04 October 2020

Leyton Orient 0 Cheltenham Town 2, 4/10/20

A game in which... the global scientific community discovered multiple new symptoms of Covid-19, including complete loss of positional sense, deterioration in the ability to understand the basic concepts of a game and – in the case of Sam Ling – an overwhelming compulsion to boot a football into his own net. So let me be clear: THERE WAS ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSE FOR THIS PERFORMANCE. 

It is true that Leyton Orient were the first team in professional football history to ever play a competitive match while collectively suffering from a debilitating respiratory virus and without any training, tactical instruction or face time in the preceding fortnight – although that still left them better prepared than they ever were under Fabio Liverani, and even then they managed to win once or twice

I'm joking of course: let's cut the players some slack and acknowledge that we were always going to lose this under the circumstances. And by "circumstances" I mean fielding a team in which three of the four defenders were Joe Widdowson, James Brophy and the aforementioned Ling. 

Praise be... Now, technically Jobi McAnuff should have been the most debilitated by Covid-19 given that he's of the generation most at risk. In fact, McAnuff was head and shoulders Orient's most energetic and inspirational player, as he is every single week. Curious then, that he delegated set piece responsibilities to Josh Wright, the footballing equivalent of Mick Jagger inviting H from Steps on stage to sing Sympathy For The Devil for him.

Taxi for... Sam Ling divides fans' opinions. Some believe he is far from a League Two standard defender and is only in the team because we haven't signed anyone better. Other believe he is far from a League Two standard defender and is only in the team because his dad is Director of Football. The latter obviously isn't true because if Martin Ling did have any influence on team selection then Brian Saah and Ryan Jarvis would be playing every week. 

In the dug out... Ross Embleton seems to have something of a mental block around what constitutes his best team, rotating the squad so much it's little wonder they spent most of this game running around in circles to little effect. He actually has an embarrassment of riches for the front three slots – Johnson, Angol, Wilkinson, Maguire-Drew, Dennis, Dayton, Sotiriou – at the same time as having the opposite issue in defence, where currently no one seems up to the job. Meanwhile he hasn't answered the question as to who partners Cisse and McAnuff in midfield, flip-flopping between Clay and Wright almost as if the former wasn't much, much better than the latter. 

Meanwhile in the stadium... As we all know, games continue behind closed doors, which makes it curious that the volume of noise emanating from the West Stand has actually increased. (Albeit that largely consists of the entire coaching staff yelling "HE'S BEHIND YOU!" pantomime-style at James Brophy.) But, as we also know, outdoor theatre events are allowed to take place with socially-distant audiences, which has given me an idea: How about we simply rebrand Leyton Orient as an experimental repertory company? That way they could put on weekly 90-minute "shows" designed to artistically parody what an actual football match is like. This would allow an "audience" in and is also not that far from the truth. 

Meanwhile in the programme... Another fascinating insight into the life of one of the squad. "What do you like to do away from football?" asks the programme editor earnestly of Ouss Cissé, who answers bewilderingly, "I like to play FIFA. I like to watch football too." Next week: Jamie Turley on how he takes his mind off the game by watching replays of Orient matches from two weeks ago. 

And happy birthday to... self-proclaimed club historian Neilson Kaufman, whose tireless work in deleting any Wikipedia mentions of Orient books not written by himself should always be heralded. 

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