Postcode lottery

Posted: February 15, 2016 in Uncategorized

ed glinertTaking a well earned break from sharing a hot tub with Bella Emberg, Captain Scarlet comes out of retirement to take a delve into the capital’s murky football history.

Book reviews are quite rare in the pages of this esteemed publication. This is due (in the main) to the fact that most of the contributors are in too far an advanced state of inebriation to pick up a book most of the time or simply cannot read. However, seeing as there hasn’t been a World Cup or Euro championships to give us an excuse to go down the pub much, there was no other choice other than to attempt to tackle a proper book made out of paper (not one of those new fangled I-pad things) to while away a few hours over the summer.

The current trend in sporting books divides into two camps. The so called ‘own story’ money spinning tomes supposedly penned by the nations’ current sporting superstars (these are usually bland beyond belief and ghost written) or the more readable efforts that venture into the obscure history or life stories of players or clubs that have made a mark in English football in some way. Whilst trawling trough the Oxfam book shop in Hertford last May, I came across a book that definitely falls into the second of those categories. Written by Ed Glinert, ‘The London Football companion’ is a work that basically lists every place in London where some sort of football landmark or misdemeanour has taken place over a period of 150 years.

So, being an Orient supporter, what naturally comes to mind is to fast forward to the chapter marked as ‘East London’ on page 49. The first words that leap of the page are contained in the description of the area itself: “London’s darklands-impoverished, industrialised, brutalised by years of depravation and violence”. It’s no surprise that the next sentence following that chilling opening salvo contain the words ‘West Ham’ and ‘Millwall’. The phrase ‘It is also the home of Leyton Orient’ is a tiny aside in the history of the area but typical of the way we are perceived (as is the authors assumption that The O’s are the capitals least successful team) I suppose.

Still, I am happy to report that the dear Old O’s do get a reasonable amount of book space devoted to its history and the people that have shaped it. John Sitton’s half- time tirade v Blackpool is reprised along with notes regarding Peter Shilton’s 1000th game and the formation of our club up from the days of it being Glyn Cricket club. Yet, there are other little titbits (that it has to be said have been covered in the ‘Orientear’ over the past 25 years, too) the league games that we’ve played at Wembley in the 1930’s (this is after we were refused help in originally staging these encounters by Leyton F.C and Walthamstow Avenue) get a mention as does the fact that Orient have used Highbury as a ‘home venue’ plus the fact that we are the capitals second oldest league club after Fulham F.C.

There are some other morsels that are not so well known to the average O’s follower, though. Older readers may remember the opening of a new stand against Nottingham Forest during October 1956 which almost ended in the stand burning down on the same day. Orient’s flamboyant chairman at the time, Harry Zussman, was typically philosophical; “For years we’d hoped the old stand would catch fire to collect the insurance, and the new one nearly goes up in the first day of use”. It also appears that, in these times of clubs on the brink of collapse or reforming, that the then Clapton Orient were almost merged with the capitals least know professional club, Thames F.C in the mid 1930’s. Thankfully, this idea never got off the ground, but it did pave the way for the O’s relocation to Leyton in 1937 and we’ve been here ever since. Those of you born and raised in and around Orient’s present location will be pleased to hear that the book doesn’t restrict itself to just the places where the capitals 15 league clubs currently reside, either. Dagenham, Woodford (where a team from Herman Hill known as ‘Forest’ was formed in 1859 by a gang of toff’s then subsequently reformed as ‘the Wanderers’ and waltzed off with 5 F.A cups) and even the Pizza hut in Hornchurch have made it into the football hall of fame. There is even a complete run down of the local football clubs that have been gobbled up into the Frankenstein’s monster otherwise known as Dagenham and Redbridge F.C.

Elsewhere in the book there are tenuous references to the O’s scattered throughout. The Jolly Farmers pub in Southgate Road N.1 was a place I used to pass regularly on my way to my Nan’s for a rendezvous with a slab of bread pudding that big enough to choke an elephant with back in the day. It was also a temporary home to ex-Arsenal enforcer and jailbird, Peter Storey. It transpires that dear old Peter used to own a massage parlour in Leyton and in 1979 he was fined £700 and give six months suspended sentence for running a brothel. Could it be that the now defunct and sadly missed ‘Annabells’ sauna in the high road (discreet side entrance) was very same establishment? Moving swiftly on to the other side of the capital and to the mean streets of West Drayton, I came across an incredible tale involving a friendly at QPR’S training facility at Sipson Lane with the Chinese national youth team. On the 7th of February 2007 all out war broke out on the pitch between the two teams that resulted in kung fu kicks and punches that Amir Khan would have been proud of. All of which took place in an atmosphere of ‘Absolute mayhem’. For those of you that like a good scrap there is very fuzzy footage of this still doing the round on ‘YouTube’ over 4 years on, but the upshot of this was that one Chinese player was left unconscious for 5 minutes with a suspected broken jaw, Dermot Gallagher abandoned the game and QPR ended up suspending their assistant manager, Richard Hill. But it didn’t end there. Several members of the Chinese squad were sent home following the incident, but more chillingly two QPR players received death threats from local ‘triad’ gangs one of whom being a certain Jimmy Smith (on loan from Chelsea at the time) who has ironically found a new home at the Orient since then.

I would recommend this book as a bit of a ‘gem’. It has something for everyone and even if you hate the claret and blue menace/Chelsea/Arsenal/Spurs etc as much as most people here there are some cracking tales to be had throughout. The subject matter is one that will always keep evolving too. Upton Park will be no more than a postcode in just over a years’ time while our own tenure at Brisbane Road is looking increasingly vulnerable with every passing season. I suppose that that’s the beauty of the game really, unpredictability and the often barmy characters that it attracts (supporters club, anyone?). Ed Glinert has done a sterling job in collating this miscellany and it’s a must for those arduous train/coach trips to Scunthorpe and Preston this season.

Captain Scarlet

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