You are only as good as your next game

Four months ago Leyton Orient found themselves 2-0 up going into the dressing rooms at Wembley in the League One Play-Off Final.  They O’s were just 45 minutes away from their first visit to the Championship and sticking one over on the Rotherham United manager, Steve Evans.  Nobody wants to see that these days do they?  Ninety minutes later and the players lay distraught on the pitch, having lost the game 4-3 on penalties.  After a forty nine match league campaign, their fate had been settled by one missed spot-kick.  Harsh.

IMG_1120A few months later and the O’s were looking up the table rather than down it. Amazingly, after those exploits last season, manager Russell Slade was under pressure.  The fickle nature of football, combined with a new owner who had bought the club in the summer from Barry Hearn, means that a manager is only as good as his last match, irrespective of what has gone on before.  Slade’s achievements in finishing third last season were impressive, especially with clubs with much bigger resources, and of course, budgets in the division such as Wolverhampton Wanderers, Sheffield United, Preston North End and the anti-club, Milton Keynes Dons.

Whilst The Mighty Rooks would be starting their FA Cup campaign down on the south coast at Bognor Regis Town, I would be in London.  Westfield Shopping City, Stratford to be precise.  Sometimes even I have to compromise between football and family time, and this was a promised treat for the Littlest Fuller.  But then a cunning plan started to emerge.  Get to the Shopping mecca early doors, take family to nice restaurant for lunch and then walk across the Olympic Park for some football.  Genius.  So clever that they agreed to come with me.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Orient, as they always were when I was growing up.  My Dad often used to bring me to Brisbane Road when I was young as the Dad of one of my best school friends, Derek Possee,  used to play for them and so we didn’t used to pay to get in.  I remember seeing a couple of classic games against West Ham here, including the FA Cup 4th Round back in January 1980 when the Hammers edged a thriller 3-2 on their way to Wembley (proper FA Cup Final Wembley, not money-making Semi-Final Wembley), standing on a milk crate at the front of the West Stand.  I remember that stand well, with the tea bar at the back and the rust falling from the roof whenever the ball hit it.  I stood on it for the last time in December 1996 to see Peter Shilton make his 1,000 appearance against Brighton & Hove Albion.

IMG_1105Since then the ground has been totally transformed.  The old West Stand is now a unique-looking stand with steep obstruction free seating and then a huge wall behind it, with various local community facilities inside – a great and innovative use of the space.  In each corner there are the privately owned flats with their balconies that openly flaunt their ability to disregard the Taylor Report with spectators able to stand (STAND!) and drink beer (BEER!) in view of the pitch.  How many of them do you think cause problems each home game? Exactly!

Leyton Orient 0 Colchester United 2 – The Matchroom Stadium – Saturday 13th September 2014
Sometimes things just don’t go your way, and that will be the sentiment of the majority of Leyton Orient fans as they reflect on the defeat to Colchester United. It was a decent game of football, with the home side peppering the visitors goal (16 shots) but failing to really test Walker in the Colchester goal.  There was one incident in the second half where from the view we had in the North Stand, Watt appeared to handle the ball on the line, although most of the crowds view would have been of the keeper diving in front of him.  May be just the angle but looked like a penalty from where I was sitting.

There were a few familiar names in the starting line up for both sides.  Leyton Orient had Jobi McAnuff on the bench, a player who showed considerable promise at West Ham under Pardew but was shipped out far too early. Colchester lined up with Freddie “The new Tony Cottee” and George “son of John” Moncur.  Sears problem was, like Cottee, he was a small, in your face striker.  He, like Cottee, scored on his debut for the Hammers and was then seen as the saviour.  Unlike Cottee, he never really repeated that high and was released by the Hammers.

IMG_1122Colchester were forced to start the game with 10 men, as the referee wasn’t happy with the black ankle pads that George Moncur had on over his socks.  The U’s were wearing a black and yellow kit, with striped socks.  Quite what was wrong with that I don’t know.  Good to see he was so hot on those laws of the game but let so many very physical fouls by the away team go unpunished in the first half.  It’s all about priorities, after all.  It did seem that Colchester had been sent out to simply use brute force to stop any Orient attack and it was a surprise that it took twenty minutes for the first name to go into the book, that of Moncur. Like father, like son.

Colchester seemed happy to hoof the ball into the corners for Sears to chase.  They weren’t in the game at all, appearing to have come for the draw.  Just before half time Magnus Okuounghae rash challenge on David Mooney saw him see red and the most ludicrous “stand off” between two aging, plump fans in the East Stand, gesticulating to each other that frankly made them both look very silly.

However, come the second half and Colchester realised that if they played on the counter-attack, using the pace of Sears and Watt, playing it to feet then they may have some success.  Twice they broke, twice they scored.  The first, was less than 10 seconds after Leyton Orient had taken a corner, with Sears the creator.  Five minutes of injury time were announced but still the O’s couldn’t hit the target.  “We’re only playing against ten men” shouted the chap next to me.  True, but with Orient always keeping two men on the half-way line to counter the attacking threat, they lost that numerical advantage.

IMG_1124The defeat meant that Slade could be soon looking for another job.  Director Mauro Milanese was the man to pass the message on to Slade from ‘President’ Francesco Becchetti after the 2-0 loss to Colchester.  “The president has been honest enough via Mauro Milanese to tell me we have got one game to sort it out so hopefully we get a response on Tuesday,” said Slade, “That’s in terms of my future, obviously today’s result is not a great one for the football club, these things can happen but obviously the president will want better than that.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why football will one day eat itself.  Senseless decisions made by people who believe they can be the next Manchester City or Chelsea, spending peanuts along the way.  As a neutral it was a very enjoyable afternoon, watching a decent game of football. One game can change the course of a season and I hope for all that Slade has done for the O’s it comes on Tuesday night.

Go East, my son

What to do, where to go. That is the first point on the agenda at the weekly TBIR board meeting on a Monday morning.

“Do you fancy Bury St. Edmunds v Lewes on Saturday then?” was my opening suggestion to the team.

“Hmm…I’m not sure” they answered. I could see the cogs in their mind working, thinking about the Greene King IPA that runs on tap like water..”We could do Calais…5pm kick off, £25 on the ferry AND 6 free bottles of Lambrini – that will be our wives Christmas presents sorted”. I wasn’t so sure. A trip across the water would mean I would have to drive, and I didn’t have the motivation for that, watching Mr Last et al quaff various French beers whilst I had a bar of Côte D’or for company in the car.

Then I had an idea – let’s go retro. Let’s start visiting some of the Football League clubs again. After all, when was the last time we were told were to sit, when to stand, what to say and so on? Well, apart from at West Ham a few weeks ago…oh and Wembley before that and then there’s Danny’s season ticket in the North Stand at The Amex..but you get my point. So we looked in the crystal ball and one name popped up – Leyton Orient.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the O’s since childhood. They were one of the few teams that thought about kit rather than shirt design. The classic Admiral number, up there with Coventry City’s famous brown kit had those red tram lines down the front that looked so smart. And during the 80’s they had a team and a half. Ralph “combover” Coates, ex-West Ham players Mervyn Day, Tommy Taylor, Billy Jennings, Patsy Holland (what modern player would get away with a name like that!) and Tunji Banjo. They even had room for Carl Hoddle, Glenn’s crap brother. But it was their dashing wingers that had people streaming through the gates of Brisbane Road. On the flank was Nigerian John Chiedozie, who had taken over the number 11 jersey from Laurie Cunnigham who went on to be a huge success at Real Madrid (being their first ever English signing). Exciting times indeed. Continue reading

It’s not about the result, it’s about the performance

Brian Parish brings us a roundup from Victoria Road where the Daggers completed their pre-season preparations with three games in a week.

Pre-season can be a bit of a weird time. You could be keen to see how the new signings are getting on in the team, or to see those who you normally sit or stand with and haven’t seen since the end of the previous campaign. Alternatively, these games can be a bit of a non-event, with some clubs using these games to see how various players perform before offering them a contract.

Normally with the Daggers, we have two or three home pre-season friendlies to warm us up for the forthcoming league fixtures. This year, we had three home matches spread over a week. A week before the season started, we hosted Stevenage (alas no longer married to Borough), prior to that a visit from West Ham, but today it’s Leyton Orient who are here. Having played them four times last season (with both teams winning one each, and two draws), we know the opposition quite well. Our games with Orient are normally quite entertaining to watch, so hopes were high for a good game.

The club had reduced the prices for the pre-season games, as attendances in the past had been a bit on the low side. With terrace prices set at £10 for Orient and Stevenage, and £12 for West Ham, the club had produced an offer in which, if you bought tickets for all three games, then you could have the lot for £25. If anyone was attending all three, then it’s not such a bad deal.

Of course, these games are not attended by everyone. There are several that stand near us for league games that won’t attend friendly games, as they see no point in them. There are times when I can see what they mean, but last year we had two good games against Norwich City and an Arsenal XI.

Saturday 23rd July, Dagenham & Redbridge v Leyton Orient, Victoria Road
The first surprise is that our normal keeper, Tony Roberts isn’t playing, but then he is not even warming up, so it’s possible that he is not actually at the stadium. The number two, Chris Lewington is out there, along with James Shea, who I am reliably informed was at Arsenal.

If the club were expecting a big crowd for a local derby, then they were going to be disappointed. There was lots of room on the terraces, and in the seats at kick off. The league game attracted over four thousand last year, but as the game kicks off, it looks as though there is about a quarter of that in the ground. Continue reading

My first game – Andrea Ryder

Leyton Orient v West Ham United
Pre-season friendly
Brisbane Road
August 2000

West Ham United had always been a big thing for my family, but going to games was not a frequent occurrence for financial reasons. My dad had taken us to see the Boleyn Ground a few times as at the time the family was still based in the general Green Street area, we would just stand outside it and stare in awe.

So in the summer of 2000 when I was 12, my brother 10, Dad decided to take us to a pre season friendly at Leyton Orient, this is a game that most West Ham fans will have experienced. We met a couple of my Dads friends and played football in a park just round the corner from the ground and then walked down to Brisbane Road. We were in the standing area right behind the goal, which I’m not sure is there anymore?

There are a few things I remember really clearly; firstly, I was a 12 year old girl, so I thought I was in love with Joe Cole, secondly, Dad bought me a hot dog, the ketchup of which I proceeded to spill down my white doc martins away kit (the stain is still there) thirdly, Kanoute managed to clear the cross bar thus kicking the ball straight at us about 5 times, one of which I managed to block from hitting my Dad’s friend Brian’s glasses right off his face.

I also remember that we didn’t play terribly well and when we left I think the score was 2-2. Having been 2-0 up at half time, we had subbed the first team and stuck the kids and reserves on the the second. We left quite early, I think my Dad was worried my brother and I would panic in the crowd, but this turned out to be a blessing in disguise; as we left, the first team coach was also leaving, someone was shouting “OI CHRISTIAN HURRY UP OR YOUR TRAVELLING BACK WITH THE RESERVES!” someone came out

“Nah he’s still in the shower, lets go”. Which they did, not without saying hello and waving at me and my brother as we stood there completely speechless. I always remember Freddie Kanoute sticking his thumb up at us as they drove off and how quickly it made me forget how rubbish I had thought he was half an hour ago.

Andrea Ryder