Having been a supporter of Leyton orient for the best part of 37 years you get to know a few people in and around the club that usually have interesting things to say about the place. Normally it’s restricted to why ‘so and so’ has been dropped for today’s game or who is being transferred in and out. Standard fayre in regards to your average football club, but it happens to be the bread and butter of being a punter that rolls up on an ordinary Saturday afternoon.
And yet what we are dealing with at the moment simply isn’t the in’s and out’s of an average club. The O’s have lurched from a team that were merely ‘on the slide’ to one of on the brink of folding in such a breathtakingly short space of time it’s been difficult to keep up and comment on every facet and gory detail on how on earth we have landed in the bottom two of the league pyramid and are an unpaid tax bill away from being wound up in the high court.
Dealing with the very real threat of the club going broke first, I’d give the opinion that the writing has been on the wall for a very long time here. Before the January transfer window opened it was declared that there would be no scope to bring in new faces, which came on the back of expensive players such as Simpson and Cox being ushered out of the club and others such as Cisak, Parkes and Kennedy being transfer listed. Tellingly, there had been whispers that up until January the club had been running at a loss of an eye watering £400,000 per month and as the first month of the year started to take shape more players such as Bowery, Palmer and Alan Dunne started to depart the building mostly on loan but with the feeling that we’d never see them back at the club again.
It was around this time that missing CEO, Alessandro Angelieri, fired off a bizarre statement revealing that the club was indeed up for sale but our Charismatic owner, Mr. Becchetti – who the players had been missing, apparently – would still fund the general upkeep of the club until a buyer would be found. However, it appears that this hasn’t been entirely the case. Those of you who have followed this unfolding story for any length of time would be aware of the Leyton Orient Fans Trust (LOFT) meeting of the 2nd of March which followed on from the news of HMRC’s winding up order the previous day.That gathering revealed that the petition to wind the club up came on the back of Orient having an outstanding PAYE bill and that in relation to other creditors being paid this could only be the tip of the iceberg. Sure enough for our last home game – yesterday – against Grimsby Town, the club produced a programme which basically was a a sheet of folded A2 just to conform with F.A and EFL regulations. There was also no SKY feeds for the various televsion sets scattered around the stands and supporters club and it looks as though that’s another bill that has sat in someone’s ‘in tray’ for 3 months undisturbed. More worrying were the murmurs that the club only managed to arrange the presence of a doctor at the fixture at the last minute which is a league pre-requisite for a game to go ahead.
Those of us who were around the last time the club almost folded can recall similar scenario of constant uncertainty and living from game to game. Becchetti ‘s continuing involvement here just takes on more damaging connotations as the weeks pass. For a man giving the impression that he wants to offload his failing football club he is ignoring all requests from interested parties (as far as we can make out) and is rumoured to be on the verge of taking on an Italian serie B side where former O’s coach Liverani has just rolled up at. It is virtually impossible to second guess this guy and for all the ‘disaster recovery’ plans that are being rushed into action you simply cannot rule out Becchetti paying the tax bill (believed to be between £125-250,000)and carrying on here to the end of the season or even sell out to somebody completely out of the blue.
Away from off field traumas the ones on on the park are starting rack up and leaving Orient staring relegation out of the football league in the face. Fifteen home defeats in the league would be alarming at any level of football but with a first team made up of 7 youth players the phrase ‘men against boys’ is all too apt. The sight of Koroma and Samedo leaving the pitch in tears yesterday told it’s own story in that these boys are giving everything and have been hung out to dry by the charlatans who have administered this club over the past two years. The impending return of Massey and Kelly from suspension is just about the last throw of the dice available to Danny Webb as we enter the season’s final 10 games and how they perform alongside the youngsters will decide our fate if the high court doesn’t first. The club is six points from safety as it stands now and if the gap grows to nine by the time we play Hartlepool over the Easter period then it is as good as over.
Tomorrow evening sees an open meeting of the Leyton Orient fans trust at Walthamstow Town hall where the latest situation as we know it will be discussed and any amended action plans put forward to the clubs supporters to digest. This should also be available to access on social media. As it stands I would say that the O’s are in deeper trouble than at any time since the second world war and the threat of the club folding is very real. Those looking at administration as a ‘way out’ and the O’s continuing ‘as you were’ in the national league or football league need to keep in mind that the final decision of it comes to it rests with the court and not the EFl or National league . As one club employee said the day of the Cheltenham home match: ‘we are entering the end game – either way’.