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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