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.
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