Home is where the heartache is.

Posted: April 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

DROWNING BY NUMBERS

Take a look at some stats.

P 21 W6 D8 L7 F23 A24   (81/2)

P23 W7 D7  L9  F30 A36   (84/5)

P23 W6 D6  L11 F21 A29  (94/5)

P22 W5 D6  L11 F21 A33   (2011/2)

Yes folks, the figures above come from our home records during Orient’s more recent  relegation seasons. This campaigns’ home standing resides at the bottom of the list just prior to what is becoming a desperate looking encounter against Rochdale. ‘Squeaky bum’ time? You don’t know the half of it.

Before we get to grips on passing the last rights on the season just about to implode on us, it’s worth noting that in 1985 Orient were relegated with as many points as we ended the Yeovil game on. Swansea stayed up with 47 that year and if Ian Juryeff hadn’t skied his shot from 6 yards in the season’s final encounter against Bournemouth we’d have been home and dry. Then we fast forward a decade to the infamous John Sitton inspired ‘club for a fiver’ season of 1994/5. In that year, due to ‘league restructuring’, the old second division had 5 relegation spots to fight over and it was Plymouth Argyle that took the last relegation placing with 48 points, with Bournemouth edging them out on 50 points.

Gazing through the fog of time back at those last three relegation seasons for the dear old O’s brings a nostalgic tear to my eyes. I was young ,carefree and believed that the likes of Ken Knighton was good for the club and that Billy Jennings was going to score 20 goals to take us to the first division. If that isn’t a warning regarding the perils of teenage drinking and drugs then I don’t know what is. What was also a common theme running through those campaigns was the over overwhelming fact that the O’s were absolutely skint and on the verge of financial collapse at any moment  so, in a way, at least we had some sort of excuse.

Over the past 9 months supporters have dissected virtually every kick, wasted pass, sending off, signing and even a goal where the O’s have been concerned. We’ve listed a few reasons why Russell Slade has been a bit unlucky. The unbelievable goalkeeping injury situation, losing Cuthbert to injury at a vital part of the season and having to sell two of his best players was always going to hurt us when it came to performances and results. Even as recently as the crunch encounter at Bramall Lane the complete moment of madness that resulted in Dick(head)son getting himself sent off and leaving us without a left back for the final few games cannot be put at Slade’s door.  Depending on who  you believe it seems that Russell made our on loan left back make his own way back to London and there is a big part of me that agrees with that seeing as it paved the way for Mc Sweeney’s comedy of errors in that position the following week.

However, the upshot of our recent collapse is that people are now openly calling for the manager to be sacked and this has obviously manifested itself on the club message board of late.

TO FIRE OR NOT TO FIRE, THAT IS THE QUESTION

As one punter said recently on the club forum what is the point of sacking Slade? Statistically speaking, chopping and changing the manager just leads’ to more trouble down the line and it’s a very pertinent view in the current circumstances. Even if Orient get relegated next weekend should Barry Hearn stick with Russell Slade come what may? Given that he has presided over some of the worst football seen here since the days of Paul Brush’s disastrous reign as manager. The scenario  isn’t new here at Brisbane Road and  looking back to when Orient took the fall in 1985 then manager, Frank Clark, stayed as boss, for no other reason than he virtually ran the club single handed. In the years that followed the club had a stability of sorts but frustration mounted regarding our lack of promotion until 4 years later. Other clubs would have fired dear old Frank for certain but during those years we had a reputation for trying to play football and crowds went up by an average of 1000. In my opinion should Orient get relegated to an impoverished league 2 this time around I should hazard a guess that the opposite would be the case in that our average gate would go down by 1000 and that playing one up front at home would make us just as terrible to watch as it has done this season.

I’ve said before the 2011/2 season was indeed a write off after 6 games, and the management team that gave us our best season in 18 years has arguably gave us our worst in 17 years this time around given that they were awarded the biggest playing budget in the clubs history.  One message boarder I spoke to said that the issue of the record breaking budget could be used as a bit of hyperbole to ‘beat Slade with’. I wouldn’t say so because it’s the way that RS has employed his playing staff tactically that has been the real issue when it has come to our abysmal performances at home this season. What is just as likely save our first team boss is the fact that he has recently signed a long term contract, but if we do take the drop I wouldn’t be surprised if either Nugent or Dearden left the club. (Probably Dearden if it came down to it). Even with Russell’s new contract in the bank during the AGM I did detect that under the surface the board were far from happy at the way the playing side had been run since August. Hearn did allude during the meeting that he wasn’t entirely happy in the way we have recruited throughout the campaign but the crunch issue facing the playing side of the operation is can Slade turn this shambles around in the space of three months with what will be, in all probability, a playing budget at least 500k smaller than this year. Whatever division we find ourselves playing in.

I should think that there are quite a few supporters that want Slade to remain here come what may in the name of ‘Stability’, although ‘stability’ isn’t a word that I would use to describe the playing set up at the moment. Confused, lightweight and desperate are three words I would. We have had a revolving door of loanees from week one and after chiding Orient fans for wanting to revert to 4-4-2 and sending us into another relegation battle (his words) earlier in the season he’s done a brilliant job in doing the same playing a 4-5-1 that leaves us totally toothless in attack, weak in midfield and porous in defence.  Can anyone tell me where our most attacking threat (Cox) has been operating since he signed on for 4 years back in January? He has been by and large anonymous and (like many of our players) being played out of position week after week. It is a scenario that leaves our players us looking nervous, the team dis-jointed (and going by Ben Chorley’s comments in the Yeovil programme, questionable morale within the playing staff) and the supporters wondering where the next point is coming from. A question that we should be asking is by keeping Slade on here (even if we stay up) are we condemning ourselves to more of the same next season? That in my view is just as bigger risk as sacking him and if truth be told I would side with the people who want a change at managerial level following the dismal level of home displays.

What has gone one this campaign has been totally unacceptable for the most part and has left the O’s fighting for our lives in a division that we should be comfortably secure in. If this level of consistent non performance was being dished up game after game under the likes of Taylor, Brush, Sutton and Peter Eustace people would be going ballistic in and around the club. Should the unthinkable happen and we find ourselves planning trips to Burton and Port Vale next August it would, without doubt, have been the worst relegation I have witnessed over the past 33 year as an O’s sufferer, for no other reason than it was totally and completely avoidable and where Leyton Orient just ended up sleepwalking right into a division that could ultimately kill them off for good.

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