Paper Capers

Posted: November 28, 2022 in Uncategorized

Before throwing pyrotechnics at Orient away games became a thing the O’s had a reputation for trashing away terraces with till rolls, loo rolls and shredded copies of the Daily Express (best place for it|). We take a trip back to February 1993 (#’Ear 64) to the days when ‘we were Orient, we make mess’.

At the back end of April the club held its AGM and reflected on the ‘Behind closed doors’ season. These are the accounts that went with it and a report of that meeting can be found in #281 of ‘The Leyton Orientear’ that is on sale this coming Saturday for the first home game of the new season v Grimsby Town.

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 Barnes’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 while 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

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