Archive for February, 2016
The Orientear sent it’s resident skiver, Captain Scarlet, over to this year’s AGM held in the Olympic Gallery. This is what he managed to remember.
The club AGM is an event that we have covered extensively since the first ‘open’ meeting back in (i think) 1997. Over the years important issues have been discussed, ranging from the ground developments right down to the state of the gents in the east stand. This years meeting was different from many that have gone before in that the talk was about moving this club on rather than just clinging on for survival. Of course the catalyst for this change of tact is our old friend ‘The Olympic stadium’ and the battle for survival whether we get to become any sort of part of this development or not. What was said in this meeting became the subject of a voluntary ‘embargo’ from those present, due to the fact that the original press conference that was due to be held outlining Barry Hearn’s plans at 11.am was put back a day. This was down to (in my view) Hearn and co not wanting their message to be lost in the ether on the same day MaggieT hatcher was laid to rest.
As usual the buffet for the shareholders reflected the state of our accounts barely enough tea and coffee to go around and someone had found enough money to fund a packet of ‘LIDL’ assorted biscuits. Some bugger tried to take two custard creams and was beaten to death for his trouble.
Unlike last year the meeting got off to a prompt start and (unlike last year, too) Hearn Porter, Dodd and Dawson was joined at the top table by manager, Russell Slade.
Hearn and Dawson started out by announcing that from next year all the relevant documents for this meeting would, basically, be obtained by electronic means. There was also a change in the articles of association and these were adopted by the shareholders.
We quickly moved on to the directors report and the balance sheets and it came as no surprise that the figures were described as awful; We made a pre tax loss of £1,420,180 (after posting a profit of £379,151 in 2011– due to the cup run) and this came on the back of a dip in our average attendance from 4,937 down to 4,298 with our overall turnover coming in at £3,250,686. The amount the company generates in the course of a year is becoming increasingly important because as many of you will realise new rules mean that Orient can only spent 60% of it’s overall turnover on wages as from next season. How we budget and the amount of revenue brought in via turnstiles and commercial activities will be of paramount importance to the sort of season we will have. For example, the short League cup run the O’s had generated enough cash to bring Cook and Rowlands to the club. Without that money, at that time, Slade wouldn’t have been allowed to sign them.
We then moved onto the formalities. Hearn and son, Eddie, were re-elected un-opposed. Hearn wished somebody would make a name for himself and vote against him– I almost put my hand up for a laugh and would announce myself as John Sitton, when asked for my name. But then I realised I would have been banned from the ground and would have to leave. The auditors, KMPG were re-elected and the whole shooting match took about 10 minutes.
CHAIRMAN’S REPORT– SSHHHH!
Barry Hearn wasted no time in getting stuck into his favourite subject. The Olympic stadium and the fight with West Ham. There had been a rumour going around that our leader was going to step aside for his son to take over but this was way off the mark. If anything he’s going to be more hands on than he has been here of late.
We were all asked to keep what was going to be said at the meeting to ourselves for 24 hours and everyone agreed (even me) as it sounded like we were going to hear something earth shattering. In fact, this wasn’t quite the case. Our leader just repeated that he and the board were really frustrated with the way the whole Olympic stadium issue is panning out and the general lack of interest in our case. This is basically what we have been hearing from Barry for the past two years both in the media and at this meeting. Once again Hearn stressed that this whole business is not about money or Orient looking to ‘do a spurs’ and get a compensation pay-off. In his eyes West ham plan to dish out 100,000 free tickets a season and that, allied to the general glamour/draw of the premier league is a lethal threat to the long term health our football club. This is the fundamental part of our argument and if things stay as they are the O’s will die a very slow death eventually.
SO, WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT IT?
Well we are carrying the legal fight to the courts and the premier league are in our sights, seeing as they are completely ignoring their own rules on the issue of one of their clubs’ moving onto the territory of another. Hearn admitted we have very few friends on our side and the football league have been pretty unhelpful in all this as have LLDC, who can’t believe we haven’t gone away during all of this. So far our legal bill over two years has come in at £372,000 which has come out of Hearn’s pocket and NOT the playing budget and basically we are fighting to at least have the chance to share the stadium even though Brady/ porno-dwarf and Gold have steadfastly refused to even discuss the matter. This is probably due to the assumption that the claret and blue menace want to give off an air of exclusivity when in fact they are only a tenant for a certain amount of days per year and they have done this on the back of a £40 million quid sub from Newham council at a time when local government services are being cut across the board.
According to our leader the ’Hammers’ have got them selves a sweet deal and this despite them being in a pretty precarious financial position (they owe £90 million and have to start paying it back soon, apparently) and they are only being charged £2 million per year rent which includes policing, stewarding and upkeep of the pitch. Hearn was scathing of Boris Johnson who had done a terrible deal for the tax payer and didn’t even know what naming rights constituted. ‘Not fit to run a sweet shop’ was the quote from our chairman. To be honest we’ve heard much of this last year but Hearn was under no illusions that even if we went to judicial revue it might not mean much in the end because if it looked as if we could win the government would try find some way to back Boris and the LLDC over little Leyton Orient.
WHAT IS THE ALTERNATIVE?
Slow death if we don’t move to the Olympic stadium according to Hearn. But this is the point where the meeting took a really strange turn and whereupon Barry Hearn started to talk some ambitious talk, the likes not heard here for nearly 18 years.
Hearn announced that if we got a foothold in that stadium that he would go all out to produce a championship standard team to grace it. Orient have an excellent manager in Russell Slade and if we sold the Brisbane Road site then Matchroom would wave all profits on the sale to back a £6-10 million pound gamble in financing the first team squad. We would offer the LLD
500K per season rental (this would go up to a million in the championship and £5 million if we ever made the top flight) and would go all out ‘bigging up’ our community club image to attract the commercial interest needed for a championship club in a facility like the Stratford project would require. Hearn added that this would completely change the whole dimension of Leyton Orient f.c in the process It is the sort of ‘punt’ that Barry Hearn has always steadfastly refused to take during his record breaking tenure as chairman of this football club and it actually took me a bit aback when he came out with this which, after not missing any of these meeting since 1995, is saying something. However, let’s not get too carried away here. There now follows a reality check and more surprises.
HOME IS WHERE THE O’S IS
Before we start booking trains and coaches to Burnley, Birmingham and Leeds we have to accept the fact that the chances of us actually getting a share of the Olympic Park are slim, at best. Hearn is realistic enough to admit this and today unveiled plans for Orient to at least shore up it’s dwindling fan base (we gain and lose around 300 season ticket holders per season at the moment) should we have to stay put at Brisbane Road. Hearn is taking us back to 1995 with a complete re-launch of Leyton Orient as a community club and he’s going to start by giving away 1400 seats free of charge to youngsters between 14-18 in the East stand, which is an area of the ground that can certainly do with (and host) this sort of scheme. They will have to register with the club on a first come first serve basis but basically the club is starting to take the fact that our crowds have been dropping alarmingly over the past three years seriously at last. We have a new young marketing team who have managed to claim decent sponsors such as ’Samsung’ this season and the fact that our club shop has been sub let to ’Nike’ sport and doubled it’s profit this season (probably due to the 100,000 stickers bought by Joe, Jamie and Chappo with no sign of numbers 15 or 27 yet– the bastards) shows what could be done if things take off. Orient have to start ‘thinking out of the box’ if we are to survive either way.
OVER TO THE PLEBS
As you would expect most of this went down quite well with the assembled shareholders. One bloke really wanted to stay at Brisbane road as he felt that a move to Stratford would rip the heart beat out of the club and Hearn, generally, sympathised but was adamant that staying here would eventually kill us off and we would gradually slide down the league to the standard of St Albans City (they have a top class programe shop and burger bar, though) and we are going to fight really hard to get that move. Then somebody stole my question when he asked what would happen if the government tried to ‘buy off’ Orient in the same way they bought Spurs off after the 2011 riots suddenly made them a big ‘community asset’ that needed to stay put in what was left of Tottenham high Road. Barry, somewhat too quickly for my taste, dismissed this theory by saying that they’d have tried it long ago if they were going to do it. The thing is I have a feeling that unless the parties involved get central government to shore them up all the way, legally, that the whole bidding and finance package that has resulted in West Ham getting the nod for this project is ripe for having legal holes blasted through it. I am probably wrong here but I would not be surprised that the longer we hang on and make a nuisance of ourselves the more chance that someone will make us an offer to ‘ go away’ legally or even give Hearn what he wants.
Russell Slade (praised throughout the meeting) fielded a few questions and confirmed that we are making big efforts to get the likes of Cuthbert, Vincelot, Baudry and Mooney to stay at the O’s in the summer and that We’ve signed Moses up for three years. We also did well to keep Kevin Lisbie at the club despite a cash bid from Sheffield United for his services earlier in the season. More interesting was Slade’s admission that the club had held an open trails last Tuesday for players aged between 17-21 from teams as far afield as Moldova, Romania, Chelsea and Aston Villa. This allied to the open trail the club held for young goalkeepers earlier in the year shows that Slade and co are finally looking at other options (cheaper it has to be said) of bolstering the playing system from grass roots youth team upwards. This is to be commended and encouraged because the 60% cap on expenditure is, as Hearn described it, ‘A new world of football’. Based on current revenue the club is running on the bare bones and we are looking at a wage bill of around £1.6 million pounds at the O’s for next season, so the incentive to do well commercially and in cup competitions is there for all to see.
A few titbits to round off with. As far as the London Bronco’s sharing the threadbare pitch with Leyton Orient it could only happen if they commit to a season and not the odd game, which could well do what is left of the grass a big favour. Yet again our playing surface is in a shocking state and once again we have been quoted over £40 grand for summer drainage work to put it right. However, in my view the pitch will always be susceptible to the elements whilst is has a housing estate blocking out the sunlight and air the grass needs. I guess we’ll Have to learn to live with it.
Finally, for any cricket fans (well people who think Essex are a cricket club) the story regarding them wanting to play T20 cricket the Olympic stadium is a bit ‘pie in the sky’ as it would cost them 70k just for stadium hire and it was more of a way of getting publicity for them. There was also a question from a cab driver in a pink shirt regarding the hire of the ‘Cheerio’s’ dance troupe but this was ignored on the grounds that it could lead to trouble and was, in fact, a lie.
Where to start? First off this meeting basically covered 80% of the last one with the focus on the legal fight around West Ham and the Olympic stadium. There was nothing really that we heard this time different from the last time here in 2012 that West Ham, Newham ,LLDC ,Premier league and Government are quite willing to bend rules and back each other up just to show Joe public that the £600 million quid forked out on a stadium that should have been built for a lot less isn’t going to be a political embarrassment. They are quite willing to sacrifice Leyton Orient F.C on the alter of ‘political expediency’ and while there are still big question marks as to what Hearn and LOFC will ultimately achieve from a prolonged legal campaign at least we are putting up some semblance of a fight for our survival.
The really interesting feature today was, in effect, a bit of a climb down in the way that Orient are run by Barry Hearn and Matt Porter. The last few AGM’s have had moments where both our chairman and chief executive had dismissed ideas such as ‘bringing back the £10 season ticket, utilising the East stand more and holding open trials for players as unworkable and not cost effective when all the while our attendance figures and standing in the area were dying on their arse (for instance how would a non O’s fan perceive a football ground hidden by a housing estate?). Three years later with our collective backs to the wall Orient are (to their credit) trying new incentives both on and off the park with measures that the board should have taken a fair few years ago after we were promoted. The galling fact is that it has taken West Ham’s ambitions (for want of a better phrase) to galvanise Orient into action and I think that if we had at least had the bravery to come out with these sort of ideas before this crisis arrived on our doorstep Orient would have been in a better position to fight it off or to at least grabbed a slice of the legacy cake.
For the meantime I’m just happy that we have at attempted some sort of fightback and that this season has been notable for some excellent football from the O’s (especially at home). As Hearn said at the meeting that; ‘our Saturday’s should be all about having some fun here’. Amen to that and hopefully for a good while yet.
Back to the Leyton Orientear from March 2008
The only managers to lead the O’s to promotion in 38 years have been the subject of much message board debate of late. ‘Stripester’ runs his over critical eye over the ‘Ling or Clark?’ question
I know the club message board can be a bit of bind at times. Subjects such as Julian the cabbie’s latest African jaunt, Norbert’s filthy pictures of the local women’s volleyball tournament, people declaring that they are leaving the board ad infinitum (and are still typing three years later) and various death threats invariably leave little time to discuss things like the O’s in any real depth. But, just occasionally, there is a meaty subject to get one’s teeth into. A few weeks ago the subject of Frank Clark (always a good argument starter for me) and Martin Ling’s managerial record at the club came up for debate. Let’s break it down then.
1. Background: Both men came into the job as manager on the back of internal appointments after men they had been assistant to, got the sack. Being honest about it, the pair had little core support from Orient followers when they took over, albeit 20 years apart. Clark had been part of the era when the club really was on its collective arse, with crowds barely hitting 2,300, no money and the playing side on virtual ‘life support’. Martin Ling, despite coming into the hot seat with the club in a better all round shape (but not that much), was viewed in some quarters as damaged goods. Reason being he’d been Paul Brush’s right hand man in a side that couldn’t get out of the bottom eight place in league two for the best part of three years and had sailed a bit too close to the relegation wind for comfort. Both Frank and Martin’s appointments had the look of cheap options (although Ling excelled in his caretaker spell so much that Barry Hearn’s pledge to find a new boss from outside the club was never really put to the test despite over 70 applicants for the vacancy) but ultimately they paid off for the O’s.
2. Style; The area where the ‘pro-Clark’ lobby feel that Ling comes in behind to dear old Frankie. Many supporters feel that Clark’s teams were better to watch, especially in the period from 1987-1989 where we scored a shed load of goals and were eventually promoted. Well, there’s no denying that Clark did sign some wonderful entertainers and for a pittance too. Alan Comfort, Shaun Brooks, Lee Harvey, Terry Howard and Paul Heald all come into that category and at a time when football nationally was at its lowest standing Orient bucked the trend by actually picking up more support. The promotion run in from the 3-0 Home win over Burnley on the 3rd March 1989 to the play-off success over Wrexham three months later is still the best time in my and many other’s orient supporting careers. The forward play was electric(will the 5-0 demolition of Grimsby Town ever be surpassed in terms of pure football in the years ahead?), with Harvey, Comfort and Cooper reaching the zenith of their abilities, ably assisted by a certain Kevin Campbell in the race for division three football. Martin Ling’s tenure began in a similar vein to Clark’s, in that he began by employing a 4-4-2 formation with two wide men from the off so that within three months of inheriting a side bottom of league two we were competing for a play-off spot. Eventually, we ended up fighting for our league place but during the two following summers Martin displayed Clark-like vision in his recruitment and put together a squad that grabbed that last gasp promotion at Oxford in some style. I think people tend to forget that Ling’s side hit 5 against Rushden and diamonds with 4 more at Rochdale during that season and the 2006 version were an all together more durable and resilient outfit over a period of 46 games.
3. Compare and contrast: When it comes down to a straight choice in the ‘Who do you rate the best out of the two? Stakes, I have to say Martin Ling and this is why. You have to take the pair’s records purely on a results basis. Ling has improved our position year on year, something Clark didn’t do. More importantly, there is an air of the squad being better prepared than ever before and the players responding to the manager accordingly. Martin Ling’s tenure (for the most part) has been notable for the ‘upfront’ way he goes about the task of running the playing side and certain ruthlessness when a situation requires changing. This was evident when Gary Peters was shown the door and the pyshio a year later and a few players have incurred Ling’s displeasure only to respond with improved performances during ML’S reign. Those who don’t? Well they tend to be shown the door without too much delay.
However, it’s worth bearing in mind that (in general) the club set up in 2008 is a million miles more advanced than in Clark’s time as Orient boss. Ling doesn’t have to drive a mini bus to training, organise the food outlets or virtually administer the entire club as Frank did in the years from 1983-1993. That’s without the small matter of the playing operation at the O’s to consider. Frank didn’t have the luxury of an assistant for much of that time either and it’s interesting to note that Clark’s most successful period in charge was from 1988-1991 when Orient had Brian Eastick and then Peter Eustace, working with the squad on a daily basis. The downside of Frank Clark’s reign was relegation to division four for the first time in 1985 and three solid years of failed promotion struggles. There is no doubt that the consistent perilous financial situation that dogged the club played a major part in that relegation campaign and had a knock on effect for the seasons 85-6 and 86-7 where the team could only perform sporadically and new recruits were thin on the ground. I distinctly concluded that many of our games were, in actual fact, lost on the training pitch as our fitness and defending became a never ending cause for alarm. But for the fact Frank Clark virtually ran the club from top to toe he would have been fired somewhere along the line, as would be the case at any other club in the country. Even during the promotion clinching 1988/9 campaign a terrible start and defeat after three games v non league-Enfield had supporters chanting for his head and at one stage Frank offered to resign (anyone with the highlights of the season video would have seen the bizarre sight of Orient thrashing York City 4-0 with the sound of “Clark out” bellowing round the stadium). The signing of Kevin Campbell from Arsenal galvanised (a move that earlier in the season looked miles away as Frank declared loan signings a waste of time seeing as they had to go back to their clubs eventually) the playing side and laid the foundations for four seasons of division three football and a stability that the club had not enjoyed for the best part of a decade.
4. Similarities: There are quite a few in relation to the two protagonists though. Both Ling and Clark have stand out records when it comes to recruiting players with a limited budget at their disposal. Ling, for that matter, finds himself immersed in a world where agents and players call the shots and the climate is ever changing. Back in the eighties Clark had to deal with only the managers and chairmen (although you could argue that the in the Richard Cadette/ Barry Silkman transfer to Southend United back in 1985 he received an early taste of what was to come post Bosman) and you could see his visible disdain for the way transfers were heading in that respect during his final days at Nottingham Forest. On field, Ling has a penchant for wide players, as did Frank, but in the modern game their roles differ to the out and out attack play of Comfort or Kevin Godfrey. A player like Melligan is now judged on his defensive work when we are not in possession of the ball (although you can’t say that Alex Ferguson signed Christiano Ronaldo on account of his tracking back) almost as much as his (in)ability to get a cross in or beat an opponent to the by-line. I think that Ling is also more adaptable with his tactics, where as Clark would spent most of his time with a 4-4-2 come what may, even though Orient ended up being overrun on many occasions during those cold, grey afternoons before global warming arrived. To my mind, Ling and Smith (and we are back to the importance of having a good assistant again) have instilled a bit of resilience in the players that take the field and Ling is not afraid to gamble when the situation demands.
Both men are aware of the need for discipline on field too and it is noticeable that Orient’s record of 13 red cards in ML’s first season in charge hasn’t been equalled by the combined card count of the past three years. Clark was always trying to protect the image of this club (he did clump Billy Manuel of Brentford in the tunnel after the infamous 4-2 encounter which is to be applauded). Although you did wonder about his motives when his Majesty Peter Kitchen was fined a week’s wages for not wearing shin pads during his first game in charge against Bradford City in August 1983 and having to miss a game with injury after being ‘topped’ by Terry Yorath. I suppose Frank is what is known as ‘Old school’ and perhaps this is why his style of management hasn’t been required by a league club for a decade. Ling does deviate from Clark in as much that he will take a risk on a player with a suspect temperament and get something resembling a consistent performance out of him. Gary Alexander is a prime example of this and the signings of Thornton and Boyd could be classed in the same bracket. Mind you, Frankie did sign Stan Collymore (he tried to get him for the O’s but the £100,000 was too much for the dear old O’s back in 1990, but more or less what we paid for Andy Sayer!) and there is a connection in the way both Clark and Ling know how important it is to work with quality footballers whenever they can.
5. Life after the O’s: When Frank Clark left the club in the summer of 1993 it was prelude to two years of complete implosion that almost killed the club off for good. I think we missed FC more for his administration skills as his football nous and the complete ineptitude of the board shone through within months as the Rwandan crisis dealt the club’s financial saviour, Tony Wood, a knockout blow. There is a lot to be said for stability and those Clark/wood years from 1986-93 resulted in an improved standard of football, promotion and a doubling of our attendance figures. It would be thirteen long years before such times were to be repeated at the club again.
As for Martin Ling, interesting days for him lay ahead. In no time at all he finds himself as manager of this club for close on 5 years and at a bit of a turning point. Just how far can he take the squad on his current budget and on attendances of under 6,000 for the most part? The team has over achieved by maintaining a top seven placing all season, but the fact that we didn’t make a single signing of significance during the transfer window speaks volumes in my opinion. It’s questionable as to whether Orient can get by on loanees and youngsters to keep our squad competitive? There was a rumour that Swindon Town were sniffing around Ling after that club was taken over and if Ling conjures up a play-off spot, or even, the unthinkable promotion then Martin has to decide whether he wants to take on championship opposition on virtually no budget or to listen (or tout himself for better job opportunities- despite a good relationship with Hearn) to offers from elsewhere.
To sum up, those harking back to the Clark era as preferable to the present are in danger of breathing in the sweet scent of nostalgia and deluding themselves in the process. For every 8-0 demolition of Rochdale (a compulsory three points until the 90’s) there were two disgraceful capitulations at Halifax and points thrown away on the bleak slopes of the Abbey stadium et all. In short, Clark’s teams could play some decent football but it wasn’t suited to the surroundings of division four on a consistent basis. Ling’s teams tend to be better coached and more equipped for a 46 match campaign. One thing does intrigue me though. If you pitted the 2006 and 1989 promotion teams against each other in a one off game, who would be victorious? Can anybody rig up that scenario on championship Manager 2008?
An F.A cup capitulation on the back of some terrible home performances became too much to bare. This missive from the December 2009 Leyton Orientear.
Anger. I thought that the days of that emotion taking over my life – as far as the O’s were concerned at any rate, were long gone. However, in the space of one week those long suppressed feeling suddenly came crashing back into my life with avengence. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Hartlepool away and the disgraceful F.A Cup capitulation at home to Tranmere Rovers three days late as exhibits ‘A’ and ‘B’ in the case of my defence.
Perversely, I didn’t attend either of those encounters, although listening to the commentary from the Rovers match on BBC London I could well understand why only 1500 paying punters bothered to turn up. This must be the lowest F.A Cup attendance here since the Second World War and if nothing else illustrates the real problem at this club. Namely, this spirit within the O’s being in terminal decline. Yet, the following Saturday in the club programme hardly a mention was given to the situation from the powers that be. The ‘message from the boardroom page’ consisted of Matt Porter hashing together a re-run of the Thierry Henry basketball controversy that had zero bearing on the problems that are rapidly engulfing this club. The piece came hot on the heels of the utter crap that Williams came out with on the night of the Tranmere defeat regarding the amount of pessimistic people that happen to be around the club. I can’t imagine why Geraint, with all this free flowing football you are playing and the marvellous entertainment you and the lads provide. This is the sort of stuff that gets up my, and other supporters noses. Namely, a manager being in complete denial that it is his team and his selections that are at fault and holding an attitude that ‘we are only little Leyton Orient and what more do they expect’? Well, I expect some passion and bit of attacking nous every now and then, especially against a club in this division with a worse away record than us. I know that Williams and a lot of the players know that come the summer they will be looking for an ‘out’ from this club, but in the meantime they are obliged to put some effort in. Are the likes of Exeter and Yeovil throwing in their collective hand or shrugging their shoulders and accepting a season of struggle without a fight? No, and neither should we.
People like Jason Demitriou are emblematic of the bad attitude within the club at the moment. Petulant and an overinflated opinion of his own ability, it was only a matter of time before his temper coast us a game and sure enough we were punished for it by an needless cup exit (well at least before the forwards bottled another series of penalties) .
We have reached the point whereupon the football on offer from Geraint Williams team is actually driving people away from the club. The upshot appears to be that Barry Hearn has now got us on life support until he finds a buyer for the club or waits for the £2 million in the bank to run out so that the O’s go broke and that it isn’t his problem any more. There just is nowhere left in regards of hope for the dwindling rank and file O’s fans that are still sticking by the club more out of love than duty, it is a miserable state of affairs in all honesty.
You could say it’s all very well moaning about it but what can be done to change things in the short term so as to preserve our league on status? By all intents and purposes we are stuck with the awful forwards that will get us relegated (Mc Gleish honourably excepted) and if any of Ryan Jarvis’s family are wondering what to get him for Christmas a decent ‘sat nav’ with directions on how to round a goalkeeper would come in well handy, I can tell you. Petula is just plain lightweight with the added handicap of a bleedin’ alice band around his hairline which should have any right minded Orient follower screaming ‘wrong un’ from the moment he takes the field of play. As for Scowcroft, the signing was just plain bad. People have been making the equation with Parkin all season and they are not far out in my view. Whatever happens between now and May the goal scoring part of the side is the one area that will make or break the team, Williams and possibly the club itself. like it or not funds have got to be made available by Hearn to give Williams the means to change this situation for the better, just ignoring it and making do with the current strike force will condemn Orient to league two for certain.
Many of you reading this will automatically say ‘well where is the money coming from to get these mythical new strikers in’? Well apart from dipping into the money in the bank (yes, our old friend the £2 million left over from Barry’s ‘generous’ purchase of the ground) the only other way is to sell Tamika Mkanderwire in the transfer window. To be honest this is on the card seeing as his deal runs out in the summer and he can walk for free next year. There are also rumours that he has told the club that there isn’t any way he is signing a new contract when his present deal runs out next year, but the real worry is that there will be a ‘fire sale’ regarding his services come the January window and that he’ll be sold at a knockdown price leaving the dear old O’s the losers (as usual) in all this. He may not be the only one leaving too as the clock will be ticking on many of our squads contracts. For once, in regard to Orient, the January window just may bring some interest to us long suffering supporters.
There is no doubt that the next three months will be crucial for the long term future of the football club. As an ordinary fan I am just looking for someone at the club to give me some sort of hope for the next few months ahead. At the moment the silence from Williams and BH is deafening in regards to what we are going to do to turn this around. I don’t think that this season is beyond saving by any means, just as long as we can get some front men who can pressure the poor teams in this division. The question being is there a real will within the club to do this? Passionless players and Managers get the so called ‘passionless support’ they deserve and only scoring three goals in a game twice at home in two years tells its own bitter story. The whole sorry effort so far this season is not good enough from chairman to manager right down to the players. We expect more from all of you from here on in.
This article from Leyton Orientear March 2011 covers the impending (as it turned out) state hand out to West Ham United F.C
As you may have noticed this magazine has devoted a huge amount of coverage to all things stadium/ground related over the past twenty years and by the time you get to read this a decision as to who gets the Olympic stadium will finally been arrived at.
There is no doubt that this has been a monumental cock up from the very day that the nation went berserk (back in 2005) after being awarded the Olympiad. One well known figure at the O’s told me that Britain’s Olympic bidding team had given up the ghost six weeks before the announcement regarding the destination of the games and were pretty much caught on the hop as to how to proceed when they realised that the games were coming our way. What has come out of all this is the realisation that our planning was just as floored as the last time Britain was awarded a top athletics event (The 2005 World Athletic Championships) where the site a Picketts lock in Edmonton was going to have a 60,000 capacity stadium purpose built for a weeks worth of action. Then, surprise, surprise it was going to be scaled down to 20,000 for athletics use only. The upshot was that this idea was scrapped because it was not financially viable because to make the sums add up a premier league football club was neede as tenants. This sounds all too familiar but once again nobody ,it appears, has taken any notice of what has gone before and it has now led to a chaotic bidding war, the outcome of which will be made by people totally unaccountable to anyone except their political allies/mates. In my view Spurs are taking the absolute piss with their interest. They have their planning permission to develop White Hart Lane and are trying to muscle in to somewhere they have no historical or social links to and are coming out of this as absolute ‘chancers’. I thought all this was against Premier league regulations? What are the F.A doing about it? Nothing. Apart from getting some highly paid PR people to comment but say absolutely not one word against this sort of hijacking. West Ham moving next to us is bad enough but at least they have some sort of links in that part of the capital.
What about the O’s in all of this? I’m sorry, but I don’t buy into this mock outrage from Barry Hearn for starters. He has been looking to move us out of Leyton for a good few years now and this has now given him the chance to do this without looking the ‘bad guy’. Now it seems that two years after the club told O’s fans that a move to an olympic venue was dead in the water (main stadium and hockey venue) that we could be open to moving Orient to an Olympic site after all. So in essence we could actually be relocating NEARER to Spurs or West ham when all this is eventually sorted out. What a bloody shambles from the word go. Is it any wonder that this country can’t get a World cup? Much has been made of the ‘Olympic legacy’ but ,as usual, the legacy will be that the communities that this event was meant to benefit (both sporting and economically) for a generation will get shafted and that London’s second oldest football club will in all probability be forced out of the area. Olympic ideals? They can shove it.
This from the February 2015 edition of Leyton Orientear
Barry Hearn’s recent interview in the London Standard got a mixed reception from the Orient supporters that could bring themselves to read it. The ‘Time Lord ’dons his scarf and fires up the tardis to take a look back at our former chairman’s early days at the club.
‘We went off the boil’…. ‘and at the back we were wobbly’….. ‘ new players are to blame’
You could be forgiven for thinking that these quotes (and there are many others just we could have held up) might have been plucked from most post match inquests in the supports club, message boards or, indeed or any club fanzine over the past 6 months. And you would be right. However, these pearls of wisdom were to be found in the dear old ‘Orientear’ back in April 1996, just as Barry Hearn’s first disastrous season in charge was coming to a shuddering conclusion.
Nineteen years on and once again the club has found itself embroiled in another season of turmoil. We have a new owner and a completely different vibe to the one that Hearn left on his exit, although Barry is the only chairman in Orient history to have walked away from the club £4 million quid richer and the with lease to the Brisbane Road site sitting rather comfortably in his back pocket. In his article in the ‘standard’ Mihir Bose declares that; ‘The 67-year-old sports impresario is well aware, however, that the sale has devastated fans’. But I think that is what is known as ‘laying it on a bit thick’.
This is all a far cry from when Hearn walked through the door here in late March 1995. Back then we had a club in meltdown and on the verge of folding. Many of you reading this probably attended the public meeting held at Leyton town hall (Now the ‘Leyton technical’ in the High Road) not long after the takeover was completed whereupon our new owner declared that we ‘were going to have some fun here’ and would be a ‘premier league club by the time he had finished here’. Well, I suppose we can all look back and laugh now. Nonetheless, in many ways it was a typical Hearn piece of PR- or schmooze. It had the effect of getting a weary and demoralised bunch of supporters getting behind the new owner of a club that had spent much of the previous 30 years in the doldrums and it come hard on the heels of the worst post war season in the history of the club.
This of course was in complete contrast from the day Mr. Becchetti walked through the door at Brisbane Road last June. Yes, we had a convivial press conference announcing his takeover and of course you have to make allowances for the language barrier in regard to the new owner being a little reluctant to face the Leyton public in person. But the one constant there has been since the FB takeover is the complete lack of engagement with the clubs fans from its owner.
Back in August 1995 the O’s had new impetus in relation to attracting support. Scheme’s such as £10 season ticket for kids, new players, gimmicks like ‘the celebrity walk on’ and most important of all a decent start to the campaign that saw over 8,000 roll up to our first home game of the season against Torquay and the infamous two year away game hoodoo finally broken with that famous 2-1 win at sixfields a few weeks down the line. All looked rosy in the Orient until the autumn, whereupon Orient embarked on a 6 month on field collapse that ended up finishing in the bottom four of league two for the first time in our history.
And now for another round of quotes….
I’ve followed the 0’s home and away for 22 years but today was the pits. We plumbed new depths of mediocrity. Don’t expect to see me at the next home game’.
Stephen Harris’s match report of the 0-3 caning at Cardiff City that spelt the end of Pat Holland’s 18 month reign as O’s manager.
‘Many supporters feel let down by the club. Almost every home game has been awful to witness and our away form is still a disgrace. Many players brought to the club are simply not fit to wear the red shirt of Leyton Orient and the people who make the decisions would rather pay money to bring in aging crippled players on ridiculous contracts than provide cash for decent younger recruits’.
Thus thundered the editorial from the ‘Leyton orientear’ #103 in May 1997.
Another season of struggle that saw virtually the whole board of directors sacked, a manager sacked (only one? Nothing compared to the present day) a player sacked and creaking former superstars such as Peter Shilton, Ray Wilkins and Alvin Martin gracing the Brisbane Road turf. I don’t think any of them were in a possession of a three year contract to the value of £20,000 per week, though. Worse still we only just survived relegation after winning a few crunch games at the end of April. Even the South terrace was told its services were no longer required and found itself replaced by a car park for two years.
I think this was the season where serious questions were beginning to asked about Hearn’s motives at the club and was his involvement here just about developing real estate in the London area? Eighteen years on and we find people questioning whether the current owner is just running the O’s as a side show for a cable T.V station with no real clue as to the direction that his purchase is heading. Although for a chairman that is supposed to be paying £12 million plus for this much maligned ‘project’ that sort of outlay looks ridiculously outlandish for a mere ‘whim’.
In his recent interview in the ‘standard’ our former chairman had some thoughts as to the way he would have been looking to do things now.
‘Take the money you are going to spend and scour all of Division Two and the Conference. I would have bought six of their best players that were under 23 and I would have had players that had some sales potential, if they developed. Players in their mid-thirties have no saleable value and that is not a business plan that I would have gone along with’.
Which sounds a bit rich from a chairman that authorised virtually no cash transfers over the past nineteen years and would have more than likely sold Chris Dagnall to Shrewsbury on deadline day given the opportunity. In his defence you could put forward the case that Hearn was never in the position to spend the sort of money Becchetti has on the O’s in the past 6 months. Rounding off the interview Barry Hearn administered the following words of perceived wisdom
“It probably would have been better if Becchetti had not been so adventurous so early.”“It took me five years to learn. Becchetti has had a roller-coaster six months and he needs time. He is successful in business which means he has a brain. “What Francesco Becchetti has got to understand is that League One football club in an East End community club is fundamentally different from anything else. The gamble for Leyton Orient fans is: Has Becchetti got the patience? Has he the desire? Has he the ambition to see the job out? It’s a long-term job.”
Those closing lines are pretty pertinent. We are completely in the dark regarding ‘El presidente’s ‘ motives and long term ambitions for our club. Some people are looking at the unbelievable amount of money he has thrown at the O’s so far as the single reason to back him come what may. Well, there’s no denying that fact. But the way the whole make up of the football club has been ripped up and cobbled back together since FB’s arrival has resulted in a fractured club, de-motivated workforce and a management structure straight out of a Dario Fo farce. After last season there is also a temptation to look back on the Hearn tenure as ‘the good old days’ but the problem with nostalgia is that they are only ‘the good old days’ when the times we currently inhabit appear to be a lot worse. Hearn states that it took him 5 years to learn the ropes and to get things right. I’d say it took nearer a decade, with the playing side of the club coming a poor second place to the property developing here until we were promoted back in 2006. It has also left the football club not owning its own ground which is always going to give rise to problems somewhere down the line.
Becchetti’s reign at the club has the look of a microcosm of Hearn first 5 years at the helm here in the space of less than a season. If we don’t beat Notts County- our next game at the time of writing- then we really could be in big trouble in regards to preserving our league one status of 9 years. Looking back at those early days of the Hearn stewardship there are a lot of lessons there that really could be taken on board by our new owner which could save everyone here a whole heap of heartache and that could lead towards the first steps of putting Leyton Orient back on the path to where both Barry and Francesco envisaged when we were sold back in the summer.
The Time Lord
This years’ AGM promised to be a bit more ‘up beat’ than usual, so we got the Orientear’s resident work-shy reporter to turn up and take a few hastily scribbled notes.
Once again I declined the lure of the ‘sauna’ formerly known as ‘Annabels’ to attend this gala of fun and festivities. As is now customary I have to offer my apologies to all those Orient message boarders who have already perused the majority of this report. There are a few more titbits included in this article, along with some reaction/comment that was made after the meeting.
I can confirm that coffee, tea and the ‘family circle’ were available to those present. There were also some smashing looking cakes, but these were a charity cake sale, just in case you thought Barry was paying something resembling a dividend to the punters that had bought shares! For the record, I reckon there were around 80 punters present today all eager to hear our chairman give his ‘state of the union’ address.
Sure enough, the main players took to the podium, which resulted in a bit of a squeeze. All the board were in attendance today, as was his holiness, cardinal Slade and it was nice to see him at the meeting. Martin Ling and Paul Brush (one terrible appearance as I recall) are the only other Orient bosses to have attended this shindig in the past.
As for the formalities, well they didn’t last long at all. Steve Dawson, Dave Dodd and the auditors were re-elected to the board. The minutes of last years’ meeting were adopted and the whole shooting match took less than 10 minutes which must have been some kind of record. However, it was just the prelude to the much anticipated ‘Chairman’s Report’.
BAZZA SPEAKS TO THE MASSES
Before we get stuck into BH’s wise words a few numbers for you: We lost £786k last season, ‘Awful’ according to Barry H. Nevertheless, the clubs’ turnover held up and the operating loss was almost £290,000 down from 2008/9. There was an increase in match day revenues to the tune of £121,809 due to a bump up in our average attendance (4,937) which was up from 4,685 in 2008/9. The interesting factor in this came in relation to the amount of away fans coming through the turnstiles. That figure averaged 1,139 and just underlines how important it is for Orient to stay in this division seeing as we are fighting a losing battle in regard to picking up/keeping more home support.
It wasn’t long before our leader started getting into the subjects that we were itching to get our teeth into.
First of all the infamous ‘Olympic legacy’. Bloody hell! Where do you start? Most of what’s coming you already know. Basically, we are taking everyone to court. The Premier league, football league, government, minister for sport, Culture minister. And that’s just for openers. Barry reckons that our situation was never considered, or given, ‘due process’ by the people in charge of this 5 ring fiasco. The club have hired Mishcon De Reya and a judicial review specialist, Adam Lewis, who is supposed to be the top legal eagle in regard to judicial reviews. It appears to a legal layman (like me) that most of what has occurred has gone against ‘euro-competition laws’ and Barry reckons that we have a good chance of winning. This is not about O’s getting compensation either, according to our leader, but stopping West Ham. Hearn was adamant that this club should be given some respect and we (Leyton Orient) will not be bullied’. The initial legal layout from the club will be in the region of 100k and the £1.8 million we have made from the cup run has, by all intents and purposes, given us a fighting fund to be reckoned with. The opening legal shots have already been fired and we could well hear more about this by the 14th of April. Solicitor’s letters have already found their way from us to the desks of the Treasury department and Premier league. Their initial response was described by Barry Hearn as ‘wishy washy’. The premier league’s own rules state (rule 365.1, I think) that it ‘will not sanction any move that will have adverse effect on another club’ and it’s worth reminding any gobby hammers fans (you may know one or two) that if Spurs had won the bidding war for the Olympic stadium Karen Brady and the Porno dwarf would have been doing the exact same thing that we are in relation to this. The publicity that this subject has generated had been pretty good in regard to our case, but Barry Hearn reckons that people like Boris (described as a ‘dip- shit’ by our chairman- good one Barry), Tessa Jowell and Ken Livingstone are going to have some pretty uncomfortable days ahead when the public gets to hear how the Olympic project has been handled.
It’s seems like Steve Dawson is going to handle most of the legal stuff at our end and according to Hearn all the legal people he has consulted with reckon we have a good chance of getting our judicial review. Bazza later assured the assembled shareholders that he would not risk the club finances on an all out legal onslaught should we fail to get the Olympic stadium handover overturned. We’ve got a certain amount to spend and won’t be fighting this in the European courts ‘ad infinitum’.
NOT ON OUR MANOR, OR COULD IT?
I have lost count of the amount of words I have written on the subject of stadiums and grounds down the years. It seems that Eton manor maybe a viable place to construct a new stadium after all. This site has nothing to do with Baroness Ford and the OLC but is run by the Lea Valley authority. Older readers may recall that 10 years ago West ham tried to poach the site for a new training ground and were repelled by an Orient backed judicial review, seeing as it was our training facility at the time and was home to a rugby club too. With some LBWF backing maybe this could be a go-er, but Hearn would like to see the council be a bit more ‘on-side’ as they have been verbally supportive. Those residents of the borough that have seen it’s sporting heritage virtually disappear over the past 30 years while the council stood idly by may well agree. It seems a move to Harlow/Basildon isn’t being considered as (same as last years’ quote, folks) no one has the money to build stadiums. Hearn repeated his quote from February that he could well give all the money from any sale of Brisbane road (at the moment we would get 50% of any profit made on a sale) to build a new stadium with a capacity of around 15,000. We would like a slice of the legacy and a new ground built in and around the 2012 facilities would be better suited to us. Now, this could come over as a bit strange seeing as this would bring us nearer to West Ham if the O’s ever did relocate to Eton Manor, but one message boarder later made the point that the club could be a more attractive proposition when it came to being sold if this should ever come off. Being in and around the Olympic site would give Orient the appearance of being part of the fabled ‘legacy’ (that bleedin’ word again!) rather than being on the outside and hidden away within a housing estate.
HE’S NOT THE MESSIAH, HE’S RUSSELL SLADE.
At this point I decided to put my two pennyworth in. I asked Russell how he intended to build on the success of this season. Well, basically, it’s all about installing a footballing philosophy right throughout the club, from kids upwards. He cited Swansea City as a really good example of this as they play good football and are getting positive results through it. Slade would also like to work a bit more on the youth set up here as he hasn’t had much time to do this since his arrival 12 months ago. It’s also on the cards that Leyton Orient F.C will be leaving the training facility at the Ford sports ground very soon, to a venue yet to be disclosed. Contracts were a bit of a taboo subject but we have 9 players out of contract in June (some kids) but we are in discussions to extend the deals of some of the better players here that have only got a year to go. Basically we need to keep competitive, but the statistic comparing Southampton’s wage bill of £9 million quid to our own of £1.7 million says it all. It’s never going to be easy. Players (and Managers) like to keep their options open and a few must have attracted interest during our cup run from bigger clubs. Slade also praised the support he and the team have had this season, with special mention for the way we responded during the disastrous Yeovil game (Slade said he knew the referee was a wanker before they even took to the field). As a postscript, it seems like Alex Revel has played his last game this season. There is some slight damage to his knee but nothing too dramatic.
There was a quick reference to when Slade was offered the O’s hot seat last season. From what was said at the meeting it was Matt Porter who got in contact with Slade, via an agent, and asked him to come down to Southampton following the sacking of Williams last March. After the O’s put up a battling display at St Mary’s Slade was asked ‘Do you want it? It’s yours’ which must have been the shortest job interview on record. The rest as they say is history. Those of you who wonder why the pitch is watered just before each match at Brisbane Road can wonder no more. This is all RS’s doing as he reckons a ‘slick’ surface helps our game.
It’s no surprise that our relationship with West ham is pretty bad. Barry Hearn summed up Karen Brady’s assertion that the claret and blue menace were good neighbours to the O’s in one word; ‘Bollocks’. This will probably vindicate those O’s stalwarts who cannot stand them at any price (hello Dod, Gary the hat, Tom and Chappo) and the chances of any loans coming from Upton Park are virtually nil. To be honest I cannot recall in my 30 years of following this club what West Ham ever really done for us apart from sell us clapped out players and loan us some real duff no marks. Barry even said that whenever they have appeared here for pre-season or testimonials they have insisted on 50% of the gate money. This is in total contrast to our new best friends, Spurs, who let us keep all the money from these games. Don’t be surprised to see a few more faces from N.17 arrive here next season after the successes of this campaign. Barry also made a bit of a joke relating to his so called allegiance to Spurs, but as someone who has suffered from the same I can sympathise.
Moving swiftly on, the ticket office came in for some praise for the way they handled the ticketing for the Arsenal game and the whole backroom set up from Dave Dodd through to the groundstaff had their contributions acknowledged from the top table and the floor. It wasn’t all sweetness and light though. The tannoy system in the North stand is evidently inaudible and a few punters thought it should be replaced forthwith. Mind you, at least it will drown out the swearing in that stand which, by some accounts, is pretty unacceptable. Other bad news relates to the television money filtering down to our level that will take a bit of a hit from the middle of 2012. This could cost us as much as 50k but will hit championship teams harder as the economic downturn begins to hit media companies as well as ordinary Joe Public.
Overall this must have been the most upbeat meeting I have attended in 14 years. Good knockabout stuff interspersed with some gritty realism. Last year the AGM was grim listening, with talk about closing the East stand and an impending relegation. It seems that season ticket prices will stay the same (not confirmed, though) and the East stand will remain open with season tickets being sold for it. Hearn has got some enthusiasm back for the club, and although it’s difficult to tell where all this legal stuff will eventually take us, or what we’ll actually achieve if the legal system finds in our favour, it does seem that we have something resembling a fighting spirit at the club and we will not go quietly into the night like good little boys and girls. However, with the feel good factor that came with the unbeaten record and that F.A Cup run, a few cautionary words. For all the good Russell Slade has done here (and he has been a terrific breath of fresh air at the club) he has his work cut out for next season. Whether he likes it or not RS has taken Orient from a club with zero expectation to the brink of the play-offs when we would have all taken 15th place before a ball was kicked last August. To remain competitive in a tough league like this one is a hell of a challenge for a club of this small size and support and I’d advise anyone to take a rational look at things before they put their mortgage on us storming the league next season.
Away from the pitch it’s really anyone’s guess as to what will happen. The fact that this season has been genuinely exciting has galvanised Hearn and co. This time last year you got the feeling that he was just going through the motions and we were on course for a lingering death. I would be surprised if Barry Hearn left the club before the eventual outcome regarding moving to a new stadium in the locality or upping sticks completely had been decided. It may surprise some of you to learn that he is now Orient’s longest serving chairman too. As far as the upcoming legal wrangling regarding the Olympic Stadium is concerned it’s unclear what will be the true outcome of it all, even if Orient are successful with their case. I’d say there is a lot more going on behind the scenes than just putting one over West Ham (funny as that would be) and it could well be an interesting old summer on planet Orient.