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

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