David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘Leyton Orient’

It was the Best of Times, it was the Worst of Times: Os Top at Christmas, but Olympic Stadium Spectre Looms Large

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

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It has been a tumultuous week in the football world. Vincent Tan has shown his true colours at Cardiff. Not content with sacking the head of recruitment and changing the clubs colours from red to blue, he is now threatening to sack the man who brought them into the Premiership, Malky Mackay.

Hull’s owner Assem Allam is behaving in a similar way, threatening to change the clubs name to Hill Tigers, telling supporters who oppose his views that they can “die when they want”. So it would seem that owners are a mixed bunch, and when they behave in an outrageous manner, there is no way to stop them. The Premier League and FA show their usual impotence in such important matters. While fans need to be careful what they wish for, they are often not consulted or finances dictate that they have little choice.

Another key development this week concerns the continued wrangling over the Olympic Stadium, masterminded from Orient’s side by O’s Chairman, Barry Hearn. The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) revealed it has no objection to Hearn negotiating an agreement with whichever firm ends up operating 2012 Games centrepiece. The upshot is that Orient could negotiate a rental deal with whomever wins the tender to the new owners will be when it is put out to tender next year (bidders include Live Nation and AEG).

Hearn claims that the prospect of Orient using the stadium every other weekend would be attractive to whoever manages it because it would provide the kind of regular guaranteed income a music concert or other one-off event could not. Hearn is quoted as saying “West Ham won’t want to hear this but the news that came down is they have no problem with me renting the Olympic Stadium and playing my fixtures there. It’s only a question of what rental I agree with the new operators. That’s a major breakthrough for me.” Hearn’s previous plan was to sell Orient’s present home at Brisbane Road if they moved into the Olympic Stadium but he admitted that would now depend on what length of deal was on the table.

While nothing has been agreed as yet, this new development is major concern to many Orient fans. Hearn’s original intention was to get similar rights to West Ham i.e. a 99 year lease, and while this is not going to happen, Hearn revealed on Twitter that he would be happy with a 10 year lease (he hasn’t ruled out less than 10 years either).

This would leave the way open to sell Brisbane Road, while leaving Orient with a tenuous renal agreement with the stadium management company, very similar to the situation between SISU and Coventry City (see Twohundredpercent’s excellent posts on the subject.) This could see Orient homeless in 10 years or sooner, with no guarantees over what the management company could charge (Hearn has stated £500k per year or double if Os make it up to the Championship, but as ever the devil is in the detail).

Barry Hearn’s Matchroom Sports purchased Brisbane Road for £6m in 2009 and now offers a 20 lease year back to Leyton Orient with rent reviews every 5 years. He says the whole Brisbane Road area is zoned for residential planning which could fetch significant value if redeveloped but claimed he is only interested in getting his £6m back and any excess profit would be ploughed back into Leyton Orient if he became a tenant of the Olympic Stadium.  Iain Dale covers this in his November interview with Hearn for his West Ham blog.

Maybe it’s just me, but this is a red flag! It is quite clear that Barry Hearn has been keen to get out (he always claims “on the right terms, to the right buyer”, whatever that means”). It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the club are already operating at Hearn’s behest, both at Brisbane Road and in the future at the Olympic Stadium. I would love to believe in our Chairman’s altruistic nature, but Hearn is a businessman, and unless he can make a decent return, he will look for an exit strategy.

The Olympic Stadium rental deal gives him just that and will leave O’s fans high and dry- with any operator of the Olympic Stadium. Who is to say that there will not be any deal to renegotiate the terms of the lease, or indeed whether there would be any consultation with fans over the length and terms of the lease (very unlikely), or indeed any clauses in the contract?

Notwithstanding the more superficial details of West Ham- named stands, colour-scheme of seats and the fact that Orient would look daft playing in a 55,000+ capacity stadium (and the fact that the majority don’t want to move – Hearn dismisses those naysayers who see us “doing a Darlington” as lacking ambition or the ability to dream), at the heart of every fan’s ambitions at Orient is a sustainable club that will survive.

Most are not buying the fact that a move is synonymous with success (I am sceptical that we have 30-40,000 fans that will come along because we move stadiums), although Hearn is thrusting this message across as Orient are presently top of League One, which makes the message about ambition more palatable.

While the future is highly uncertain off the pitch, on the pitch the Os have made it to Christmas top of League One, a phenomenal achievement considering the size and playing budgets of a number of clubs in the league. The first half of the season has been a whirlwind, with consistent performances and sublime football at times, including stunning wins away at Peterborough, Swindon, Brentford and others and demolition of Tranmere, Carlisle and Notts County. Moreover, the Os have made it to the third round of the FA Cup. Many were highly sceptical as to whether Russell Slade could take the club further in 2012, after a poor previous season but continuity and massively improved performances of key players in 2013 has seen the club push on from an excellent 7th place finish in the 2012-13 campaign.

Quality passing football has been mixed with excellent fitness and determination. Even when conceding, Orient have managed to stay in games and recover from a losing position. The main concern, following the 3-2 home defeat to Crawley, where the Os were missing Elliot Omozusi, David Mooney and Dean Cox, is the depth of the squad when beset by injuries and suspensions.

Much will be revealed about our promotion ambitions with the two away games and Gillingham on Boxing Day and Wolves on December 29. Should Orient come through those games with positive results, then there is a good chance that we will be in contention right the way through to the end of the season.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and be careful what you wish for, especially football club owners bearing gifts….

Written by Andy Brown, We Are Going Up’s Leyton Orient Blogger

Andy tweets at @OrientMeatPie

The Football League is Upside Down: Os Set the Early Season Pace!

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

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As I write this, Orient sits atop League One and in the second round of the Capital One Cup, strange territory for a team that are notoriously bad starters under Russell Slade. A literally thumping 5-1 win at Carlisle on the opening day had thrills, spills and headaches, especially for Os centre back and captain, Nathan Clarke, who was knocked unconscious and out cold for 30 minutes after going head first into gravel on the side of the pitch after a “robust” challenge from Carlisle captain Lee Miller saw the Us skipper sent off. Clarke later emerged on the team coach looking like a giant panda with two black eyes and cut and bruised but otherwise OK. This was followed by a less convincing, but no less exciting performance against Coventry that saw the Os sneak a 3-2 win and condemn Coventry to their second 3-2 defeat in four days.

Things can change very quickly in football and O’s fans know all too well the old football cliché that the season is a marathon, not a sprint. Nevertheless, the great start this year is a major improvement over last year, as Orient did not manage a single win until September and the year before the start was far worse!

So what has been the reason for Orient’s great start, can it continue and what is needed to continue the success?

Pre-season Assessment

Orient went into pre-season off the back of a strong finish to the 2012-13 campaign, similar to our 2010-11 performance, landing an identical 7th place in League One. The contrast with 2011-12 was stark as we seemed destined for the bottom four and only narrowly escaped. Last season, our revival began with an 8 game run in November a massive upswing in performances, punctuated by the return to fitness of veteran striker Kevin Lisbie (as well as veteran midfielders Cook and Rowlands and central defenders Scott Cuthbert and Nathan Clarke) which saw Orient surge up the table.

I was lucky enough to get to a number of our pre-season games and the first thing that was evident was the cohesion in the team. Orient swept a decent Chelmsford side away 7-0 and thumped Welling 4-1 with relative ease. In addition to winning a prestigious friendly 2-1 against New York Cosmos, the most telling aspect was the lack of turnover in the squad, with the nucleus of a successful team kept in place, with a few valuable additions to the team. Results aside, the team played with fluency and an inherent understanding of each other’s games that comes with playing together all the previous season. This translated effortlessly into the first game of  the season where the team played with the same understanding.

Continuity: Summer Transfers

Close season activity was steady and focused. The main emphasis was on signing up out of contract players, particularly top players such as Mathieu Baudry (central defence/defensive midfield) and Romain Vincelot (midfield), both very astute signings. Striker David Mooney re-signed and poor performers were offloaded (Griffith to Port Vale and Symes to Burton). A settled back four including Baudry, Nathan Clarke, Scott Cuthbert and Gary Sawyer were all contracted for the season as are the core players in midfield and up-front, which was crucial for stability. Striker Shaun Batt joined us permanently after a loan from Millwall, West Ham reserve keeper Jake Larkins also signed as did promising trialist striker Yohann Lasimant, winger Johnny Gorman, released by Wolves and robust midfielder Marvin Bartley on loan from Burnley.

Losing Charlie MacDonald, Cook and Rowlands that we couldn’t afford due to the 60% salary cap means we may live or die by loans next season should we get injuries, however.

Off the Pitch

Most O’s fans would agree that despite the distraction of the Olympic Stadium shambles up the road, that the club is becoming much more professional off the pitch in terms of its sponsorship, community engagement and fan engagement. This is not to say that the club was poorly run before, but simply that there is a greater sense of professionalism that is evident off the pitch that is translating to confidence on the field. The Olympic Stadium issue has also galvanised Orient fans behind the #standupfortheorient campaign.

Scoring Goals for Fun

There is not getting away from the fact that all of Orient’s attacking players are on fire this season. Winger Dean Cox has three in two games, Kevin Lisbie has three in two, Mooney, James and Odubajo are all playing superbly as well. Eight goals in two games is evidence of a team with confidence that can always score goals!

Can we beat 11 Men?

So far, both the teams Orient have played have had their captains sent off, so it will be interesting to see how we get on against 11 players for 90 minutes!

2013-14 Season Outlook

Despite a great start, League 1 still looks tough this season, even though teams like Coventry are already in turmoil. Neither Orient or Walsall fans (who have had a similarly good start) are getting carried away, but we’ll enjoy it while it lasts!

Personally, I would be very happy with an upper mid-table finish, ideally sneaking into the playoffs. Every year the clubs with larger budgets and squads will survive the winter months more effectively and smaller squads will find it hard to compete when injuries and suspensions set in (along with the wage cap!). Slade deserves much credit for turning things around at Orient from our precarious position last October. Continuity and stability at the club is really helping on-pitch performances. Few injuries and Slade’s ability to wheel and deal in the loan market will prove pivotal to another successful season, and who knows, maybe we could even “do a Yeovil”?

Written by Andy Brown, We Are Going Up’s Leyton Orient Blogger

Andy tweets at @OrientMeatPie

If You Tolerate This, Then Your Club Could Be Next

Monday, March 25th, 2013

So the inevitable has finally happened. The OPLC has finally rubber-stamped a decision to award the people’s Olympic Stadium to wealthy Premier League West Ham United in a desperate attempt by the powers-that-be to ensure that their legacy does not become a white elephant.  All this despite the lack of a proper bidding process overshadowed in 2011 by the fact that an OPLC director was paid £20,000 while moonlighting as a consultant for West Ham, which raised major issues about OPLC’s processes and the decision to award the Olympic Stadium to West Ham.

Under the deal announced today, West Ham will pay only £15 million for a 99-year lease on a stadium whose conversion costs will be £150 million to £190 million and whose overall cost could top £630 million.

The fundamentals of the deal are clear: West Ham are getting a stadium costing more than £600 million for just £15 million and a small amount of around £20 million in annual rent. That’s a pretty good deal for West Ham’s owners (worth in excess of £800m in combined wealth between Sullivan, Gold and Brady), considering it’s less than an Andy Carroll transfer fee.

Not only this, but the taxpayer is picking up the additional tab too…another £25 million will need to be found by taxpayers to pay for a wealthy premier league club to have a freebie from the state. This is in addition to Newham council’s £40 million “loan”, from the poorest borough in the country that has faced annual double-digit spending cuts but is still able to borrow from the treasury at preferential rates. How could it possible impact services in the borough?

This is a club that has yet to finish paying Sheffield United the £18.1m it owes them over the Teves saga and where there has been no mention of where the funds from Upton Park will end up. Back with the taxpayer one would assume.

And it’s here that we move onto another football club, the longest established club in the East End. My pride and joy, like many others, that has been around longer than West Ham. As the second oldest club in London, this decision threatens Leyton Orient’s future existence.

It seems that with Barry Hearn’s legal wrangling, many are unable to read between the lines. Here’s the truth:

- Orient didn’t want the stadium – we couldn’t fill it (neither could West Ham) and having an athletic track makes the idea of watching football farcical. Barry Hearn’s legal manoeuvring really centred on an unfair bidding process that would directly impact the club’s future. At best it is hoped there would be some sort of compensation or plan from the fallout, but just like the poor residents of Newham, Orient has a raw deal.

- Empty seats mean discounted, cheap or free tickets, for a club higher up the football pyramid less than a long goal kick from Brisbane Road.

- It will have a detrimental impact on Orient’s future fanbase, as well as youth schemes for local talent (Leyton Orient Community Sports Program LOCSP), fundamental to the survival of a League One club.

Orient did not want the Olympic Stadium, but we did not want to be ignored and bypassed in a process that directly impacts our future. The option to have the hockey stadium was refused, sharing with West Ham was refused, and other viable bids were rejected.

Along with taxpayers, Orient has lost out. It may force Orient, the true legacy East London club to move to Essex in order to survive for the reasons stated. Of course none of this will matter. West Ham has its taxpayer-funded stadium and the OPLC has finally offloaded their embarrassing and overpriced white elephant.

Despite corruption overshadowing the entire process, this is just a microcosm of football and the division of wealth more broadly in Britain. Taking money from the poorest borough and attempting to destroy a community club is all in a days’ work for the OPLC and the Mayor of London.

Today it’s my club, but if you tolerate this, then your club could be next.

Written by Andy Brown, We Are Going Up’s Leyton Orient Blogger

Andy tweets at @OrientMeatPie

Deadline Day Dealings at the Orient

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Jim White, reporters interviewing Harry Redknapp through a car window and football fans up and down the country gurning like morons behind Sky reporters – it can only be transfer deadline day.

This one was a classic, with Norwich making 300 bids and failing to sign former Orient-loanee Gary Hooper from Celtic, Forest’s owners making the club look like amateurs, Beckham agreeing to donate his wages at new club PSG to a local children’s charity, but best of all Peter Odemwingie humiliating himself by turning up uninvited at QPR in the vague hope of Harry giving him a job, in the most awkward moment since BBC staff got caught dancing to the Jim’ll Fix it theme tune at their Christmas Party!

But what of the mighty bald eagle himself, Russell Slade? Orient typically do precious little business in the winter transfer window, and this window saw further efforts to cut costs, which is unsurprising given that the club lost 1.4million last season which is projected to be down to £500K this year according to Barry Hearn. Slade warned that investment in players beyond the end of the season was not possible, which raises big concerns over our ability to keep the superb Moses Odubajo at the end of the season (although at least we kept hold of him for the rest of this season!)

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Summary of Orient Ins and Outs in the Transfer Window

In (Loans)

Shaun Batt                   Millwall                       Loan    31 Jan, 2013

Ade Azeez                    Charlton                      Loan    18 Jan, 2013

Out (Loans)

Michael Symes            Burton                         Loan    31 Jan, 2013

In

Charlie MacDonald     MK Dons                      Free     11 Jan, 2013

Elliott Omozusi            Unattached                 Free     January 2013

Out

Marc Laird                  Southend                     Free     04 Jan, 2013

Ryan Allsop                 Bournemouth              Free     18 Jan, 2013

Ben Chorley                Stevenage                   Free     31 Jan, 2013

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In terms of signings, reaction from Os fans has been mixed. Charlie MacDonald’s arrival on a free was largely positive, with many feeling his experience would help in a similar way to Scott McGleish and imperative with Kevin Lisbie currently injured. Elliott Omozusi returns to Orient for a second chance after serving his prison sentence. Ade Azeez is an unknown quantity, although promising and rated by Charlton fans, although he hasn’t played since the Doncaster game after apparently getting a knock. Reaction to Shaun Batt was very mixed, both among Os and Millwall fans. He tends to polarize opinion. Slade has “had him on the radar” for quite a while and feels he is tall and awkward and sees a fit for him at Orient. Fans point to his Calvin Andrewesque goal scoring record and general lack of ability. Personally I prefer to see players kick a ball before criticising them!

Unsurprisingly Michael Symes made the move to Burton. He has looked lumbering, awkward and generally lost at Orient, so a move will do him good, either as an O’s player or for selling him on in the summer.

Leaving was Marc Laird who opted to turn his Southend loan into a permanent move after Orient released him and will no doubt face us in the Johnson’s Paint area final next week.  The biggest losses have been Ryan Allsop, a ‘keeper without any senior appearances who was signed from Millwall on a 6 month contract in the summer. After some superb performances he caught the eye of moneybags Bournemouth who doubled his wages compared to what Orient could offer. It’s a loss for the club, but with Jamie Jones and Lee Butcher getting fit again, Orient already has two good keepers at the club.

The biggest shock was big Ben Chorley leaving for Stevenage. From chants of “You’ll never beat Ben Chorley” a few seasons ago to “It’s never your fault” last season, when he had a dreadful season (as did most of the squad), Chorley has focused and been superb for Orient this season, becoming a real lynchpin in the backline. While many, myself included, would have been happy to see him go in the summer after a poor season, to see him leave now, with a settled and solid back line and Southend coming up in a few days, is worrying to say the least. While Baudry is rapidly improving and Cuthbert and Clarke are excellent players, their injury records are a cause for concern, the club may find itself short in that position later this year. Nevertheless, with a longer contract on offer, nobody blames Chorley for moving on.

So where does this leave the Os for the rest of the season?

Well, the good news is Rowlands and Cook, both of whom have been excellent for the Os this season have signed extensions until the end of the season. Clarke and Butcher are coming back to fitness and having Chorley off the wage bill takes pressure off the club. Key players such as Cox and Odubajo are still here and overall the team is playing consistently well at the moment. Even without Lisbie. Slade seems to have gradually overcome the dreadful performances of last season and earlier this season and we finally look a tougher side to beat. Massive games await against Southend with a trip to Wembley the prize and we are already on 40 points – just 10 to go to that magic 50 point mark, relative safety and then who knows?

Up the Os!

Written by Andy Brown, We Are Going Up’s Leyton Orient Blogger

Andy tweets at @OrientMeatPie

Slade on the brink after latest defeat

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

The highlight of Leyton Orient’s 1-0 home reversal to Coventry City on Saturday was the one lonely Coventry fan that turned up dressed as Kermit the Frog while nobody else in the away end seemed to get the memo that it was fancy dress. Meanwhile Orient fans endured another home farce of eleven Muppets trying to play football.

The game itself was decided by an awful mistake. Carl Baker’s tame long-range effort was spilled horribly by Allsop and in-form striker David McGoldrick tapped home after rounding the prone keeper.  It was Allsop’s second spill after gifting Colchester their second goal in the 2-0 home defeat four days earlier, from an otherwise excellent keeper, and highlighted just how low on confidence the team is at the moment.

Orient did create chances, however, but as has been the problem this season, nobody can finish them off.  Martin Rowlands ‘shot from outside the box was deflected over the bar and David Mooney’s low cross slipped across the area only for Dean Cox to slice wildly over after hacking at the ball from nine yards out while unmarked.

Coventry also had opportunities, almost all of which came from mistakes. After letting the ball run under his foot, Ben Chorley tried to recover his mistake by trying to “Lionel Messi” his way out trouble with his back to goal, which resulted in McGoldrick picking his pocket but just squeezing his shot wide. Shortly before half time, Gary McSheffrey found himself clear of the Orient defence, but Allsop pulled off a good save to deny the Coventry veteran.

Scott Wagstaff saw his back header almost loop over Joe Murphy, but the Coventry keeper palmed the ball to Mooney who shot high and wide over the bar when he should have scored. Mooney worked hard all day, and while his finishing remains abysmal, he put in considerable effort all game.

Second half saw much of the same, with little cohesion or purpose to Orient’s play and besides Moses Odubajo and Mooney, a lack of penetration. Rowlands slipped and only a great block from Chorley stopped a second, while Wagstaff headed just wide from Cox at the other end. Lee Cook and Michael Symes came on for Cox and Brunt respectively, but failed to change things sufficiently. With mere seconds left, the home crowd thought Mooney had equalised as he took a high ball down well by the penalty spot, but rolled his shot inches wide.

A mixture of bad luck, low confidence and poor quality again saw the Os defeated as I left still trying to work out why Slade played the lively and talented Odubajo at right back all game with McSweeney on the bench. Slade’s tactics are giving the Os fans a nasty case of ‘Groundhog Day’ after last season’s debacle and things are not looking much better this season. Occupying nineteenth place in League One with nine defeats in fifteen games tells its own story, while Russell Slade’s insistence that fans need to “keep believing” and that they will “work harder” is wearing thin with Os fans. With potential banana skin Gloucester away in the FA Cup, Slade is well and truly on the brink.

Written by Andy Brown, We Are Going Up’s Leyton Orient Blogger

Andy tweets at @OrientMeatPie

Time to Go, Russell!

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

I do my best as a fan not to make knee-jerk reactions based on successive defeats, preferring continuity, but there is clearly a problem when your team’s home possession stats match your manager’s win ratio at the club.

And so it was last night against a rejuvenated Colchester United on a foggy, dismal night at Brisbane Road.  Buoyed by the sacking of John Ward, Colchester looked dynamic, passed the ball well, looked purposeful and have now gone several matches unbeaten. Orient on the other hand have now scored one goal in five games and are making a habit of losing matches 2-0 whether they play home or away. More worryingly still, Orient had 28% possession at home as Slade’s win ratio also languishes around the 30% mark, and don’t look as though they can create from open play or set pieces and even on the rare opportunity a decent ball did come in, put the ball woefully off target.

In August, my assessment of Orient’s chances this season predicted the club would finish 16th. 14 games in, it would have been nice to have been wrong about the challenges that the club was facing and yet since the start of the season we have seen Tranmere (who beat Orient 3-1 on the opening day) storm to the league summit and Stevenage (who also beat Orient at home) follow them. Even Crawley (1-0 winners against Orient so far this season) are also in the top six. Only Hartlepool have lost more games than Orient’s 8 defeats from 14 games. With managers like John Ward being sacked and other failing managers like Paul Jewell leaving Ipswich, and after the disaster of last season, many fans have now had enough and feel it’s time to change the manager.

So where has it all gone wrong a third of the way into the season?

Slade’s negativity

Slade has continually adopted a 4-5-1 (or version thereof) formation with one striker forward away from home. The few times a less negative 4-4-2 with two wingers has been chosen, Orient have been successful, including a 1-0 win at Swindon. His insistence that “we play better with one wide man and more players across the middle” simply doesn’t work, but he refuses to change things. Even at home, players seem uncertain of their roles or positions in stark contrast to well organised teams like Stevenage and Colchester. The upshot is that Orient are set up to draw games away from home, only this never works as the team plays long periods without the ball, tires and ends up losing 2-0.

Worst of all, his post-match comments seem to deny all knowledge of dire performances. His most recent comment that “we stayed in the game” against Colchester with 28% possession is laughable. Similar excuses against Bournemouth, Oldham have been equally inexplicable. Even the famous “we can put it right on Tuesday/Saturday” is becoming very tiresome, very fast. Many suspect that Nugent is equally ineffective in a coaching capacity.

The performances share a striking similarity to last season and the momentum of defeats is dragging us down towards the bottom four. Once again, fans are asking “are there four worse teams than Orient?” Maybe, as the quality in League One this year is pretty dire.

Players are not performing

In August I singled out Moses Odubajo as the bright spark to get things going. After ignoring him for long periods, Slade finally realised that he could change games, only sadly he is the only creative spark and is now over-relied upon.

Ironically, the defence does not look as poor as last season. Nathan Clark looks competent enough (slip at Bournemouth excluded), but the lack of quality from the full backs does not give us any decent  width or support to wingers, which leaves Cox, Cook and Odubajo  clearly exposed. This also partially explains why, wonder-strike at Walsall excluded, Dean Cox has had a poor season so far. The midfield lacks leadership and is clueless without Griffith playing, with Jimmy Smith another notable underperformer (again) this season. However, it is upfront where there are no options. With Lisbie injured, other striker options are hopeless. Just like Cureton last year, Symes looks lost and unsettled and offers nothing to the team, Brunt is ineffective and Mooney is not getting game time but cannot score when he does. Even Scott Wagstaff, on loan from Charlton, looks demotivated despite his efforts.

Olympic Stadium Shambles

I have been asked more times about this than anything else. It’s a distraction. The fans don’t want the stadium and are sicker of Barry Hearn’s U-turns, changes in stance on the issue than anything else. There is a clear concern that he has the intention of selling Brisbane Road after offloading us as a tenant somewhere else. While there is still validity in the argument that West Ham close to Orient would have a detrimental effect in terms of youth development or free tickets, the persistence with the issue has raised more than a little scepticism among fans. It is also a massive distraction from the football issues.

Time to Go, Russell!

Overall an apathetic malaise is shrouding the side. It has continued from last season and shows that we are not going to progress with the status quo.  Attendances are falling due to poor results and negative, dire football, which coupled with the highest matchday prices in league one and group denial from senior figures over team performances, is at odds with fans opinion and they are showing it with their feet by not attending matches.

It’s with regret, and based not just on this season, but also an abysmal last season, that it’s clearly time for a change of manager if we don’t want to get sucked into the bottom four this season.

Written by Andy Brown, We Are Going Up’s Leyton Orient Blogger

Andy tweets at @OrientMeatPie

Things can only get better…

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

It’s no secret that Orient did everything possible in their attempts to get relegated last season, relying on Notts County to win a dramatic game at Wycombe 4-3 that ensured our survival for another season, and sealed Wycombe’s drop into League Two.

However, it’s that time of year to stop looking back and look forward to the new season instead. Pre-season is well underway with only two games remaining against Luton and Maidstone as I write this. The squad is more or less complete, with only the odd loan addition left to complete the squad

So how are things shaping up at Orient in the close season, who are the players to watch and what is the outlook for the season?

Management:

Russell Slade entered the off-season clinging onto his job for dear life following last season’s collapse and narrow escape. Fans feelings are mixed with many thinking he deserves loyalty after a 7th place finish in the 2010/2011 season and great FA Cup run, while others feel his tactical ineptitude and poor signings mean he should have gone, as he presided over Orient’s worst start to a league campaign in history (not winning until our 11th game of the season) and we narrowly avoided relegation.

The bottom line on the manager:

Slade is now in unknown territory with the Orient faithful; no club has really held on to him in a management capacity for 3 seasons or more before (he’s either quit or been released), so it really is a make-or-break season for Slade and nobody knows what to expect.

Playing Staff

Clubs in league one face a salary cap at 55% of turnover in the 2012/13 season which has seen more goings than comings at Orient and an estimated £400,000 slashed from the annual wage bill. As a result the playing staff have seen massive turnover with even established players like Matt Spring leaving, as well as young prospects like winger George Porter who left for Burnley. Many fans wanted Jamal Camplbell-Ryce to stay, but he instead left for Notts County along with Dean Leacock.

New signings have been less “star-studded” than the previous season, and the wage bill has clearly been reduced with 8 players out, although it is also likely that Ben Chorley will also be leaving before the season begins.

Maybe the most worrying factor is the fact that top scorer from last season with 12 goals, Kevin Lisbie hasn’t been offered a new contract with only a year to go. While he is getting older, he is still the most purposeful player in the Orient frontline. Ryan Brunt, on a 6 month loan from Stoke looks strong and has promise, but still looks raw and Symes has failed to impress. Only David Mooney has looked purposeful in pre-season with Mooney, but overall the team is struggling to score goals. Midfield needs work, with Smith, Cox and new signing Griffith failing to inspire confidence, although Moses Odubajo has carried on where he left off last season, looking relaxed and capable in pre-season.

The bottom line on the players:

Defence looks the most settled, with Clarke and Cuthbert looking imperious in central defence, while it’s hard to call the full backs. (other than to say that I hope Slade now realises that speedy young winger Moses Odubajo cannot play as a right wing back as he just cannot defend!)

Overall the fitness looks good, but tactics, sharpness, crossing and passing still need a lot of work in the final two pre-season games.

Pre-season Matches:

Despite Russell Slade’s eternal optimism that the team is bonding and it’s all about fitness levels and not results (I agree to an extent), the performances have been pretty poor in pre-season. Besides a crazy first game at Sutton, which the Os won 5-3, subsequent performances against Blue Square Premier opponents have been poor, with 1-0 defeats at Ebbsfleet and Dartford.

Against well organised teams, Orient have failed to create clear openings and have also been prone to defensive lapses as well. A behind-closed-doors 2-0 win against Wolves can’t hide the fact that this is still very much a work-in-progress and probably still will be for the first ten matches of the season.

Orient Players to watch this season:

There are several players to watch for the Orient this year…

1.      Young winger, Moses Odubajo, a product of Orient’s youth system scored a 35 yard screamer in the last day win against Rochdale. Fast, confident and with plenty of tricks he will cause teams problems as he likes to get the ball and run at players from the right wing.

2.      Experienced Nathan Clarke could form a superb partnership with Scott Cuthbert in central defence.

3.      Kevin Lisbie could score 20 goals with a full pre-season under his belt this time around.

4.      Left winger Dean Cox was disappointing last season but in form he can change games at League 1 level (provided Russell Slade stops playing him in central midfield).

Hopes for the season ahead:

The last two seasons under Russell Slade have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous, so O’s fans would happily settle for mid-table and be delirious if we could sneak into the top half. Much will depend on how well the players gel. With such a high turnover, there are challenges, although these signings have the potential to form a better team compared to the high profile individuals from last season (such as Jamie Cureton). Greater harmony in the camp will benefit Orient this year, with several protagonists leaving the club.

Prediction: 16th

Some thoughts on League One this year:

This year is one of the hardest to predict so far, with uncertainty over whether Portsmouth will even start the season with their horrendous financial problems. The wage cap will widen the divide between the larger and smaller clubs, so expect to see Sheffield United win the league, with Preston also a major contender this year. Notts County, MK Dons, Swindon and Carlisle will also be in the mix for the top 6. At the bottom expect to see Walsall, Yeovil, one or two of the promoted clubs and possibly Orient fight it out of the bottom four.

Enjoy the season!

Written by Andy Brown, We Are Going Up’s Leyton Orient Blogger

Andy tweets at @OrientMeatPie

Facing the Firing Squad without a Blindfold: A Review of Orient’s Slump

Monday, April 16th, 2012

As we made our way back from what we all hoped wouldn’t be a fruitless trip to Exeter on Easter Monday, my brother and I were discussing the point of travelling hundreds of miles to watch Orient away when deep down we know there will be a negative outcome. He put it this way: “If the inevitable is going to happen (i.e. relegation) then I want to see it – it’s like a condemned man refusing a blindfold in front of a firing squad”. Dramatic perhaps, but he has a point.

After an appalling start to the season that saw us fail to win in our first ten matches, we set about some sort of recovery, with an excellent October (our best month of the season) and reasonable performance until the end of the year, excellent wins at home to Charlton and away at Stevenage have been followed by a dire slump in 2012. As I write this, we have lost 8 and won 2 of our last 10 matches, won only 5 of 20 in 2012 and are headed straight for the League Two trapdoor, with only 3 points separating us from Wycombe and a massively inferior goal difference to all but the bottom three sides.

So why has the season unravelled, or rather why have we returned to the un-winnable ways of our first 10 matches? In my opinion, it’s a perfect storm of events that started last summer:

1 – The Relationship between Barry Hearn and Russell Slade: In summer 2011, Barnsley approached Russell Slade to assume the managerial job at Barnsley. Hearn refused Slade permission to speak to Barnsley and therefore move out of the little flat on the corner of the ground and move north to where his family still lives. His body language and general demeanour at the start of the season was defensive and negative, which didn’t help the situation on the pitch, but when Hearn and the fans stuck with him, things seemed to improve in October. Nevertheless, forced player sales and limited opportunities to progress with Orient are no doubt very frustrating and have contributed to our position off the pitch.

2 – Slade’s limitations: First of all I have a lot of time for Russell Slade. He seems a thoroughly nice bloke and has a good rapport with the Os fans and the players. He also has a good track record: He took Scarborough from bottom of the Nationwide Conference to a high of 4th spot, took Grimsby and Yeovil to the brink of League One and the Championship respectively, kept Brighton up when they looked dead and buried and then did the same with us a year later. He also took us to the brink of a play off place last season and on an amazing journey in the FA Cup culminating in a stunning draw with Arsenal. For these reasons the fans have stuck with Russell despite a really poor season this year. On the flip side, however, he has also been pushed out or resigned after brief initial success and hasn’t been able to replicate form over more than a season. In fact his career win percentage has never exceeded 39% (at Grimsby) and is currently 37% with Orient, albeit with smaller clubs. It has also become painfully obvious in 2012 that he lacks the tactical ability to change things around. Whilst player situations have been forced on him to some extent, his refusal to play players in their favoured positions (even when options are available) and refusal to play certain players (especially the dynamic, if inconsistent, George Porter. His tactical decisions have left fans puzzled, frequently substituting our most effective players. Moreover his loan signings this season have been little short of dire. Overall, the fans are in an impossible position-stick with a manager who’s clearly following a pattern of decline, or stick with a manager who gave us relative success last season in the absence of alternatives. The jury is out.

3 – Player Sales: Several key players left Orient and were either replaced with inferior alternatives or not replaced at all. Key players leaving included club favourite and top scorer Scott McGleish (17 goals), replaced by Jamie Cureton who failed to adapt to life in E10 and just didn’t work out. Moreover, Alex Revell, who scored 13 was not replaced hinting that he was surplus to requirements at the club. This was followed later in the season by two other major departures: Charlie Daniels to Bournemouth and most critically team captain Stephen Dawson to Barnsley, both of whom were out of contract at the end of the season. Losing the spine of the team has seen Orient bereft of ideas, especially a lack of goals and most importantly a lack of cohesion and drive in midfield in the absence of Dawson.

4 – Player Discipline/Unrest: Right back/centre back Elliott Omozusi was jailed for witness intimidation this season and the players contract was terminated. He was not replaced. Moreover, there has been rumoured unrest with several key players (who I won’t name here) that is unlikely to have helped the atmosphere in the squad. Moreover, the loan signings plugged to fill gaps have not shown the discipline needed, with Ryan Dickson sent off twice in his short loan spell. Obviously this is supposition rather than fact, but would also go a way to explaining some of Orient’s problems this season.

5 – Bad loans: In the 2010-2011 season, Russell Slade made some excellent loan signings, with talented youngsters such as Harry Kane, Tom Carroll and Paul-Jose M’Poku adding flair and competition for places in the squad. This season, loan signings have been more panicked, driven by a lack of players in order to plug holes in the playing staff as opposed to supplementing the existing squad. This has resulted in a force fit of players which has not worked. Whilst not wanting to call out individuals, the calibre of loans has also been far short of expectations.

6 – Player Injuries: Orient have used 6 goalkeepers this season and players have been injured at key times (such as the current situation with my player of the season, centre back Scott Cuthbert out for the rest of the season). In combination with selling key players, this has resulted in an unsettled squad this season.

7 – Leadership: One of the biggest problems with the players who have left Orient is that leadership has all but vanished on and off the pitch. Dawson was a natural leader on the pitch and McGleish was a massive presence on and off the pitch for the club. There are still some talented footballers at the club, but they don’t demonstrate leadership on the pitch and this translates into performances, especially when going a goal down.

8 – The 6 year rule: I just made this up, but last time we came up to League One we lasted around 5/6 years before going down again (albeit the club was in dire straits then) and we’re looking at the same period of time having elapsed again. It would be nice to think it’s not a cycle as it took us a decade to get out of League Two last time!

Hopefully this shows that the blame is not purely at Russell Slade’s door, but is a little more complex than that. So where does this leave Orient this season? Well, we have the same points as Walsall, but a massively inferior goal difference and are 3 points above Wycombe, but also have an inferior goal difference. Wycombe have a harder run in (Charlton and Sheffield Wednesday away, Notts County home, we have Yeovil and Rochdale home and Hartlepool away) but as is often said, winning is a habit, but so is losing. None of the remaining matches will be at all easy, and I just can’t call it this season. Whatever happens, we’ll be there to face it without a blindfold!

Written by Andy Brown, We Are Going Up’s Leyton Orient Blogger

Andy tweets at @OrientMeatPie

Is Cox deal the catalyst for Dawson to stay at Orient?

Monday, January 30th, 2012

As an Orient fan, losing comes with the territory, and there’s no doubt that things are a lot better than earlier in the season, but lately performances at home have been woefully inept. Saturday’s bizarre team selection performance and home defeat to Colchester United was several in a line of bad days at home and Leyton Orient’s 7th home defeat in the league this season.

Bizarrely, recent times have also been punctuated by some great results (winning at Stevenage, Preston and at home against Charlton an exception), which makes this Orient team one of the most schizophrenic around! The inconsistency in performances can partly be attributed to the absence of key players, one of whom is Stephen Dawson (or Awesome Dawson as I believe he was known at Bury), who was injured early in the game at Carlisle on 7th January,which Orient subsequently lost 4-1.

Central to the attacking success of the team have been the performances of Dean Cox and Stephen Dawson. When both players have been missing, the team has struggled to break teams down and score goals. While Cox has signed a new three-and-a-half-year deal with the Os, news on Dawson is less clear

Slade snapped up Dawson from Bury, where he was player of the year and made the 2009–10 Football League Two PFA Team of the Year. Since joining the Os, Dawson has become captain, thanks to tireless performances and ball-winning, that have been central to the O’s climbing out of the bottom four, and who has been notably absent in the last two shabby home performances against Colchester and Chesterfield. He was also voted player of the year in his first season for Orient.

With his contract due to expire in the summer, Barnsley, the club that tried to steal Russell Slade away in the summer, before settling for Keith Hill, have already made a derisory offer for Dawson. The recent signing of Solomon Taiwo on loan from Cardiff has heightened speculation that his arrival may be more than temporary cover and that Irishman Dawson could be heading back up north.

Many Orient fans feel that losing Dawson would be a critical for Orient, who have already been weakened by the loss of Charlie Daniels to Bournemouth earlier in the season. He forms part of a critical spine to the team, along with Scott Cuthbert at the back and Kevin Lisbie up front and his absence has been very evident in recent games. While Orient didn’t risk losing Cox, by offering him a three-and-a-half year contract, the challenge, as with Daniels, is that if a club makes a serious offer, especially a division higher, like Barnsley, then it will be hard to keep him at the club. Most professionals want to test themselves at the highest level possible, and a competitive player like Dawson would be no different. It’s also not yet clear whether sharing a flat on a corner of the ground next to Russell Slade is a blessing or curse either… I suppose we will find out by Tuesday!

Speculation about our best players is not new, however. Shortly before Christmas, Dawson was also linked with moves to Crystal Palace, Charlton and Millwall, and the player himself is quoted as saying:

“It’s all about the team and not me and I was annoyed with the way this has all come out. I haven’t had any contact with any people and I think it has all been blown way out of proportion. Everyone knows I am out of contract but then so are lots of players here. As far as I am concerned it is all rubbish and paper talk which does happen in London”

Positive signs it would appear, but no doubt we’ll all be sitting a little bit uneasy until the transfer window closes. If Dawson re-signs, and Slade can desist from strange tactical and personnel decisions every home game, then I for one am hopeful of maybe more than mid-table obscurity this season.

Written by Andy Brown, We Are Going Up’s Leyton Orient Blogger

Andy tweets at @OrientMeatPie

A Tale of Two Full Backs

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

It’s been a strange week at the Orient and a bad one for full backs.

On Friday 18th November, 22 year old Leyton Orient right-back Elliot Omozusi was jailed for intimidating a witness who helped convict the killers in the horrific murder of Agnes Sina-Inakoju, 16, outside a Hoxton fast food shop in April 2010. it subsequently emerged that Omozusi was running with the London Fields Boys gang and was seen at a party making gang signs with the killers. He was found guilty and jailed for two and a half years.

To most of us this was a shock. While footballers have been imprisoned before, this is one of the worst cases I’ve heard. While news and rumours were flying around Twitter and other social networks, the club remained reticent on the whole matter. These things can be complicated, but fans were looking for a strong statement on the issue. Finally on Wednesday 22nd November, Russell Slade spoke on the matter, describing how he was “…really disappointed. It’s not good news for the football club or the boy”. Now while I expect Orient to make a statement on Friday, I’m frankly surprised at the way the whole thing has been handled.

No one expects footballers to necessarily be clean living, but to have a promising career at 22 and to throw it all away by associating with killers and actively helping them is off the scale. Whether he was a half decent defender or not is irrelevant if a player is mixed up in this sort of activity. From a football point of view, it’s certainly going to create a strange atmosphere, although as professionals I’m sure they’ll get on with it.

Going out of the door for completely different reasons is the club’s stalwart left back Charlie Daniels who is initially joining Bournemouth on loan and the move will be permanent in January. Charlie had a patchy start when he played at Orient in his first spell, but has been formidable since he rejoined over the last couple of year. Last season his link play on the left with Dean Cox caused major problems for many teams in League One, helping the O’s finishing seventh as well as having a brilliant FA Cup run.

Orient’s hands were tied. He was allegedly offered a three and a half year deal and the club will get a rumoured £200,000 (the real figure may be less) and he was out of contract at the end of the season.  It’s not clear whether Daniels was offered equivalent terms by Orient, but it seems Bournemouth can now splash the cash, so it may not be a bad move. Either way, Charlie’s shoes will be big ones to to fill and he’ll be missed by Os fans.

So all in all a bad week for full backs at Orient. Fortunately Leon McSweeney has been terrific at right back. It remains to be seen whether Tony Craig, who’s come in on loan from Millwall, can have the same impact as Charlie. Time will tell. All O’s fans hope that the club have enough to stay out of the bottom four come the end of the season!

Written by Andy Brown, We Are Going Up’s Leyton Orient Blogger

Andy tweets at @OrientMeatPie