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. 
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