KEVIN GODFREY INTERVIEW

Posted: April 1, 2022 in Uncategorized

Thanks to the help of two long time O’s fans the mag finally tracked down the O’s cult hero from the 1980’s, Kevin Godfrey. The main who put Spurs to the sword one balmy night in 1985 took time out to chat about his O’s Career and beyond…

Kevin in his 1980’s heyday.

A real Orient Hero

Posted: September 23, 2021 in Uncategorized
Richard McFadden Clapton Orient legend

Back in Leyton Orientear #38 Dave Knight managed to get a word with one of the decendants of former O’s forward, Richard McFadden, one of the Orient volunteers who was killed in the first world war and is regularly honoured at the club. So lets take a trip back in time to April 1990 and let Dave pick up the tale…

O Danny Boy…

Posted: September 22, 2021 in Uncategorized
Danny and the left foot that humbled Neville Southall

Another dip into the Leyton orientear files takes us all the way back to August 1989 (#30) when the mag sponsored young winger Danny Carter and getting access to players wasn’t as difficult as it is now.

Dave Knight and Sarah Tabor dusted off the infamous ‘Ear tape recorder to record the meeting for posterity.

Danny Carter’s rocket at Goodison Park in the league cup in 1989 https://youtu.be/So3lN4OgiqY

King Kenny…

Posted: September 22, 2021 in Uncategorized

The enigma that was Kenny Achempong finally succumbed to a chat with the ‘ear back in March 1993 (#66). Sarah Tabor managed to coax a few words from the great man and just to be clear, it was never a sending off in THAT game against Brentford. https://youtu.be/FeZXJt4TdQE

Barrie Fairbrother interview

Posted: September 22, 2021 in Uncategorized
Barrie sinks Chelsea in the 1972 mudbath of a FA cup tie.

We take another delve into the ‘Leyton Orientear’ archives and go back to September 1990 (#41) when Keith Emmerson got to speak with O’s FA Cup hero, Barrie Fairbrother.

Click on link to access the article.

THE TAYLOR YEARS PART FOUR

Posted: June 18, 2021 in Uncategorized

The final instalment of this epic sees the O’s bomb out in another play off final and bid farewll to one of the few men to have managed the club longer that eighteen months.

It’s fair to say that the run up towards the 2000/2001 league campaign was dominated by events away from the pitch as changes were being rung from all angles. Long serving commercial manager, Frank Woolf, left the club after many years and a new club secretary, Kirsty Nicholson, came in as Orient finally attempted to get to grips with a less than functional administrative set up. Even our lovable neighbours – AKA ‘The Hammers’- attempted to usurp our position as tenants over at the Eastway Sports centre in regards to our training facility and sparking fears of Orient having to return to the infamous Canada goose shit encased pitches at the Douglas Ayre centre in Walthamstow. 

Meanwhile the playing side of the clubs’ operation was still nursing the bruises from the previous season. Tommy Taylor had just about survived a torrid campaign that would have done for virtually any other head coach and had little time to turn Orient fortunes around by the time we kicked off the season at Plymouth Argyle in early August. However, during the summer Tommy had moved to bring former O’s favourite Steve Castle back to the club along with wide man Jason Brissett and Richard Garcia, an exciting forward, on loan from West Ham for a season. Another piece of good news was the signing of Ahmet Brkovic for another campaign after speculation mounted that he would leave the club towards the end of last May. It meant that the O’s had a little more creativity available to them in and Brkovic could at least provide some ammunition for a forward line that contained Watts, Griffiths, Christie and Garcia. 

Pre-season started in familiar fashion with a team building tour, although the exotic jaunts of previous years were replaced with the rolling scenery of the west country. The O’s found themselves based at the University of Exeter and managed to procure marquee fixtures against the likes of Dawlish, Clyst and Taunton Town, winning two and losing out by a single goal to the ‘Peacocks’ in front of five hundred paying punters. In a not unsurprising turn of events Taylor used all twenty players in a single outing on more than one occasion in the warm-up games and one match at Swindon Town was divided up into three thirds! Confused? We certainly were because it was becoming impossible to size up where the team stood in relation to a settled side and formation as the big kick off edged ever closer. The ‘Orientear’ wasn’t any wiser, either, as the first Leyton editorial of the season opined… ‘Quite honestly it is impossible to predict how the O’s will fare this coming campaign, we could just as easily end up in the bottom six as in the promotion/play off frame.’ 

Going by previous history the O’s would probably take their time when it comes to getting their act together at the start of the season, but this time Taylor and his team surprised everyone by getting off to an absolute flying start. Carl Griffiths got the ball rolling by poaching the winning goal at Plymouth in the opening  fixture as the O’s stormed to an unbeaten nine game league and cup run that lasted until the defeat at kidderminster mid way through September. There was a nice blend in the team with Garcia and Griffiths spearheading, Andy Harris and Walchaerts grafting with Brkovic adding the guile. Defensively, Joseph, Lockwood, Smith and Mcghee were starting to provide some stability in an area where the O’s were a car crash the previous season and even Ashley Bayes looked comfortable between the sticks. Backing the first eleven up were youngsters, Nicky Shorey, Chris Dorrian, John Martin, Brendon McElholm alongside Jason Brisset, Steve watts and Iyesdown Christe who was now getting a reputation as a super-sub and scored a fantastic 25 yarder to level the scores during a pulsating 2-2 home draw v Hull City in early September. By the time the O’s had come to play a league cup tie at Newcastle united they were sitting in 7th place in division three and only one point off an automatic promotion spot. There had been a complete reversal of our on field woes of last season and the team had played with spirit and no little flair along the way. Even Tommy Taylor started to receive some praise from the O’s rank and file, although the question remained ‘could we keep this up’? 

FOG ON THE TYNE’S ALL MINE… 

The first leg of the league cup second round tie at Newcastle was eagerly awaited, seeing as trips to St James’s park usually meant heading south west to Exeter city. However, this was different and despite the ongoing ‘petrol strike’ making travelling the 282 mile journey more of a challenge around 1000 O’s fans made the trip and did the club proud on the night. Despite going down 0-2 to goals from Court and speed Tommy’s side put in a committed performance and kept the tie just about alive for the second leg that ended up being shown on ‘Sky sports’. Sure enough Orient put in another good display and were worth the 1-1 draw the two sides fought out in front of almost 10,000 fans on a crisp September evening in front of the sky cameras. Steve Watts levelled the scores on the night with a slick side footed finish, although the only downside was the serious mishap afforded to Christie, who ended up in the wall in front of the North terrace and an injury that was to sideline him for well over a year. This turned out to be a serious blow to Taylor because our resident ‘buffalo’ was finally showing some real form after a slow start in O’s colours and it was (arguably) to prove costly further on in the campaign. Nevertheless, the reported £250,000 Orient made from the two matches meant that Taylor could go out and bolster the squad quickly. Former Spurs man, Scott Houghton, was recruited from Southend United and a mysterious French forward, Freddie Cadiou, was fetched in from Wasquehal and, as it proved, wasn’t the first mystery Frenchman brought into the club by Talyor that season that had Orient fans saying – ‘who’? Taylor also splashed a reported £25,000 on Scarborough target man Chris Tate in a bid to make his squad big enough to compete as a top four side, although there were concerns that Tommy’s signings were bordering on quantity not quality. 

With the Glamour games out of the way it was back to the brass tacks of league action and Orient’s first big test of the season came in the shape of Brighton away at the Withdean. The seagulls had unearthed a decent striker in Bobby Zamora and were looking serious promotion contenders and with a vocal home crowd behind them it would take all Orient’s newfound resilience to counter them. Alas, the O’s came up well short in the end. Brighton ended up comfortable 2-0 winners as apart from a Griffiths effort that hit the upright Orient never looked like threatening the home side over the ninety minutes. Despite this setback it has to be said that Taylor’s team rallied and a run of one defeat in nine league games (at Hartlepool-again) followed straight afterwards. Our home record stood up well and it was during this run that Orient edged out promotion chasing Cardiff, Mansfield and Macclesfield Town by a 2-1 scoreline and despite the football not being Barcelona-esque the results were driving us towards the top of the table. December the 2nd 2000 brought forth the crunch top of the table encounter at Chesterfield’s Saltergate ground, a venue that we hadn’t visited since the opening day of the 82/3 season and game that turned out to be memorable for all the wrong reasons. Despite taking an early lead through Steve Watts the spireites hit back almost immediately with a smart equaliser, which was the signal for a missile bombardment from the home fans to the right of the away end and an on field collapse from Orient. Within the space of half an hour the O’s were 1-4 down and nursing the bruises from a battering both on and off the pitch. As Tom Davies wrote in his ‘Ear match report; ‘Let’s hope this game acts as a wake up call to our team, I know its traditional with British managers to value experience and toughness but sometimes you just have to go for quality’. 

UP FOR THE CUP…. 

The following Saturday the O’s had the opportunity to pick themselves up and get back to winning ways with a second round F.A cup tie at non-league Northwich Victoria with a visit to the famous Drill Field ground. Sure enough after Carl Griffiths had put the Orient in command with a brace to make it 2-0 and all looked rosy, that was until the Vic’s turned the tie on its head and went 3-2 with an inspired performance from Gary Taylor Fletcher. Chris Tate grabbed a scrappy leveler late on in the match to earn a replay the following week to spare our blushes but, again, it was a sign that Taylor’s team were far from the sort of team that could be considered a serious promotion bet. Despite those two poor results, Orient got back to winning ways in the league with a scrappy 1-0 over Darlington that was only enlivened with Scott Houghton’s winning strike and exuberant celebration that followed. At least we went into the replay with Northwich with a win behind us and to add extra spice the winners of the encounter would host Tottenham in the F.A Cup third round in early January. 

The ‘Sky Tv’ cameras were in attendance for the match and they weren’t disappointed as a minor classic unfolded. By half time Northwich were 2-0 up and tempers on the North terrace were hot enough to warm the cold December air as far away as Uxbridge. However, Orient turned the tables on the visitors in fine style as Griffiths pulled one back soon after the break and Orient levelled with a sliced own goal following a whipped in cross from Walchaerts. Extra time arrived and in a tense finish Orient won it with a comedy goal after Houghton’s arse scored a dramatic winner after the Vic’s keeper blasted an attempted clearance against the on rushing forward. All of a sudden Orient were back on track and people were looking forward to the next few games. Rochdale were the next visitors too Brisbane Road and they came away with a point despite Walschaerts distance effort to level and an ensuing siege at the end. Despite this Orient went into the Boxing day derby at Southend well placed and in the usual intense atmosphere performed well, especially young Simon Downer who deputised for Dean smith on the day. Orient had the better of the play and with Scott Houghton providing a decent out let on the left flank you got the feeling that if Orient scored it would be via him. Sure enough Houghton’s deep cross to the back post in the final minute of the game was fumbled by Southend keeper, Flahavan, into his own goal and Orient walked away from Roots Hall with their first win there in over forty years and in third place in the division. Merry Christmas everyone. 

2001: AN ORIENT ODYSSEY 

With Orient’s New Year’s Day fixture v Plymouth called off at short notice the scramble for Cup tickets ensued and a couple of hours spent in the freezing cold outside the ticket office ensued as thoughts turned to the Tottenham cup tie five days later. As it turned out the match was an anti climax.  Orient fielded a side with little attacking intent as Carl Griffiths wasn’t risked due to carrying a slight knock. KK Opara came in to partner Steve Watts and Orient provided little to trouble a Spurs side containing the likes of Tim Sherwood, Les Ferdinand, Sol Campbell, Rebrov, Ledley King and Darren Anderton. Apart from a snap shot from Lockwood that was saved by Sullivan in the first half it was virtually one way traffic but thanks to the efforts of Harris, Bayes and Matty Jospeh the O’s looked likely to hold out for a replay at White Hart lane. However, a corner in the last minute of normal time saw Gary Doherty steam in at the back post to head a late winner to break O’s hearts and left Taylor’s team free to concentrate on getting promotion. 

A week later Orient headed off to St James’s Park, Exeter and came away with an excellent 3-2 win. Taylor’s decision not to play Griffiths against Tottenham was vindicated as the welsh hit man scored twice to put the O’s third in that table and chasing Brighton in second. Unfortunately, Taylor’s problem of keep Orient in contention after putting in the hard work of getting into a promising position struck again. The O’s only won two of their next nine matches and succumbed to bad defeats at home to Southend and (worst of all) Brighton as Bobby Zamora showed what a class forward at this level could achieve for a club looking to get promoted. Taylor brought more short term loanees and signings in an attempt to revive our fortunes, although the arrival of the likes of Chad Manley, Opara, Lee, Lorenzo Pinamonte and three French players (Vasseur, Opinel and Forge) had little effect overall and led to the settled team that had served Orient well becoming a disjointed one. Things came to a head the afternoon of March 10th after Orient crashed to second bottom Torquay United 0-2 in an awful display that brought forth the first ‘Taylor Out!’ chants of the season. Five days later (after a shocking 0-1 defeat at Carlisle) Barry Hearn took time out to appeal to supporters to back the team and Taylor and it was noticeable that the press release was more conciliatory to the feelings being expressed than the stance he had taken a year earlier. Nevertheless, with every passing week Taylor could see that automatic promotion was slipping away and he had to find some way of turning this slump around. Fast. 

IT’S GREAT WHEN YOUR TATE… 

With the season entering the crucial final ten games stories began to circulate regarding players being stalled over new contracts and the ever persistent rumours regarding Carl Griffiths being transferred got their usual airing. There was one bright spot, though. Chesterfield looked certain to have points deducted due to dodgy book keeping and tax avoidance, which meant the team that finished in fourth place would probably get promoted automatically. The O’s gradually started to pick up a few points although after the draw at Darlington Griffiths got involved in an incident on the players coach after being left out which only put more strain on his relationship with Taylor. Even so, when Chesterfield arrived at Brisbane road the following Saturday it was a surprise when Griffiths was recalled to the attack for the crunch encounter. If Orient needed to deliver a performance it had to be in this game and they duly obliged. Dave McGhee who had been playing in defence all season moved into midfield and scored the opener with a header from Houghton’s cross. Griffiths himself topped off a good all round performance with the second from the spot, to send Chesterfield back with their tails between their legs and hundreds of brown envelopes being waved at them by O’s fans who hadn’t forgotten about the way they had been treated up at Saltergate earlier in the season. 

The Easter fixtures pitted Orient against Barnet and Hartlepool, two teams that were in form but who had to be beaten if we were to keep up the momentum need to make at least a play-off place. Orient found themselves behind at Underhill by half time but came back with two Chris Tate efforts, one a magnificent overhead kick to clinch a memorable win amid wild scenes in the away end. Tate’s performance was all the more noteworthy seeing as his arrival on the field was greeted by a chorus of boo’s from some sections of the O’s support that afternoon. The victory set up a crunch game against Hartlepool on Easter Monday, a team on a fine run and coached by ex O’s Chris Turner and former striker/ scapegoat-in-chief, Colin West. Again, Taylor’s team rose to the challenge and blew the Monkey hangers away with a superb opening twenty minute salvo as Dean Smith, Watts and Griffiths fired us into a 3-0 lead and we eventually ran out 3-1 winners. And more importantly held onto that important fourth place in the league. This result raised hopes that the O’s could sneak an automatic promotion spot as we were playing well and Chesterfield’s form was slacking due to the rumored points deduction coming their way, however events were about to take a more familiar turn in the following weeks… 

GRIFFITHS SCREWS IT UP…. 

A trip to Filed Mill, home of Mansfield Town, is never easy when it comes to Orient getting results and the forty fourth league fixture of the season proved no different this time around. It also happened to be the last time we would ever see Carl Griffiths in Orient colours as the welsh hitman got himself sent off after an altercation with the ‘stags’ defender, Jervis. From then on the O’s were on the backfoot and eventually succumbed to two late goals as we slumped to a 0-2 defeat. Taylor was furious after the match and described the O’s performance as ‘dire’ and called some players contribution as ‘unprofessional’ which was probably aimed more at Griffiths than anyone else. As ever Orient’s tendency to ‘shoot ourselves in the foot’ came to the fore once more and Griffiths was basically ‘persona non grata’ for the rest of the campaign, even though serving his suspension of three games would still have made him available for the play off final. Not playing Griffiths would also save the club £10,000 as our top scorer would have been eligible for that bonus should he have reached twenty goals and at the time of his dismissal Carl was stranded on nineteen for the season. As usual the O’s support was split with many feeling that his recent behaviour (the incident on the coach at Darlington) was making him a liability while others thought that Taylor had been itching to move the best striker at the club out for months and now had the backing at both board and supporter level to get his wish. Either way the loss of Griffiths along with the long term injuries to Garcia and Christie meant that Taylor was running out of forward options going into the crucial last two league games and maybe beyond. 

ENTER JABBO… 

With two games of the season to go the O’s required just two points to cement a play-off spot and the final home game v Cheltenham Town presented a decent opportunity to seal it. However, the encounter turned out to be an anti climax as both sides failed to impress in a turgid 0-0 stalemate meaning that the following Saturday’s game at Macclesfield was about to take on serious proportions. 

With Carl Griiffiths suspended Taylor decided to gamble and throw eighteen year old Jabbo Iberhe into the fray in a bid to freshen up the O’s attack. Moss Road hadn’t been a happy hunting ground for Orient, but backed up by over a thousand travelling fans Orient took the game to the hosts right from the off.  After  McGhee and Houghton had spurned good chances the deadlock was finally broken when Ibhere scored his first league goal from close range after pouncing on a loose ball following a throw in from Andy Harris. This sparked joyous scenes in the away end and a fan dressed as ‘spiderman’ made and appearance on the pitch to congratulate Jabo and then fled the on rushing stewards by shimming up a drainpipe in the stand. 

The second half went much the same way and the youngster capped off a memorable afternoon by grabbing his second of the match after latching on to a long punt from Matty Joseph to slot coolly home to seal a 2-0 win and our place in the play-offs. 

TO HULL AND BACK… 

Taylor’s team had eventually finished 5th, behind Hartlepool, so wouldn’t have been promoted even if Chesterfield’s eventual nine point deduction had been increased to fit the nature of their blatant wrong doing. There was a feeling that the tribunal set up investigate the spireities conduct had been unduly lenient and (despite having ex Orient boss Frank Clark on the panel) had only deducted enough points to avoid problems should Chesterfield appeal in the summer and throw the league into chaos. Meanwhile Orient had been paired up against Hull city in the play-off semi-final, a team that we hadn’t beaten in our two previous encounters and who were flying at the time. A lunchtime kick-off meant that an early start was required from O’s fans for the trip to Boothferry park and almost a thousand fans crammed into the tiny away terracing at the supermarket end of the old ground. The match itself took place in warm sunshine but turned out to be yet another tight affair in regards to this type of ‘high stakes’ game. Hull exerted plenty of pressure with Greaves’s close range effort hitting the crossbar, but Orient were resolute in defence with Smith and McGhee holding a firm line and Steve Castle bringing all his experience to the midfield battleground. Ibhere played with confidence beyond his years and set up Scott Houghton for a shot that was badly skied when he should have done much better from the edge of the box. Hull eventually broke the deadlock towards the end after Iberhe’s clearance was clearly handled by Ayre who then smashed in the winner to give the Tiger’s a slender 1-0 win to take back to Brisbane Road three days later. 

And so it came to pass that Orient’s season rested on a crucial 90 minutes of football. The match report it the Orientear summed up the night’s events thus: ‘All you can say is that the performance the team produced on that balmy Wednesday night in May was simply magnificent’. Down the years there have been many ‘do or die’ matches in the O’s chequered history that have usually ended up in bitter disappointment for the clubs’ supporters, but on this night the O’s rose to the occasion and Tommy Taylor experienced, arguably, the high water mark of his tenure as manager. After a shaky start we tried to take the game to the visitors and following the giant Kevin Francis’s error Scott Houghton skipped down the left wing to plant a super cross onto the head of Steve Watts to level the tie amid wild scenes. We led on the night and leveled the tie in the process, all we had to do now was to come out in the second half and finish the job. 

The O’s second half performance was colossal. Ibehre was a constant threat, Walschaerts ran himself into the ground and our defence was solid and determined. Despite this the match was finely balanced and it would take something special to finally see off Hull’s dogged challenge. It duly arrived when Matt Lockwood picked up a loose ball on half way and then drove forward to smash an unstoppable thirty yard shot into the top right hand corner of the net past a despairing Musslewhite. The whole of the south stand shook afterwards as the old ground erupted although the pressure was on to hold out to the end. It got too much for Steve Watts who found himself sent off after picking up a soft yellow card and then going in two footed on a city player less than five minutes later.  Despite going down to ten men Orient eventually held out until the final whistle, thus sparking fantastic scenes in the stands and on the pitch. Even deputy prime minister, John Prescott, got in on the act by knocking out a famer while on the hustings on a visit to Wales where, ironically, another knock-out blow lay in wait ten days later… 

MILLENNIUM MISERY… 

The 26th of May 2001 was the date of our promotion destiny and a trip to Cardiff’s Millennium stadium provided the backdrop for a winner takes all showdown with Blackpool, who had eliminated Hartlepool In their semi final. Strangely enough, our record against the ‘Tangerines’ that season had been good. Orient  performed well during a 2-2 draw up at Broomfield Road early in the campaign and a 1-0 win secured with a Matt Lockwood winner the previous March gave rise to optimism coming on the back of our great performance in the last match versus Hull City. In saying that, Blackpool had a fifty goal strike force in the shape of Ormerod and Murphy and with the craft of Paul Simpson in midfield this match would be as testing as the previous two for the O’s. 

It has to be said that Taylor’s choice of forwards was basically restricted to a young striker with little experience (Ibehre) and another that had been a bit player at best since his arrival before Christmas (Chris Tate). Looking back at that encounter almost twenty years on the falling out with Carl Griffiths and Watts’s indiscipline in getting sent off in the last match probably went a long way in deciding the eventual outcome on the day. 

Orient lined up with Bayes in goal, Joseph, Downer, Smith, Lockwood, Harris, McGhee, Walschaerts, Houghton, Ibehre and Chris Tate. Taylor had gone with a midfield three that was geared to counter Blackpool’s threat of Simpson, Coid and Wellans but on the bench the O’s had only Brkovic who could be classed as a ‘game changer’ in the creative sense if the need arose, along with the veteran Steve Castle and John Martin. 

The Blackpool support had massed behind the goal away to our left and probably outnumbered the O’s contingent by around five to six thousand fans, nevertheless the stage was set for what turned out to be an excellent end to end encounter that got off to an explosive start as Chris Tate pounced on goalkeeper Phil Barns’s howler to put the O’s one up after a mere 27 seconds. Of course this being Orient there were plenty of supporters around me stating that ‘We’ve scored too early’ and this looked to have been borne out by the onslaught that the seasiders launched upon the Orient goal for the next twenty minutes. It has to be said that Ashley Bayes kept the O’s in the game with three top class saves as Wellens, Coid and Simpson dominated the midfield as ‘pool looked for a leveler. Despite this Mcghee almost put us two up with a decent header that was only just tipped over but it was brief rest spite as Blackpool eventually equalised when Hughes headed in from a corner totally unmarked. Amazingly Orient took the lead again two minutes later as a Ibehre laid the ball off to Scott Houghton following a corner and his low drive from twenty five yards found the bottom corner to put us 2-1 ahead on thirty seven minutes. If we could just hold out for eight minutes then Taylor’s side would have a great chance of achieving that long overdue promotion, but bang on half time a well worked corner brought a decent cross towards the far post from Simpson which resulted in McGhee putting the ball in his own net under pressure from Reid to make the score 2-2 right on the half time whistle. 

 This was a hammer blow because as Blackpool manager Steve McMahon said afterwards it gave Blackpool the belief to go out and win the match in the second half. And win it they did because the next forty five minutes became yet another agonising exercise in watching the dear old O’s, although it has to be said that the fine lines between success and failure were illustrated to the full. Early in the second period Ibehre’s brilliant dribble into the box and shot with the outside of his right foot hit the post and span to safety as the game continued at its frantic pace. Then Taylor decided to make a substitution which many O’s believed at the time to be a game changer that helped the opposition more than the Orient. Chris Tate was dragged and replaced by Brkovic which in effect left Orient playing with a loan teenager upfront and the Blackpool defence not believing their luck. Sure enough a few minutes later Andy Harris put over a superb cross along the face of the ‘pool six yard box where Tate may well have been and a golden chance went begging. 

Blackpool were beginning to dominate and Brett Ormerod became ever more dangerous as the match entered the last fifteen nail biting minutes. Walschaerts was taken off, even though full back Matty Joseph was starting to struggle with his fitness and Steve Castle thrown on. Then Scott Houghton got into a terrible tangle in the Blackpool half and ended up being dispossessed after treading on the ball, leading to a devastating counter attack which resulted in Simpson calmly slotting the ball past Bayes from 10 yards to give Blackpool the lead. Houghton was dragged five minutes later and looked to have had words with Taylor on the bench, throwing his shirt to the ground as well as shedding a few tears while the situation grew every more desperate. Sure enough gaps were starting to appear as the O’s chased an equaliser a mis-timed desperate lunge to win the ball from Joseph ended up with another counter attack and this time Brett Ormerod put the seasiders 4-2 up from close range to clinch the game and promotion for Blackpool on eighty-eight minutes. It was game and season over in what had been an absorbing play-off final but there was no getting away from the devastating blow that had been dealt to the club and to Tommy Taylor himself, although he probably didn’t realise it at the time. A long hard campaign had come to grief at the final hurdle and the question was could the O’s pick themselves up and ‘Go again’ in less than three months time? 

WON’T GET FOOLED AGAIN…. 

In the lead up to the 2001/2002 season the talk form Tommy Taylor and Barry Hearn revolved around the post play-off slump of 1999/2000 (when the O’s last blew a play-off final) wouldn’t be repeated. Aside from giving Harris and Billy Beall new deals Taylor had brought in Jeff Minton, Scott Oakes, Phil Hadland, Scott Canham (again) and Gary Taylor Fletcher and released Ahmhet Brkovic, Walschearts and sold Carl Griffiths to Promotion chasing Luton Town to part finance our recruitment. Minton was a genuinely exciting signing, but Hadland was untried at this level and Scott Oakes had a history of injuries despite being a decent player. Gary Taylor Fletcher was signed on the back of his performances v Orient in the cup for Northwich but it has to be said that Orient’s squad was getting on towards forty professionals and Barry Hearn’s cheque book was by now begging for mercy and praying for Lockwood’s rumoured transfer to Millwall to ride to the rescue. 

When the season started in earnest Orient once again produced their traditionally slow start. No wins from the first three league games and a 2-4 home defeat to Crystal Palace in the league cup ended up with a few calls of ‘Taylor out’ coming to the fore after a terrible 1-2 defeat at York City that ended up with Matt Lockwood taken to hospital with a ruptured spleen after the match. Although Orient grabbed their first win of the season against Hartlepool (2-0) the following week a daunting trip to Roots Hall loomed large and we feared the worst but Taylor’s team produced a spirited display to win 2-1 despite going down to 10 men after McGhee’s dismissal. Loanee Leon Constantine got the opener and a Dean Smith header clinched a glorious win on the same day that England won 5-1 in Germany and the great Brian Moore passed away. The O’s followed that up with two wins on the trot against Bristol Rovers and big spending Rushden and Diamonds to move up to fourth place in the table. It proved to be a false dawn, though, as Tom’s reign as first team manager was about to come to a shuddering conclusion. 

TOMMY TAKES THE FALL…. 

If thoughts were turning towards promotion then witnessing the next few games became a sobering experience. Darlington destroyed Orient to the tune of 0-3 the following Tuesday and by all accounts we were flattered by the ‘0’ in the score line. A trip to Halifax four days later resulted in a 0-0 stalemate but an improved showing if nothing else, because any crumb of comfort was needed when it came to our next opponents – Luton Town. The hatters had made a fast start as they were looking to bounce back into league two after being relegated the previous campaign. Just for a laugh they had signed Carl Griffiths and Ahmet Brkovic amidst a strong squad for league three and you could tell that the stage was set for a very uncomfortable encounter if your name happened to be ‘Tommy Taylor’. Funnily enough Orient got off to a bright start, but Luton soon got into their stride and ended up easy 3-1 winners although Griffiths missed out on scoring himself just to rub salt in some very big wounds that were now beginning to open up. One point being made during the fallout from that encounter was that Luton were  easily the best fourth tier side ever seen at Brisbane road at the time and how come Orient never sign the caliber of player and manager (Joe Kinnear) that they had. We had a squad of thirty seven (miles more than any other club in division 3) but the performances were disjointed and -at times-rudderless. 

Worse was to come. Orient took on Torquay in a home game soon afterwards and ended up losing 1-2 after being 1-0 up at the break. It was the third straight home defeat to the gulls and the booing told its own story by the end. The Orientear reported that ‘Taylor and the players looked like they had given up’ by the end of the game and maybe the writing was now on the wall in 10ft high lettering. Another defeat at Mansfield Town followed to the tune of 2-3 with stags hit man Chris Greenacre helping himself to the decisive goal that left Taylor desperate for a win in the upcoming home fixture against Shrewsbury Town. 

The 13th of October 2001 proved to be Taylor’s last match in charge of the O’s. After Steve Watts had put Orient ahead after four minutes Taylor’s team proceeded to implode. A combination of slack marking, horrendous individual errors and devastating forward play by Luke Rodgers meant that by the time Watts had netted for the second time in the match Shrewsbury were out of sight and that Orient had been swept away to the tune of 2-4. ‘Row Z’ ‘s match report for the ‘Ear told its own sorry tale regarding the performance. ‘In Eustace Parlance you could say that the team was lacking in moral fibre and in the most extreme case a certain John Sitton would have offered out almost the entire squad’.  

With the boos and ‘Taylor out!’ chants bellowing around the stadium it really did feel that Tommy was on his way out and sure enough the next day -after a meeting at Barry Hearn’s house- the pair shook hands and Tommy Taylor’s reign of four years, eleven months and eight days had finally come to a conclusion. Although Tommy wasn’t going quietly as he took the opportunity to let rip at some of his players in the ‘Metro’ the following day and he didn’t hold back. ‘When things are going well they are the best players in the division but a few can’t hack it when things are going wrong. They go into hiding. I’ve said to them that if someone else comes in he’d ship most of them out because they’re either too young, too small or not giving 100%’. The fact that it was Taylor who had brought this bunch of juvenile dwarves to the club and failed to get anything like a coherent effort from them appeared to be lost on him. Paul Brush and Martin Ling took charge for the following match and the Tommy Taylor era was confined to history. 

DON’T LOOK BACK IN ANGER… 

So we’ve finally come to the bit where we get to assess Taylor’s time at the helm and I have to admit even after working on this for a good six months I’m struggling to make a conclusive judgement either way. Looking at his record overall, a win percentage of around 37% (86 wins from 233 league and play- off games) would struggles to get a club to the fringes of the play offs. Although I suppose that coming into the club when it was a shambles in 1996, steering it away from danger and going on to build a squad to challenge within two years would be looked at as a decent shift by some onlookers. 

Nevertherless throughout Tom’s tenure there always appeared to be an air of conflict hanging around the place whether it was based on his teams’ on field performances, his players or with some supporters. Orient never appeared settled at playing level and the fact that he used almost 120 different players during his time in charge was in reflected in the results. Orient sides with a settled make up were much better than the ones that he had tinkered with or had ‘fetched in’ a player or two after a couple of poor showings. Martin Ling, while speaking at a MTM meeting in 2007, is quoted as saying: ‘I played under Tommy for four years. Some days I enjoyed it and some I didn’t. He used a lot of players, mainly because he didn’t want to think that he missed out on any good players. He was into his work 24/7 and now I’m on the managerial side of things I think he was too involved with it. I got on well with him and still talk to him now, so his man management skills can’t have ben that bad. He worried a bit too much about the opposition and what they might do’. 

I think the main reason that Taylor failed to get us up was that his side were always two or three quality players short of having a championship /top three side capability. There is no doubt that out of that huge array of bodies that came through the revolving door at Brisbane road there were plenty of decent ones brought to the club by T.T, amongst them; Matt Lockwood, Griffiths, Dean Smith, Simon Clarke, Matt Joseph and Simba to name a few, but for every one of those there were two players such as McCormack, Paul Raynor, Chad Manley, KK Opara and Steve Finney that never brought anything to the table except a limited value to the team and an extra name on the club wage bill. Not to mention the odd player that may have turned out to be excellent for us but never got a fair crack of the whip under Taylor such as Scott McGleish. The bottom line is that Taylor and his assistant, Paul Clark, rarely gave off the impression that Orient were geared up for a properly planned assault on the league title and having bigger squads of average performers didn’t translate into ones that could perform at a consistently high standard over a forty six game campaign. I think that is borne out at looking at the erratic runs of results over Taylor’s time here when the side looked very capable for eight games then played like complete spanners for six on the bounce. If we are being honest here a better manager than Tom could well have got Orient (even with those inflated squads) promoted in those four seasons and I think this is where we have to look at Barry Hearn and the way the club was being run more than twenty years ago. To put it bluntly Hearn didn’t have the will to fire Tommy or spend the money required to entice the type of coach and player needed to get us promoted as a top three side. Especially as there was the small matter of a ground redevelopment to plan and, more importantly, finance. 

The pair genuinely liked each other and not many Chairman would have backed their manager during the bitter ‘Taylor out’ demonstrations in the autumn of 1999 alongside that dreadful run of results. You have to say that Hearn, for the most part, backed Tom when it came to recruitment as long as no transfer fees were involved and this is probably where Orient fell down in relation to moving the club forward on field.  Tommy’s own words sum up their relationship. (courtesy of Matt Simpson’s blog

“I went to his house and Barry said to me ‘Do you think it’s time?’ He didn’t want to say I was sacked. I said, ‘Yes, it is. It’s upsetting to say that, but it is.’ We shook hands. It was the hardest thing for us to say cheerio to each other. 

 “You’ll never find a better chairman than Barry Hearn in the Football League, I’ll tell you that. He knows sport, he knows people who go out there and give it their all. He’s a lovely man, he’s passionate for the club and he wants the club to do well. You won’t find a better chairman than that. 

 “I never had an argument with the man. He used to come to me and say, I don’t think this is right, I don’t think that’s right. And I’d say that’s the way I want to do it, and he’d say fair enough, if it goes wrong it’s down to you. His wife is a beautiful woman and she’d give me so much stick in the board room. Barry would say, ‘I told you, it’s no good me talking, she can do the talking for me.’ 

 “I was devastated to go. I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to the players. But to tell you the truth I would have been so emotional with them I couldn’t have gone back. I felt like they were one big family. And all of them rung me up. Everybody said they were sorry. I said, that’s football, get on with it. And make sure you don’t lose any more games!” 

I suppose we should leave Tommy himself with the last word. Since leaving the O’s almost twenty years ago he has worked regularly in coaching and management both in the UK and overseas and only last year Tom was still working in India. Listening to and talking to players such as Mark Warren, Chris Tate and even Carl Griffiths recently there doesn’t appear to be any animosity between one of Orient’s longest serving managers and many of his former players. From a supporter’s point of view, I’d say that at times the football wasn’t pretty (bordering on turgid) and Taylor wasn’t easy to warm too, but he did get Orient to two play-off finals that, if they had gone the right way, could have had a very different slant in regard to how he will be remembered here. 

(This snippet from the excellent View from the west stand blog reproduced by kind permission of Matt Simpson

“I think I’m an honest manager. I always say to the players, ‘Whatever I’ve got, I’ll give you, but you’ve got to give me whatever you’ve got on the field. And if you need anything at any time, if your family needs anything at any time, you can always speak to me and I’ll get it done for you. But if I’m doing that for you, you’ve got to give me 110 per cent every time you go out. That’s on the training ground as well.’ 

 “If you talk to any of the players at Orient and ask them how I treated them, not one of them would say I didn’t give them what they wanted at any time. If they think they’re cocky and they’ve got one on me then I’ll blast them in front of people, and if they don’t like it I’ll say, ‘Get your f****** gear and go home now.’ I’d rather put two kids on instead of two senior players”. 

The club released its latest set of figures to shareholders last month. Here is a copy for all you budding ‘Wolf of Wall street’ types.

ROMAN EMPEROR

Posted: February 4, 2021 in Uncategorized

Seven years ago the dear old ‘Orientear’ managed to grab a word with French midfield powerhouse Roman Vincelot in ‘Ear #233. ‘Kid sampson’ did a top job with this one so grab a crossaint, coffee and a packet of Gauloises and get stuck into this from March 2014…

When Roman ruled the East

Click above to view article

THE TAYLOR YEARS PART THREE…

Posted: January 13, 2021 in Uncategorized

An upbeat Tommy Taylor from November 1999

The third instalment of our retrospective look at the mangerial reign of Tommy Taylor looks back at the traumatic 1999/2000 season. Tin hemets on everyone…

THE ONE THING WE HAVE GOT GOING FOR US…. 

‘Is stability, both at board and playing level’. Words cribbed not from the club’s own matchday magazine but (and I can’t believe this either) but extracted from the first ‘Leyton Orientear’ editorial of the 1999/2000 campaign where hopes were high in regarding to going one better than the recent play-off disappointment of three months earlier. It is somewhat Ironic then, that less than three months later from when that was written that the O’s found themselves at the bottom of the football league and with some sections of the O’s support virtually at loggerheads with the manager and chairman of their own club. I suppose we can look back and laugh at that opening sentence now, but how we had arrived at that point had its seeds sown in virtually the very first weeks of the pre- season warm up games. 

Tommy Taylor began his third campaign as manager with four new recruits to bolster his squad. Ashley Bayes was signed as first choice goalkeeper and was joined by Andy Harris, Josh Low and bustling forward Iyesden Christie from Mansfield Town. Not many real complaints from O’s fans with any of those at the time although Josh Low was a relatively unknown youngster from Bristol Rovers who could play on the wing and Harris arrived from Southend as a player who could fill in at either right back or in the midfield. So the stage was set for what would, hopefully, turn out to be a successful promotion winning season for the club and the squad made an early trip across the waves to the sandy beaches of the West indies for a pre season tour of St Kitts,St Lucia and Antigua. Taylor’s men managed to get two games in against the national side (2-2 and 6-1) before the tourwas cut short due to the Antiguan president croaking and the country going into national mourning. The O’s used the spare time to organise a jaunt across the channel to continue their preparations for the upcoming season. When word got out that an overseas friendly was in the offing around seventy fans dusted off their passports and maps of Belgium and made the jaunt to where Geel was located as the O’s were to put their skills up against local side KFC Verbroedering. Those looking for a souvenir programme/teamsheet would have been devastated to learn that they had all been gobbled up by a solitary O’s fan on the day (answers on the back of a pink polo shirt) but more worrying was the fact that the hosts ran out easy 3-0 winners despite the game being limited to eighty minutes. The ‘Ear match report stated that ‘last seasons’ failings of lack of firepower upfront and an inability to cope with pacey forwards still seem to be with us’ basically set the tone for the next four months, although we didn’t know it at the time. 

Meanwhile back in blighty more pre season matches game and went as Taylor looked to find a starting X1 capable of leading the charge back to the third tier of English football. Fisher Athletic were easily dispatched 2-0 and I think I can recall Orient going down to Gravesend and Northfleet for a match where Taylor more or less changed the whole team at half time. However, one or two supporters were starting to get a bit peeved at the way these games were being used in relation to giving players match minutes and the fact that the pricing wasn’t reflecting what were in fact glorified training sessions. Brisbane Road hosted the St Kitts national side (billed as our main home friendly match) as punters were being charged £10-12 to see an Orient team made up of Kids and trialists perform. Worst was to come when orient decided to throw the kit man on for part of the second half as the game descended into farce when the referee actually sent of one of the St Kitts players and Taylor subbed off Josh low to even down the numbers. The question became were the O’s up to speed with the season’s opening fixture at Carlisle United looming large the following week?  

ATTACK OF THE MINDLESS MORONS… 

The 1-2 defeat by, it has to be said, a very average Carlisle side only underlined Orient’s reputation as being slow starters when it came to the season’s opening fixtures. This despite Alex Inglethorpe giving an injury hit O’s side an early lead in a game many thought we should have won. Orient appeared to have switched off as soon as the home side scored and it turned out to be a recurring theme throughout the season, although the one bright spot of the performance was a very solid league debut from young Simon Downer at centre half. Three days later Orient took on then championship side Swindon town in the league cup at the County ground and came away with a very creditable 1-0 win with Inglethorpe again on the score sheet for the O’s. This was good news as it meant that we could go into our first home game of the season against Brighton with some sort of confidence. It also has to be said that since the infamous ‘Battle of the Goldstone’ two years previously that this fixture had taken on a heated atmosphere on and off the park and the fact that we hadn’t lost to the seagulls since then only ramped up the intensity. However, Brighton had recruited Micky Adams (a manager who had turned Fulham’s fortunes around and who had been unceremoniously bombed out of his job at Craven Cottage by Mohamed Al- Fayed and replaced by Kevin Keegan) and this time they would be a different proposition to the team that we had rolled over on the previous half dozen occasions. 

Over 7,000 supporters turned up for this one and it heralded the O’s unveiling of our new south stand which had finally appeared after almost three years of waiting. Orient got off to a shocker against a well organised Brighton team and soon found themselves 0-2 down with Brighton’s winger, Freeman, running riot within our defence. Taylor decided to play Martin Ling on the right wing and the result being that a scarecrow would have been more influential in orchestrating any creativity from the Orient midfield as we just couldn’t break down the visiting defence. Worse was to come when Stuart Hicks was sent off for elbowing Freeman and we feared a collapse, but surprisingly Orient rallied and Taylor threw on Richards and Morrison and they combined to bring us back into the match with a smart shot from the forward who had destroyed Brighton in the F.A Cup a year earlier. Brighton held on to record their first win over Orient for four years and celebrated accordingly while we left to brood over another opening home game defeat in the league under Taylor. The following week Orient took on Peterborough in another tough fixture at London road and -again – another slow start meant that the O’s found themselves 0-2 in quick time and our defence all at sea in the process. To make matter worse ex Orient skipper, Steve Castle, scored the second with a thumping free header from a corner not long after Lockwood had missed an easier opportunity for Orient. The second half was much better as we came to life and chances were made, squandered and eventually taken when Lockwood buried a Richards cross at the far post. But the fact was that Taylor’s team were struggling to find a system and the personnel to make it work with actual the results reflecting the problems. Posh held out for the win and Orient’s record read played three lost three by the end of August. However, there was eventually some good news as the following Tuesday Orient completed their win over Swindon in the league cup with an aggregate 2-1 (Martin Ling being sent off for two bookable offences-whatever happened to him I wonder?) scoreline to set up a glamorous second round encounter with Grimsby Town. The following Saturday the O’s finally got off the mark in the league with a none too convincing 1-0 victory over Halifax Town with a fine headed effort from the recalled Amara Simba following the death of his father. One thing that did stand out was the tension between Taylor and Steve Watts as he was replaced during the second half and our manager went on to describes Watts’s performance in the match akin to ‘Bambi on ice’ during the presser afterwards. It may not have been a major bust up but it probably illustrated that Orient’s stuttering start was beginning to affect the squad, even allowing for the injuries that had plagued it from the off. More worryingly there were a growing number of supporters who had decided they had seen enough as Tommy Taylor as manager of the club despite only being four league games into the season and they were about to get a lot more ammunition to fire at him in the coming weeks.  

The O’s went into the ‘derby’ with Southend United looking to build on the win from the previous week  but came away with only a 1-1 draw despite taking a lead with a brave headed goal from Wim Walschaerts. In fact the encounter was more notable for Josh Low’s awful first half performance which resulted in him being dragged in quick time and then described as ‘Playing like a country boy’ by Taylor afterwards. There were also claims that two Orient players (who were watching from the main stand) got involved in a fight with some home supporters while the match was going on. When I tell you that the name ‘Stuart Hicks’ was mentioned in regard to the incident then the tale has a bit more credence than most. Nevertheless a decent point gave us something to build on and the next home game with Shrewsbury Town gave the O’s an opportunity to get their season back on track.When Alex Inglethorpe finally put the Orient in front –after missing a couple of glorious chances- we looked set for another scrappy win. However, as the clock ran down Wilder equalised with a well struck effort and then our old friend, Lee Steele, swivelled in the box to clinch a late winner with the boo’s erupting around the stadium and plenty of invective coming poor Tom’s way. Dave Knight’s match report in ‘ear #121 summed up the mood… 

‘I have to ask Taylor “What are you doing”? The tactics look wrong. The team looks miserable and we are losing games to poor sides. I’m fed up like the rest of you. Orient  you’ve got to sort this out. 

And so it goes. Orient appeared to fair a bit better on the road as a creditable point was gained at Mansfield. Simba’s headed goal put as ahead at half time, although holding on to leads was now becoming a problem as the stags levelled for a share of the spoils. Three days later the O’s travelled up to Cleethorpes with a depleted squad as they took on Grimsby Town in the second round of the league cup. Despite being level at one point a series of defensive mistakes and Ampadu ducking under a perfect cross at the far post when it was easier to score only compounded the misery in Orient getting thumped 1-4 on the night and the 2nd leg becoming virtually a dead rubber. The chronic injury situation claimed another victim, too, as one of a myriad of loanees Taylor had dragged into the club, Danny Hockton, pulled a hamstring less than ten minutes into his Orient debut to cap an awful night for all concerned. Again, we had another decent opportunity to get some points on the board with the visit of Torquay United to Brisbane road the following Saturday but instead of kicking off our season in earnest that particular encounter ‘kicked off’ in a very different fashion entirely. 

This match probably became a catalyst for the frustration/dislike (call it what you will) with Tommy Taylor’s managerial reign to boil over in earnest. Tension had floated around the club for the best part of two years and our performance allied to the 0-2 defeat became too much to bare for some supporters. After Bayes had made a dog’s dinner organising his defensive wall for the opening goal and Simba’s unlucky own goal had gifted another visiting side three easy points the final whistle brought forth ever louder chants of ‘Taylor Out’ and ‘Super Carl Griffiths’. Soon afterwards around a hundred irate O’s fans made their way around to the club offices in Brisbane Road to call for Taylor’s sacking amidst some pushing and shoving with stewards and police as tempers began to fray. Although Taylor was obviously the target for most of the Ill feeling at the club it was at this point that Barry Hearn waded into the fight in earnest after already declaring that he’d given Tommy a 5 year contract and branding the dissenters ‘not true fans’ and ‘mindless morons’ earlier in the season. In effect the stakes were being raised as the situation was beginning to shift from Taylor’s struggles with the team to questioning how the club was being run by Hearn. The next three months were to prove ‘lively’ to say the least. 

THE CARDBOARD BOX MAN COMETH… 

Three days later the O’s took on Grimsby Town in a virtually academic second leg of the league cup tie that had been lost the previous week. On the night Orient produced a creditable 1-0 win with Steve Watts scoring from a tight angle following a low Matt Lockwood free kick to at least give the aggregate score line a bit more respectability. The backdrop to the match became more of a talking point though, as the £15 entry fee for seats and £11 for standing gave an already hacked off O’s support a ready made excuse not to bother and barely a thousand people rolled up at the turnstiles for it . Not only that but Barry Hearn’s outburst regarding Orient supporters staying away in protests ‘Moron’s’ led to one supporters donning an A4 sheet of paper attached to some wire and walking around the ground pre match with the words ‘Hearn thinks we are all mugs – prove him wrong -Boycott this match!’. In present day parlance, that occurrence would have people saying that we were ‘going through the looking glass’ in relation to what was happening at Orient. But the fact that the lone supporter’s protest had wound up Barry Hearn sufficiently to have been referenced in an article in ‘The Daily Mail’ that came out a day or two later meant that the ‘cardboard box/sandwich board man’s action did have an effect. It made good copy if nothing else and even the journalist who wrote the article joined in the fun when he mentioned that ‘if you believed him (Hearn) when he says that Orient are everyone’s second favourite team in the capital then they are, in fact, the best supported team in London’. 

RAMPING UP THE MISERY 

The one thing that Tommy Taylor would have wanted coming off the back of a ropey seven days at the club was a victory over Hartlepool in the next game. It duly arrived courtesy of goals from Inglethorpe and Smith as the O’s battled to a 2-1 win, although Ampadu became yet another O’s player to see red that season with two silly fouls. Josh low responded to Taylor’s earlier criticism of his performances with a great display and Ashley Bayes reverted from villain to hero with a crucial save at the death to deny the ‘monkey hangers’ a late equaliser. So hopes were beginning to rise that the signings Taylor had made in the summer were starting to come good. It has to be said that Harris, Christie, Bayes and Low had struggled with their form straight from the off and that combined with a chronic injury list hadn’t helped Tommy in any way shape or form. In saying that, the way Taylor set his team up for games allied with some strange positional arrangement of his players didn’t help matters either. Any green shoots of recovery were quickly crushed at Plymouth during the first weekend of October as Orient were destroyed 0-5 by Plymouth Argyle down at Home Park. Billy Beall started at left back and Simon downer started in midfield filling in in for the suspended Ampadu and from then on it was downhill all the way. 

The rest of the month was basically carnage on and off the pitch with Orient not winning a match and only having a sterile 0-0 draw at home to Barnet to show for it. A 2-3 home defeat to Lincoln City sparked more angry scenes outside Brisbane road with people who were coming out of the hospitality area getting a hard time from some of the protesters when they had nothing to do with what was going on out the pitch. The war of words between Barry Hearn and some of the clubs’ support escalated and a ‘Meet the chairman’ evening held at the supporters club didn’t really do much to ease tensions on either side. Hearn insisted that he was standing ‘shoulder to shoulder with Tommy Taylor’ and if people didn’t like or the way that he ran the club it they could piss off because the club didn’t need their money either. The chairman did admit that if Orient were relegated out of the football league that Tommy Taylor’s position would be ‘looked at’ but results were making it ever difficult to stand by his man all the same. The ‘Ear editorial in #122 was pretty scathing regarding it all.. 

‘Can anybody (apart from chief moron –BH) truly say that there is some kind of coherent policy at management level occurring at the club? The facts are that despite taking Orient to Wembley Tommy Taylor’s reign is becoming too Eustace-esque for comfort. The football is sterile and predictable. The tactics range from the negative to the downright bizarre and too many decent players have been recruited and then shown the door without reaching their potential’ 

October finished with a creditable 1-1 draw at home to Cardiff city in the F.A Cup and Even Barry Hearn sat in the new South stand with some of the punters to drink in Ampadu’s goal that at least gave us the lifeline of a replay in ten days time. 

As we entered November Tommy must have been wondering where it had all gone wrong? Despite criticism regarding how he set up his team and some of the selections it has to be conceded that the new signings he had brought in over the summer had misfired and it wasn’t entirely Tom’s fault. Andy Harris and Ashley Bayes hadn’t done anything to shore up our defence and Iyseden Christie was making a habit of getting into great positions and missing crucial opportunities. After the injury crisis of the past three months had gradually receded there were still experienced players making basic errors during games and that cannot be put down solely down to Tommy Taylor. Out of the blue another little known signing arrived to bolster the squad in the shape of Ahment Brkovic, a diminutive midfielder and he announced his arrival with a spectacular overhead kick finish in the encounter at Darlington on November 2nd. Despite that the O’s went down 1-3 on the night with Marco Gabbiadini scoring two super goals and leaving Orient rock bottom of the football league and three points adrift of safety. Darren Rowbotham and David McGhee were brought in to boost the squad which was taking on ever larger proportions as we shaped up for a home game versus Northampton that ended up in a lacklustre 0-0 draw and a now regular protest after the game. In fact This was the occasion of Barry Hearn making some not very wise gestures to the assembled dissenters and it resulted in the club shop shutter getting a few slaps and a tiny window in the main entrance door getting broken. Again, the Evening standard and even the national ‘Guardian’ carried articles with Barry Hearn laying into the protesters but the facts were that the team were slap bank in a run of one win in thirteen and looked to be heading out of the football league after ninety five years. 

Three days on from that encounter the O’s interest in the FA Cup ended following a 1-3 defeat at Cardiff in the 1st round replay at Ninian park. Despite taking the lead some poor defending gifted the home side a way back into the tie and Ex –O, Kevin Nugent, wrapped the tie up after pouncing on a rebound that Barrett couldn’t hold on to. The situation was looking ever desperate, but In typical Orient fashion Taylor’s team pulled off a shock win at high flying Rotherham the following Friday with Martin Ling netting with a slick finish, a goal that was to prove his last in an O’s shirt but one that took the pressure of Tom for another week. Two more poor performances followed with a dire 0-0 with Rochdale being followed up by a dreadful showing at newly promoted Cheltenham Town. Scott Barrett and Dean Smith won’t look back at their performances  that afternoon with any affection and Alex Inglethorpe’s pathetic penalty miss after Taylor had nominated him from the sidelines to take it just compounded another bad day for the team as we went down 0-2.  So,with questionable morale within the club being reported alongside an evermore frustrated and angry support you got the feeling that something would have to give as each passing week another bad result appeared to knock the club back on it’s heels.

TAYLOR’S LAST THROW OF THE DICE… 

Orient entered December in desperate straits. The team hadn’t scored at home in the league since September and a crunch game against fellow strugglers, Carlisle United, was next up on the fixture list. Orient huffed and puffed but succumbed to another defensive lapse and the visitors came away with the points. The fact that ex Orient goalkeeper Luke Weaver pulled off a miraculous save to deny Tony Richards at the death made it all the more hard to take. The protests afterwards were, once more, long and loud and expectations were that Tom just couldn’t survive this one. However, what in fact happened was Barry Hearn releasing a statement that threatened to walk away and not financing the club unless supporters stopped protesting in the manner they had been. Taylor responded by starting a mass clear out of his playing staff following a Monday morning ‘clear the air’ meeting with the players. Out went Hicks, Ling, Roger Joseph and Amara Simba with Inglethorpe joining Exeter City and Josh Low leaving not long afterwards. Also, in an astounding turn around, Carl Griffiths made a sensational return to Brisbane Road just before Christmas less than a year since we were told that he wasn’t really needed here. There was a growing realisation that – above everything else – the prospect of relegation was very real and that if the club were to avoid it action had to be taken. Also, more of Orient’s youngsters began to play a part in the squad. Simon Downer, Neil Gough, John Martin and Brendon McElholm were drafted in with youth team coach Paul Brush being more prominent on match days. The question was could Tommy Taylor turn results around in time? 

In the short term nothing seemed to have changed. Orient lost the next two games 0-1 to Macclesfield and Swansea respectively and the last game of the century had Orient travelling to fellow relegation candidates Chester city. Defeat at the Deva stadium would have  been virtually it as Taylor ‘s managerial reign at the club was concerned but the match was to prove a massive turning point for the campaign. With Steve Watts scoring early suddenly Orient looked a different team. Carl Griffiths opened his Orient account for his second spell with a hat-trick (two penalties) and Iyesden Christie finally netted with a tap in to round off the scoring in a 5-1 rout. All of a sudden the team began to hit form and Orient went on a eight match unbeaten run with Simon Downer and Ahmet Brkovic performing consistently well and Christie at last finding some goalscoring prowess. Highlights of the run was a gutsy 1-0 win at Brighton (played in a mudbath) at Withdean athletic stadium and deliriously enjoyed by the three hundred or so O’s fans who managed to get a ticket for it.  A win in the Essex derby with Southend wasn’t far behind as the O’s came through 2-1 in a pulsating encounter. With better results came a better atmosphere in and around the club and even Barry Hearn managed to secure a long term lease from the council to ensure that Orient continued to play in Leyton for the foreseeable future, although the cost came in at over £300,000 and the club had taken a big loan out from Lombard finance to secure it. By the end of February Orient had steadily pulled away from danger and there were even one or two people mentioning the dreaded ‘play-offs’ in hushed tones. The standard of our football had also improved and Tommy Taylor fronted up at ‘a meet the manager night’ (with mixed results) and more or less challenged the critics to come with their moans to say it ‘face to face’ with either him or any player.

REALITY BITES…

With expectations starting to rise amongst the ‘Orient faithful’ it was no surprise that the O’s lost the first two league games in March to -more or less- put paid to any play off talk, although they did produce two excellent performances against Darlington and Rochdale straight afterwards. The 4-1 win at Spotland was Christie’s best showing in an O’s shirt to date as he tore the home side apart and Lockwood added another great strike from a free kick for the second week running. However, Orient then went on a six game run without a win that included an awful home defeat to virtually doomed Chester City, who had ex ‘O’ Stuart Hicks in the starting line up. This even moved Barry Hearn to air his annoyance with the team in public saying that; ‘The performance was poor and in some cases disgraceful’ although he then went on to get embroiled in a  public row over asylum seekers that topped off a pretty awful season for him in the media. The O’s did manage one more win as the end of the campaign closed in. A 3-0 success over Plymouth, notable for an acrobatic volleyed finish from Brkovic and another goal from Christie to seal the win. Our last away game took us to Underhill where the O’s played some excellent football in an ‘end-to-end’ 2-2 draw with Barnet. Billy Beal scored a cracking goal and his dad then threatened to work over one of Orient’s more critical supporters unless he wound his neck in after giving an opinion of Billy’s overall contribution in the match. The final fixture of the season with York City ended in a sterile 0-0 draw, the nineteenth time that the O’s had failed to score in a league match in 1999/2000 and despite a few cat calls at the end Taylor had survived another season in the managers chair. The final Orientear editorial rejoiced in the season’s conclusion.. ‘To be honest I’ve had enough of this season. It has been one of the worst I can remember on field and off, with only the long overdue signing of the lease lifting the gloom. In short, following the O’s hasn’t been much fun at all’.

SURVEYING THE WRECKAGE…

When all is said and done those who can recall the 1999/2000 season wouldn’t want to dwell on it for longer than necessary. Whatever could go wrong did go wrong but yet again it underlined Orient’s own propensity to make our own problems. If nothing else it was the first season that people started to question the way that Barry Hearn was running the club in earnest. Not in regards to how much time or money he was putting in but the decisions that were made in a strictly footballing capacity, especially the mythical five year contract which was handed to Taylor on the back of a Wembley play-off appearance that ​we badly botched on the day. As for Tommy Taylor, I think he knew that at any other club he would have been fired before Christmas and that he’d had a narrow escape in not being dismissed.  Barry Hearn publicly stated that a defeat to Chester city post Christmas would have been the end for him and it was ironic that the return of Carl Griffiths went a long way in keeping Taylor in a job at the time. However, Tommy knew that his card had been well and truly marked by a large section of the Orient support and a massive improvement was required for the 2000/2001 season that was less than three months away and a repeat of the last ten months just wouldn’t be tolerated. The one plus for Tommy Taylor was that there was still a decent nucleus of players to work with and if we set about the task properly there was no reason why the O’s couldn’t mount some sort of challenge the following season. Could the O’s finally break free of this division at long last?

Next time: Griff loses his marbles, Millennium misery and Tommy finally rides out into the sunset..

The Taylor years part 2

Posted: October 12, 2020 in Uncategorized

The second instalment of Tommy Taylor’s managerial reign starts on the African continent and ends in tears at a famous North west London landmark. Not IKEA.

Scott Barrett takes the plaudits

FROM KAMPALA TO WEMBLEY…
The summer of 1998 heralded a feast of football with the world cup being hosted in France. Many O’s fans took the opportunity to hop across the channel and swap the grim terraces of Cambridge united and Barnet for the gleaming stadiums of Montpellier and St Etienne as memories of Orient’s agonising failure to reach the play-off spots began to diminish in the sunshine. Meanwhile the club was about to embark on its own foray on the world stage with a pre-season tour to Uganda. Taylor liked this sort of jaunt as he used them for ‘team bonding’ as a prelude to the pre season games and Barry Hearn was happy seeing as the club wasn’t paying out to organise it. One O’s fan (Julian Lillington – pre ladder) made the trip and bore witness to the two games that were actually completed before the promotional company behind the trip ran out of cash and the squad had to up sticks and fly home early from the (in)famous Entebbe airport on the back of a brace of defeats to local opposition.
Prior to the tour Tommy Taylor gave his one and only interview to the Orientear and after a cautious opening began to open up in regard to how he saw the coming season panning out. It appeared as if the two young but inconsistent wide players, Harris and Baker, would still be bit players at best and the fact that Tom had signed Ampadu and unknown Belgian -Wim Walschaerts – as enforcers brought with it fears that Orient could be resorting back to ‘hoof ball’ for the coming campaign. However, Taylor had managed to find a solution to the problem position of left back as Matt Lockwood was signed on a free transfer from Bristol Rovers and Taylor’s squad definitely had the look of one that could compete as a top seven side for the coming season.
After arriving back from Africa the O’s soon found themselves embroiled in the usual run of the mill warm up matches. Billericay, Canvey Island and even a ‘West Ham X1’ were put to the sword although Kingstonian and KIngs Lynn ran out winners in matches where Taylor’s use of playing staff and trialists were becoming an irritant to some. One correspondent that made the long journey to Tennyson road for the encounter with the Linnets was far from impressed; ‘The performance in this game was laughable, especially when the O’s number 12 actually looked like a twelve year old and when a late substitute came on he looked like a barrel’. Orient’s first match of the season was looming large at Chester city and -as usual- there were worries that Taylor didn’t know his best side or, more worryingly, how to deploy it.


ANGER IS AN ENERGY…
The trip to the Deva stadium on that warm afternoon back in August 1998 began to take on epic proportions as the highways agency very un-sportingly decided to implement a series of road works that added a good two hours onto the regular journey. This meant that a fair few O’s fans just about made the kick off and one or two were still making their way into the ground just as Dean Smith was being shown a ridiculous red card by the imbecilic referee half way through the first period. Usually these moment bring forth an Orient collapse on the back of them but this time we witnessed a remarkable goal from the previous seasons’ scapegoat in chief – Tony Richards- who picked the ball up on the half way line, beat two defenders a slotted home a quality opening goal of the season. Apart form the combined euphoria and disbelief in the away end that goal also gave the players a massive confidence boost that carried on into the second half despite the team being down to ten men. Chester hardly laid a glove on us all afternoon and when Jason Harris (on for the reborn Richards) added a well deserved second goal to seal a 2-0 win it looked as if it was all systems go for the season. Which it was until the next league match versus Rotherham.
We didn’t know it at the time but the men from South Yorkshire were to play a massive part in Orient’s season. After the previous Saturdays’ performance and battling draw in the league cup with (again) ten players with Bristol Rovers four days earlier Taylor’s team were looking to put down an early season marker in relation to being serious promotion candidates. What followed was a reality check of the worst kind as the ‘Millers’ ran in four goals to a single Dean Smith reply leaving the Orient support both shell shocked and a tad annoyed. ‘Chequebook out!’ was a chant that was directed towards chairman Hearn after this one and it wouldn’t be the last time an appeal for its arrival would be made from some patrons in the main stand. Two weeks later and the O’s entertained another Yorkshire side, Scarborough, as Taylor hoped to get Orient’s league campaign back up and running after the awful result from the last home game. Instead of the O’s putting together a performance to install confidence what we actually dished up was a pathetic collapse to the tune of 0-3 with Orient’s defence giving off the appearance that they had just took to the park after a lunchtime session in the ‘coach and horses’ in Leyton High Road. To top it off Martin Ling missed an open goal with a headed attempt that he had his eyes closed for which brought down some savage abuse from a few North terrace patrons stood behind the goal and a better aimed ‘V’ sign back from Ling. The fallout from that result was a tad predictable in that the boos that rang around the ground and the stick Taylor received meant that results had to improve before too long or trouble wouldn’t be too far away. However, Barry Hearn wasn’t slow in criticising the dissenters in the stand (blowing kisses to them at one stage of that encounter) and declared that they were as much to blame for the dire showing as the players were, thus exacerbating the situation is some people’s eyes and raising the stakes in relation to how Tommy’s team would react. September fixtures and results reflected the problems that constantly dogged Taylor side, which was basically disjointed performances littered with individual errors, especially from young Chris McKenzie in the O’s goal. Nottingham Forest came to Brisbane road in the league up and had destroyed Orient by half time as they waltzed to a 5-1 win and although we gained a creditable 0-0 at the City ground in the second leg our league form was still bang average. Wins at home v Carlisle and Brighton (again) kept the pressure off momentarily but there were just as many bad days at the office, especially away from home. An awful performance at Cambridge where we went down to a 0-1 defeat was yet another match where Taylor’s hoof and chase policy came under fire and this was followed up at the end of the month by a dreadful 1-2 defeat at Rochdale.  An encounter only notable for Dean Smith’s missed penalty and singularly enlivened by the ineptitude of Taylor’s latest signing from Dundee, Steve McCormack,as his sixty yard sliding backpass from the Rochdale half of the pitch went off for a corner to the home side and instantly became the highlight of his brief 4 game O’s career.

THE LION KING ARRIVES..
October got off to another stuttering start with a 1-1 draw at home to Hartlepool which, again, had some supporters calling for the head of the manager by the final whistle. Taylor rolled the dice in relation to getting more players in the building and this time went down a novel pathway to get them. Former male model Steve Watts joined the squad via the ‘Sun’ newspaper’s ‘search for a striker competition’ and then straight out of the blue former French international Amara Simba (at 36 years of age) arrived fresh from the Mexican second division to spice up Orient’s flagging attack. This eventually galvanised Orient. From then on Taylor and his team went on a two month unbeaten run that produced some great results and an upturn in the standard of football that we hadn’t seen since the end of the previous campaign. Simba scored on Debut in the 2-0 victory over Exeter city to start the ball rolling and we followed that up with two decent draws on the road at Cardiff and Southend which was the first derby at Roots Hall since the early 1990’s with over 2,000 Orient fans ramping up the atmosphere during a pulsating 2-2 stalemate. As we moved into November the diminutive Billy Beall was finally signed (for reported fee of £50,000) after months of wrangling with Cambridge united and he duly paid off a chunk of that price tag with the winner in a hard fought 1-0 win at Hull city. Taylor’s side was picking up momentum and the next three results really gave rise to hopes of a season to remember. Arch foes, Brighton, were swept aside 4-2 in a super charged F.A cup encounter that will be ever remembered for Tony Richards grabbing a hat -trick and celebrating with an almost suicidal ‘Hand to ear’ sprint past the massed ranks of Seagull fans going apoplectic with rage housed in a rapidly disintegrating West side stand. That was followed up with another massive game with Brentford seven days later, riding high in the top three at the time. A speculative shot went through McKenzie’s dive and it took a second half comeback via smith’s penalty and a great header by Steve Watts from Lings’ pinpoint free kick to steal the points after Brentford had mounted a siege to the O’s goal in the closing stages. Possibly the best performance of this run came at home Park as Plymouth were put to the sword by a rampant Orient attack to the tune of 4-2 at a ground where orient traditionally got little reward. That result left the O’s third in the table and hot on the heels of leaders Halifax town who were only two points in front. So, after a fraught opening two months of the campaign Taylor had suddenly found a winning formula that was finally getting results and, indeed, plaudits from many O’s supporters although the next six or seven games of the campaign would be season defining.


SHOOTING OURSELVES IN THE COBBLERS…
It has been said of Tommy Taylor’s tenure as O’s boss that his side were just as capable of going ten games without a win as ten without defeat. There is also a decent case to be made in regards to the theory of Taylor’s teams being able to get into a great position but never managing to maintain that momentum for very long, for whatever reason. Just to prove that Orient were capable of both the run into the Christmas and new year fixtures provided zero wins with points being thrown away in terrible fashion. The games at home to Peterborough and away in the Derby at Barnet before Christmas -where the O’s managed to turn a 2-1 lead into a 3-2 defeat in the last minute after Simba and Beal had put us in front- were particularly hard to take. Despite our league form stalling the O’s had sneaked into the 4th round of the F.A cup with two wins over non- league opposition. We were lucky to get through over two games v Kingstonian and a Carl Griffiths sealed a win over Southport with a goal and a sending off for over celebrating. This (by some accounts) angered Taylor and was the start of a break down in relations with the popular Griffiths that would lead to him being transferred out of the club despite the fiery Welshman being- arguably- the best forward at the club.
Away from the cup run Orient’s league form was still a problem, although the team had swapped losing for drawing only a brace from Simba saved our blushes with a late leveller v Chester City in early January but this only delayed the inevitable as Rotherham came from behind to a slick Steve Watts strike to run out 3-1 winners and leave the O’s in 11th place in the table. The F.A Cup encounter was overshadowed by the news that Griffiths had been loaned out to Wrexham for a month while we struggled with injuries to our front players. Some fans were incensed by this news and despite a spirited performance three second half goals (two from Jason Roberts) put paid to our hopes although it has to be said yet another suspect goalkeeping performance from McKenzie didn’t do us any favours. This got a bit too much for one O’s follower who took to the Orientear’s own ‘teletext’ page to air his criticism regarding our keepers’ performances and had the result of Tommy Taylor phoning up the fan to complain about what was said. The fact that Taylor himself moved to bring in an experienced goalkeeper – Scott Barrett- from Cambridge United (the 5th player we had signed from them under Taylor’s stewardship of the team) the following week probably meant that the O’s fan was a bit more in the right than in the wrong on that score. A week later The O’s battled to a 3-2 win over much fancied Darlington with the ever improving Wim Walschaerts clinching it with a late winner to end a run of two months without a win in the league. It was a vital success and it meant that the O’s kept in play-off contention although it was getting to the stage where it was getting impossible to predict which way the season was going to go.


THE O’S GO MARCHING ON – SORT OF…
The O’s headed into February looking to cement their play-off credentials and it has to be said they more than achieved it with five wins out of six league games playing some of the best football under Taylor’s leadership. We started the month grinding out a 1-1 draw at Carlisle’s Brunton park then hit some real form as Mansfield, Cambridge (with a rejuvenated Carl Griffiths back in the team scoring and setting another goal up in an excellent 2-0 win) and Brighton all succumbing to the play of juggernaut leaving Leyton high road. The Brighton match was a classic ‘backs to the wall’ job after Smith had been sent off for two bookable offences, but Simon Clark stepped up to put in yet another colossal defensive performance for the team that season and a Griffiths penalty with Lockwoods’ late winner sent over 1,600 travelling supporters home happy from Priestfield stadium where Brighton were now playing their home games. it has to be said that Tony Richards, Steve watts, Martin Ling and Dave Morrison were all putting in great performances at this point and Torquay (with former Everton and Wales international, Neville Southall, literally throwing a goal in during the 2-0 win on a rain soaked Tuesday night match) along with Rochdale were all put to the sword leaving Orient in the automatic promotions spots once again going into the first game of March.
Then just as you thought that the club was finally getting it right the news broke that Griffiths had been sold to Port Vale for £100,000 thus weakening the squad at a stroke. Many theories were floated as to why this happened and Barry Hearn was adamant that our Welsh hit man wanted to leave after not being too impressed with the deal being offered to him by Taylor and with his contract running out we took the offer from vale as to not see him leave on a ‘Bosman’. As usual this split opinion amongst the O’s rank and file. Many thought that this was typical Orient in that our promotion chances had been dented by the lure of a few quid as the replacement Taylor brought in -Steve Finney – from Carlisle (who had scored a penalty in the recent encounter up there) was a cheap option with little pedigree. The fact that Finney was pretty non descript during his five games for Orient tends to back this up but you do get the feeling that there was a certain amount of mutual distrust between Taylor and Griffiths and it had finally come to a head with Carl leaving the club.
Well if there was a ‘conspiracy’ revolving around Orient ‘not wanting to go up’ because of the cost to Barry Hearn (99.9% rubbish truth be told) it certainly gained some traction over the next six games as we won only one or them and had to endure a real thrashing at home to Southend United thrown in. Again, Orient suddenly sprang back to life after winning a ding-dong encounter with Plymouth 4-3, setting up a huge match four days later in West London. With seven games to go the O’s found themselves seven points behind 3rd placed Brentford and the encounter was basically Orient’s last chance to crack the top three. Nothing less than a win would do and in a super charged atmosphere Orient got off to a dreadful start when Stuart hicks was sent off after, apparently, elbowing a Brentford player off the ball. Not many o’s fans saw the incident but it was enough to put us on the backfoot for the rest of the match and looking back now the 0-0 score line was a decent afternoons work given the circumstances. The bottom Line was that automatic promotion was virtually out of reach now and that the goal now was to cement a play-off berth and not repeat the collapse of 12 months previous.

What a night that was…


THE PLAY -OFF’S AWAIT…
Despite stories of yet another falling out with a member of his squad (Hicks was rumoured to have been told to make his own way back from Griffin park after his sending off) Taylor’s side won their next two matches to seal a place in the end of season matches to decide who came up via the back door. Scarborough were polished off to the tune of 3-1 with a brace from Amara Simba (ex spurs keeper Tony Parkes getting some fearful stick from the travelling O’s support that night) and Shrewsbury town were destroyed by a rampant O’s team 6-1, almost a year to the day on from the disastrous encounter that killed off our chances the previous season. The last three games were an anti climax. Orient crashed to their customary defeat at Hartlepool 0-1 thanks to a Peter Beardsley tap in but more seriously the 0-3 collapse at Peterborough brought with it a sending off for the ever more impressive Walschaerts and a three game ban, meaning that he would miss those vital play-of matches through suspension. The last regular match of the season ended 2-2 against Barnet and once again Amara Simba netted twice to demonstrated that despite the loss of Griff orient still had a strike force that could perform despite another lacklustre showing from the team overall. Our final league position of 6th was a decent return and we had clinched the last play-off spot by a point. Orient had also discovered our opponents for the play off semi final would be Rotherham United who had beaten us convincingly on two previous occasions. If the O’s were going to get to Wembley we would have to do it the hard way.


MILLERS GROUND OUT…The match report from the ‘orientear’ describing that first leg of the play off was pretty spot on; ‘Not really much to report here. This encounter typified the whole concept of the play-off’s as a bumper crowd endured ninety minutes of sterile, virtually chanceless football’. Rotherham came to town and set their stall out. Ten men behind the ball and inviting the O’s to come and break them down. We couldn’t, they didn’t bother to come out and attack and a frustrated crowd of 9,400 went away thinking that a lunchtime session in the pub might have been a more satisfying way to spend a Sunday lunchtime. Looking back at it that 0-0 result wasn’t a complete disaster but it did set up a ‘do or die’ scenario three days later.
The match at Millmore was never a classic in the sense of free flowing champagne football with quality goals to match. This was a nail biter from start to finish where every ball was kicked in the stands as they well as on the pitch and you got totally absorbed in the whole occasion. Tom Davies described the scene thus; ‘It was without doubt, one of the most tense, heart stopping, leg buckling, gut wrenching, voice hoarsening two and a half hours of my football watching career. When it went to penalties I feared the worst, I always do, but I was wrong, gloriously wrong’. Two thousand O’s fans crammed into the old away end and some more who thought they had bought seats in an away section suddenly found that they had some very iffy company when the home club decided to let some of their supporters in there. I suppose it just made for an even more tense encounter and as the night wore on nerves of steel were required from spectators and players alike. Both defences were conspicuously on top but with Smith, Clark and Roger Joseph holding the line extra time became a virtual certainty. That was until the 90th minute of normal time when Rotherham were awarded a free kick on the edge of our penalty area in a central position. Roscoe stepped up to place an inch perfect curled effort towards the bottom corner of Barrett’s goal only to see his effort brilliantly turned away by the veteran goalkeeper when every O’s fan behind that goal thought it was in and we were done for the season. Extra time came and went. Orient looked more likely to nick it but in the fact was that you couldn’t get a fag paper between the two sides so penalties would decide it. It was at this moment where Tommy Taylor had his finest hour (or 5 minutes to be precise) as manager of Leyton Orient football club as he took to the field at the start of the shoot out to indulge in some of the finest ‘shithousery’ ever to emanate from an O’s manager, wandering around the penalty area as the home players lined up to take their spots kicks had the desired effect as it got nerves jangling and the home crowd at that end of the pitch raging. Sure enough Barrett wrote himself into orient folklore by saving two penalties (and getting shoved by an invading Millers fan after the final whistle for his trouble )and our players, dear reader, showed the sort of balls and calmness not usually associated with the club and scored all of ours, with Matthew Lockwood burying the decisive spot kick to send every orient player and supporter into delirium at the club to Wembley stadium for the first time since they played two league games there in 1930. It wasn’t a dream, Wembley he we come.

Not that special.


AFTER THE LORD MAYOR’S SHOW….
If two games were to ultimately sum up Orient’s 1998-99 season the play-off semi final at Rotherham and actual final itself at Wembley are as good as examples to pick from. The fact that they both came straight after each other probably make them all the better as choices, too.  The play-off final against Scunthorpe pitched together two sides who had notched one win over each other during the regular season and you knew it was going to shape up as yet another close contest. The managers had experienced success at the national stadium as players, Tommy Taylor at West Ham and Brian Laws with Nottingham forest so both men probably knew what it would take to get the job done on the day. Looking back twenty one years on It’s safe to say that Taylor sent out the wrong team tactically from the off and having basically four central defenders starting the final made Orient unbalanced and uncompetitive in the middle of the pitch from the first whistle. It was therefore pretty ironic that Scunthorpe’s eventual winning goal after only six minutes came from the smallest man on the field (Calvo Garcia) with a virtually free header. For the rest of the first half the O’s just couldn’t find a way to put any sort of pressure on the ‘Iron’ penalty area and looked vulnerable to a second goal. Tony Richards found the first forty five minutes particularly tough going and it was no surprise when he and Stuart Hicks found themselves dragged by Taylor as he tried to save our season at the start of the second half.
Sure enough Orient began to rally. Ling became more influential with Maskell and Inglethorpe starting to pose problems for Scunthorpe. Inglethorpe had a toe poke blocked on the line after Maskell had set up the chance and then the same player hit our best chance to close to the goalkeeper when played in by Simba as our attacking became more and more desperate. In the end it was inevitable that Scunthorpe would hold on to their lead and win promotion to division two while Orient had come up short yet again despite the general euphoria surrounding the big Wembley occasion.  The old saying regarding Wembley being only a great day out if you win the game was never more pertinent and the dear old O’s had found that out the hard way.

Sod it.


THE FALL OUT…

Despite getting Orient to the play-off’s Taylor still didn’t have universal support from the Orient rank and file and looking over the end of season poll the ‘Orientear’ held over the following summer he won the ‘Idiot of the season’ category with almost 25% of the votes cast. And yet in another category in the poll 50% of the pollsters said they thought the manager was doing a good job. Orient fans never being satisfied? It could happen. That Wembley final match was lost almost before the O’s took to the pitch and speaking to one of the Orient players from that afternoon a few years later he was insistent that Hicks should not have played as it gave Scunthorpe an advantage that we couldn’t overturn. It was also noted that the game was an example of the chickens coming home to roost in regards to Griffiths being sold and not adequately replaced by Taylor as we lacked quality and ruthlessness in the box when the chips were down. There was also an accusation that Tom’s failure to bring in a decent goalkeeper a lot earlier than January along with the Griffiths saga went a long way as to why the club failed to achieve a top three finish thus avoiding the need to go down the play-off lottery in the first place. Nevertheless Orient had put the trials and tribulations of the past five years behind them at long last. Or so we thought……
Next time: Taylor gets a 5 year contract, Mindless morons on the loose at orient and the cardboard boxman cometh.