, perhaps the issue of non-payment of staff would be something that the governing body might want to concern itself with. 

But apparently not. Not within their remit, which is a bit like the Civil Aviation Authority claiming that it's "not their problem" if the owner of an airline decides to deliberately fly all of its planes into a cliff.

(And let's hope Francesco Becchetti never does purchase an airline, otherwise he'll be there in cockpit, telling the pilots how to do their job until he becomes so exasperated with their inability to get to the destination faster that he wrestles the controls from them and crashes the aircraft into the sea.)

The EFL were "exceptionally concerned", according to their statement, but, hey, I'm "exceptionally concerned" that the hawksbill turtle is a critically-endangered species, but I'm not really doing anything about it. (Sorry turtles, I've had a lot on of late.) 

This was the real zinger in their statement though, referring to their Owners & Directors Test: "It is important that supporters understand that the Test governs the eligibility of who is able to own a club – it does not also ensure that those individuals have the capacity to manage it properly." 

Patronising and mental. I'd love to see the actual test: 

Q1) Are you a serial killer? 
Q2) Do you have any nuclear weapons? 
If you have answered "yes" to any question, I'm afraid you haven't passed the EFL's stringent Owners & Directors Test. You should still be able to take over a Premier League club though. 

And so to Saturday, and it was fitting that Orient's last league goal at Brisbane Road came from the rocket boot of Sandro Semedo, one of the many young, promising Orient players given a baptism of fire in a League Two relegation battle thanks to Francesco Becchetti's post-Christmas refusal to actually sign anyone to replace all the senior players he'd ousted. 

That put the game at 1-1 until Jens Janse –  signed by Rob Gagliardi, an interpreter inexplicably tasked with the role of Head of Recruitment – tried to prove his worth as a non-league player by passing directly to an opposition striker in the Orient penalty area. Another Colchester goal two minutes later and Orient fans were on the pitch, despite there being seven minutes of the game remaining. 

Was this the right thing to do? For me: yes. Surely an owner of a football club cannot be allowed to deliberately sabotage his own team; not pay players or staff; or wear a leather jacket with a bright yellow furry collar? No one was listening to us. No one was helping us. We had to do something.

And then how utterly fitting that one of the EFL's final acts in its 112-year association with Leyton Orient was a self-confessed, bare-faced lie. They convinced the police and the club to announce that the game had been abandoned, only to then conclude the remaining seven minutes once all the fans had left. 

Why? Because, according to them, they needed to "maintain the integrity of the competition". Yes, that's right the EFL used the word "integrity", and consequently should have as much trouble looking themselves in the mirror without bursting into hysterics as Mauro Milanese does when glancing at his hair. 

Let me tell you about "integrity", EFL. Integrity is every fan who contributed their own money to an emergency fund to help out the unpaid players and staff in April. Integrity is anyone who contributed to the fighting fund – now over £140k – that could be needed to keep the club in existence. Integrity is the Colchester fans who sung "Stand up for the Orient" and the countless other supporters of rival clubs across the country who've offered sympathy and empathy with Os fans. There but for the Grace of God go they. 

So there I was, on the pitch. The peaceful protest could mean a points deduction in the National League next year, but even if it does I would do it again. Every Orient fan knows that with Becchetti still in control of our football club, relegation is the least of our concerns. 

We're clearly not going to get any help from the EFL in ousting the billionaire and only he knows what his next move will be. But the one thing he can't touch is the soul of club. That soul was out there on the pitch on Saturday. It exists in the memories, the bond, the connection between Leyton Orient fans. Players, managers, psychopathic owners can come and go, but us fans will always be there, like the generations of supporters before and – hopefully – after us. 

Me and my dad will still be there too – cheering, complaining, losing the will to live – whatever league we're in. And, hey, if we get relegated far enough down the pyramid maybe my dream of turning out for Leyton Orient will one day become a reality. Where's my boots? 

01 April 2017

Leyton Orient 0 Wycombe Wanderers 2, 1/4/17

A game in which... opposition fans sung "Stand up for the Orient"; a group of home supporters broke into the gantry to unfurl a banner proclaiming "Bollocks"; and local mechanic Errol McKellar fulfilled assistant manager duties in the dugout for the second half. So far so surreal.

What next: Rowan Liburd applauded off the pitch after a man-of-the-match performance? Yes, actually, because this is the end of days at Brisbane Road thanks to that potent combination of incompetency, egomania, spite and Valpolicella that swims around in the brain of our esteemed president.

It was an emotional day: the tragic death of fan Frankie Bish – "Mr Orient" – on Thursday turning the dark clouds already hanging over the club to pitch black. As always of late, the players gave it everything – despite not being paid this month – and even started the game pretty brightly.

The early sending off meant Orient's prospect of defeat moved from "cast-iron certainty" to "inevitable" – not that it really matters when the very existence of the club is at stake.

But what was evident today from the defiant chants and the heartfelt stadium-wide ovation in memory of Frankie was that the soul of Leyton Orient is strong – and that's the one thing the anti-Midas touch of Francesco Becchetti can't destroy.

Jump off your seat moment... The moment some wag in the backroom staff put Jens Janse's name on the team sheet as an April Fool's prank, only for it to catastrophically backfire after no one remembered to take him off it again and the missing Dutchman actually turned up on the pitch.

Taxi for... Charles Breakspear for red-carding Tom Parkes for a borderline foul on Wycombe's Garry Thompson. Given Orient's perilous state it was a decision that suggests the referee's hobbies outside of the game might include the illegal hunting of near-extinct species and kicking cripples.

In the dug out... A while back I joked that the next manager of Leyton Orient would be Ada the kit man. We aren't that far off that becoming a reality since Becchetti's relentless snipering of his own gaffers has taken us down to the bare bones of the club's coaching staff.

Omer Riza – dressed like a self-conscious dinner guest who'd mistakenly believed the dress code to be smart casual rather than black-tie – was the latest to drink from the poison chalice of Leyton Orient management.

He no doubt created some sort of future Trivial Pursuit question by getting himself sent off 45 minutes into his debut, leaving it to youth coach Frederico Morais (with the help of the aforementioned Errol McKellar) to attempt the footballing equivalent of trying to extinguish a volcano with a water pistol in the second half.

And credit to these loyal professionals and the many others still trying to keep our club afloat – and support their own families – despite not being actually paid this month by the billionaire Francesco Becchetti. This latest act by the president is a true measure of the man.

17 March 2017

An open letter to Francesco Becchetti

Dear Mr Becchetti,

I last wrote to you in October 2014, just after you’d ousted Russell Slade and Matt Porter from Leyton Orient, urging you to respect the long-held values of the club you’d recently bought.

I think it’s safe to say you never read that letter, partly because I posted it on my blog which no one reads, but mostly because in the following two and a half years you’ve done pretty much the opposite: grinding those long-held club values of respect, community, inclusivity and togetherness into the ground under the elevated heel of your designer Italian shoes.

Why did you do that? Well, I can’t profess to know for certain what goes on inside your brain – and I suspect even the most talented psycho-analyst would have a tough job negotiating their way through all the vitriol, delusion and Chianti.

But here, at least, is my best attempt at explaining why you’ve almost destroyed something I’ve held dear for all my life.

You wanna be adored…

Why did you buy a football club? Well, even though you’d shown no previous interest in the sport, it’s easy to see why you’d want to throw a few of your spare millions at a little plaything to break the monotony of board meetings about waste disposal in Albania.

Why Leyton Orient though? Maybe you couldn’t quite afford a club that was actually any good. But more likely you wanted to take something that was previously unsuccessful and claim any future glory as entirely your own.

No point buying Man Utd or Chelsea – you’d be on a hiding to nothing. With Orient, I suppose you thought: well, I can’t exactly do any worse. Little did you know…

I think you wanted fans to sing your name. I think you wanted to be paraded through the litter-strewn streets of Leyton. I think you have a massive, out-of-control ego and wanted the supporters of the club to adore you, to exalt you.

That’s why you quickly drove out pretty much everyone previously associated with the club: Russell Slade, Matt Porter, Juliet the cook… That’s why of the nine managers you’ve appointed, not a single one of them had any previous track record of success. Should any of them had achieved anything with Orient, you wanted to be able to say that you found them, you nurtured them.

That’s why you created a ludicrous reality TV show about the club and got them to film you gazing purposefully across the hallowed turf of Brisbane Road, hoping no doubt that none-the-wiser Italian audiences would think you ruled over something far grander than you actually did.

Christ, you even threw £7,500 a week at Andrea Dossena specifically to reinforce this ruse and persisted with the demonstrably insane Fabio Liverani as manager on the basis that at least he was a “name” Italian audiences could associate themselves with.

You also paid Nicole Kidman presumably millions of Euros to sit next to you at the launch of your TV channel and use every ounce of her acting skills to try not to look like rancid shame was oozing from every pore of her body.

And remember your behaviour after an inconsequential win against Portsmouth on Boxing Day 2015? Lumbering drunkenly on to the pitch, kicking Andy Hessenthaler up the arse, gesticulating wildly in front of the fans with your grotesque belly hanging out over your belt.

This was what you wanted, wasn’t it? A bit of adulation. A bit of adoration.

Sticky fingers

Thing is, you’re so vain, so deluded, that you thought that you knew how to run a football club – or even manage the first XI – better than those who’ve done it all their working lives.

You couldn’t help interfering in everything, right down to team selection, substitutions, club communications…

Which is bad in itself, of course, but you were really, really terrible at it. You employed Alessandro Angelieri as CEO of the club, a man whose stratospheric levels of incompetence would be comical if they weren’t so damaging.

You employed an Italian TV journalist first as Technical Director, then one month later made him Head of Communications; and Rob Gagliardi as Head of Looking A Bit Handsome and Sometimes Scouting Slovenian Players From FM17.

You insisted that Gianvito Plasmati set foot on a football pitch for an actual football match. You hired Alberto Cavasin. You turned up at the training ground to generously offer your “charisma”.

None of this really worked, though, did it? Because as a direct consequence of your leadership we got relegated and then found ourselves in a battle to avoid ending our 112-year stay in the Football League.

Cruel summer (and winter)

But you’re not just a grossly incompetent egomaniac, are you Mr Becchetti? You’re also a spiteful, vengeful, grossly incompetent egomaniac.

We got some early glimpses of how you behave when you believe you’ve been crossed. Your insistence that players attend double training sessions for two weeks after the end of the 2014/15 season, preventing some from being reunited from their families. Imprisoning the squad in a hotel for a week after another loss in 2015/16.

Your bizarre half-time announcement humiliating Darius Henderson for getting caught in a traffic jam. Your inexplicably brutal sacking of goalkeeping coach Lee Harrison. The freezing out of Jobi McAnuff when your plans to oust him from the club didn’t come off. Ditto Jay Simpson and Alex Cisak. And God only knows what you had against Scott Kashket

But worst of all was the despicable way you treated club legend Dean Cox, which really showed just how spiteful you could be. 

It really grated that Deano was more popular than you, didn’t it? I mean, the Norovirus was more popular than you at the time, but anyway, when your plans to move him on from the club backfired, you ensured that not only would Coxy never turn out for Orient again, but that he’d be unable to play for any other club until the next transfer window. 

Vengeance is yours

But what really upset you was that by the time your catastrophic ownership of the club had cast us to the depths of League Two, the fans had the gall to complain a bit.

You airily wafted away the mild-mannered chants of displeasure from your gallery vantage point like you were brushing a splattering of your rampant dandruff from your shoulder. You clearly regarded us fans with utter contempt.

But what really sent you over the edge was our peaceful protest about the way the club was being run, didn’t it? This was the point that you realised that the game was up: that there was no chance you were ever going to get the adoration you craved.

You could have planned a dignified exit from there. But you wanted to stick the boot in first, didn’t you?

You instructed the spam-brained Alessandro Angelieri to post a jaw-dropping statement on the website blaming the lack of effort from players such as Jordan Bowery and the aforementioned Henderson and McAnuff as the reason behind the club’s demise.

I think you actually believe that, don’t you? That you breezed in, threw a bit of money around, but were ultimately let down by the players.

So you transfer-listed half the squad, pulled the plug on any further recruitment and stopping paying everyone from the taxman to the printers of the matchday programme.

Worse still, despite the fact you have explicitly stated you want to sell the club, you are apparently not responding to any expressions of interest from potential buyers.

Such is your spite, you would rather drive us into the ground – or even put us out of existence – than try to recoup a few of the millions you’ve spunked so far.

That’s your ultimate revenge on the fans who wouldn’t adore you, isn’t it? What a pathetic, small-minded man you are.

Rise again

The thing is, Mr Becchetti, it won’t work. Because a football club isn’t just a collection of assets that can be liquidated. A football club is a community; a collective spirit; the sum of all the memories of all the people that have shouted for joy or cried tears of anguish in the stands in over a century of existence.

And whether you leave us in administration, in the National League or building a phoenix club from the ashes of Brisbane Road, you can’t take any of that away from us.

One way or the other, we’ll all still have Leyton Orient. And it’ll be a Leyton Orient that’s no longer infected by your poison. And whatever shape that may take, it’ll still be a better, happier place to be than the Leyton Orient of your tenure.

So hopefully we’ll be saying ciao for good pretty soon, Mr Becchetti. Who knows, perhaps one day someone will give you the adoration you desire. As to us Leyton Orient fans? I doubt we’ll give you a second thought once you’re gone.


Matt Simpson

Francesco shows just how bothered he is
about the current plight of Leyton Orient

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