Never Mind The Bollocks: My First Season as an Orient Fan

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From E20 to E10

It’s fair to say football hasn’t been kind to me of late, at the start of the 2016/2017 season I experienced my first game in West Ham’s new stadium which was a bizarre experience and equally the result was just as bad as the Hammers got thumped 3 nil against Southampton.

I’ve followed West Ham since I was 7 years old, my Grandad originated from East London and also followed the club so it made sense that I would be a Hammers fan.

I started going to games when I was 14 and experienced many ups and down at the club.

I always said if I didn’t like the Stratford move I would watch lower league football, as I’ve got older I’ve become more against modern football and the glitz and glamour of the Premier League.

I started to take an interest in Orient in October last year, I read an article online about how badly the club had been managed by their owner Francesco Becchetti.

After reading other articles and starting to follow the club on Twitter I got even more engrossed with the club’s performances, even the 6-0 FA Cup thrashing against Sheffield United didn’t put me off!

However, one of the earliest league matches that I followed was a lot better, the O’s travelled up the A12 to play Colchester United (which was back in early November if my memory serves me correctly). On the day Jay Simpson (now at MLS side Philadelphia Union) scored twice and former Bolton Wanderers player Nicky Hunt beat U’s keeper Sam Walker with a low shot.

The club were currently managed by Italian manager Alberto Cavasin who had previously managed a handful of Italian sides, most notably Fiorentina and Sampdoria respectively.

Cavasin’s biggest flaw was that he didn’t speak a word of English and after ten games (eight defeats and two wins) he left E10.

On the 19th of November at home to Blackpool, both sets of supporters joined forces and protested about their incompetent owners.

The protest was organised by LOFT (Leyton Orient Fans’ Trust) and BST (Blackpool Supporters’ Trust) and marched around Leyton voicing their concerns with banners saying “We want out club back!” In the 18th minute of the game (Orient founded in 1881 and The Tangerines 1887) the fans sang in unison about their clubs.

I kept on following news at the E10 club and started to listen to the Orient Outlook Podcast which is hosted by Steve Nussbaum and Paul Levy. Both give a great insight into the latest goings on at Orient which spurred my interest in the East London club even more. By December I visited Brisbane Road for the first time and saw the O’s take on Lancashire side Accrington Stanley (“who are they?”).

At the time Orient were 21st in League 2, Accrington sat below in 22nd and both were on 21 points respectively. The O’s hadn’t won a game at home since late August and this was Andy Edward’s second game in charge.

I don’t remember a lot about the game (my memory isn’t the best at times!) but remember that Gavin Massey made a few decent chances and Jay Simpson’s goal in the second half which he slotted home from a few yards out.

However, one thing everyone will remember is not what happened on the pitch but what happened in the East Stand.

The 100 or so Stanley faithful who made the long trip down to E10 started to have a fight (see below).

Above: Away Days vlogger Ellis Platten realises he should have sat with Orient fans!

Besides watching a scrappy game, my first experience at Brisbane Road was a positive one, I loved the atmosphere of the South Stand and clearly saw this was a small club with a big heart. I also liked the fact I had been to a proper football ground in East London and not at some stadium that was designed to host the Olympic Games with poor atmosphere and was an expensive day out.

As I walked out of Brisbane Road with Status Quo’s “Rockin’ All Over the World” in the background (a song that has become a rarity to hear these days at the ground after a home win). I decided I would be back to cheer on the O’s, even though the under the Becchetti regime things weren’t looking good, the club needed all the support they could get, inside, I really felt like I was becoming an Orient fan.

An Orient  Christmas

leyton orient christmas

Christmas Day I received an Orient shirt and tickets for the Barnet game, family and friends could clearly see my interest in the O’s was something I felt passionate about as I had pretty much shunned going to the London Stadium and had lost interest in the Premier League.

On the 7th of January I went to my second Orient game, I was once again in the South Stand (which has become my favourite stand at Brisbane Road) and it was my girlfriend’s first ever game at E10 (poor girl!).

From what I remember from the first half, both sides seemed quite even, unfortunately for Orient, they severely deteriorated in the second half.

Portuguese defender Ricardo Santos latched onto Alex Cisak’s fumble and slotted in from close range in the 63rd minute, however, things went from bad to worse for the East London side as the Bees doubled their lead 3 minutes later, Santos again got his name on the scoresheet, team mate Nana Kyei toyed with the O’s defence and found Santos in a prime position to beat Cisak for the second consecutive time.

Orient pulled one back 13 minutes later, Paul McCallum heading in from Callum Kennedy’s corner kick.

The home side were stung again by the Bees in the dying embers of the match, former  Southend player Jamal Campbell-Ryce’s lob attempt hit the crossbar, the rebound came straight to Curtis Weston who tapped in to make it 3-1.

From then on I felt maybe it would be best for the club to get relegated and start over, after that performance I just couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. Fans who have supported the club for years all stated that this was the worst squad they had ever seen.

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Above: Morecambe players training in front of an empty Brisbane Road crowd

I continued to go to homes from the rearranged Tuesday night fixture at home to Morecambe (kudos to the Morecambe fans who travelled down that evening), a game I thought Orient played well despite losing 1 nil, youngsters such as Victor Adeboyejo showed their potential; to games where we had extremely poor refs, who remembers the overweight ref against Carlisle? Probably one of the worst refs I’ve ever seen!

I could talk about all the games I went to this season but I’d be here all afternoon, the majority of the games had recurring situations such as conceding early in the second half, switching off at the back (don’t get me started on the likes of Jens Janse and Teddy Mézague), not making substitutions when Danny Webb was in charge, and seeing the squad get younger, as demonstrated by Football Analyst’s Matt Bristow below.

Month Games Average Age Average Number of Players Under 21 in Starting 11 Average Number of Players Under 20 in 18 man Squad
August 5 25.1 1 2.8
September 5 25.7 0.2 4.6
October 5 25.9 1 4.4
November 4 26.1 0.75 5.5
December 4 25 2.25 5
January 4 25.6 1.5 6.25
February 7 23.6 4.3 8.7
March 5 22.7 6 10.6
April 6 21.9 6.8 12
May 1 21.6 8 15

Sticking our youngsters in at the deep end has been extremely tough and as the results show, under Danny Webb at times it felt like there was a glimmer of hope, when he was given the job we saw a side that didn’t look like it was on the verge of given up when they were losing, which had been seen under previous managers.

Dressed like a “Romford estate agent” Webb always gave an honest approach to games in pre-match interviews, he was popular with fans, and seemed to be very respected with the youngsters. The highlight for me was when the O’s won 3-2 away at Plymouth on Valentine’s Day, which no one saw coming!

He clearly had some ideas and openly stated in his last ever pre-match interview that the club needs a plan. Frustrated with the Becchetti regime, Webb had enough of the ludicrous runnings of the club and resigned at the end of March.

Above: Danny Webb’s last ever interview as O’s manager.

Ömer Rıza (Danny’s assistant) become Orient’s fifth manager of the season and took the hardest job in the football league.

The former Hammers player gave it his all but it just wasn’t to be as Orient won 1 drawn 1 and lost 5 and were relegated to the Vanarama National League. The East London club had spent 112 years in the football league and frightening to think that 3 years ago they were a penalty kick away from The Championship. The incompetence of one man has turned the club upside down.

No matter what happens at Leyton Orient, the only positive to takeaway from all the crazy goings ons at the club from farcical statements (Mr Becchetti doesn’t play on Saturday) to the players and staff not being paid is that it has made the supporters stronger and that was clearly shown at the Colchester game.

I predict a Riot

leyton orient protest

It was inevitable that there would be a pitch invasion after the Colchester United game, but many would have never predicted that it would happen whilst the match was still being played. 3-1 down (despite conceding sloppy goals, what a goal from Sandro, which I sadly missed from coming back from the bar!) and in the 85th minute a flare was thrown from the South Stand and a few kids run onto the pitch, a few seconds later others followed suit. Chants of “Becchetti out!” and “Sit down for the Orient” were echoed all around Brisbane Road, even Col U fans joined in!

The scenes at E10 were shown around the globe from Italy to The States and showed a clear message that the fans won’t be messed with and Becchetti can’t win this battle.

Fans made their voices clear for over an hour before the remaining 5 minutes of the game were played behind closed doors.

My first season as an Orient fan has seen more ups and downs than an episode on Albert Square. Would I do it again next season? Of course I would! It will be an eye opener playing against the likes of Guiseley in our 2016/2017 campaign, but just like this season we will need all the support we can get, even if the Becchetti regime is still there in August.

There are still a lot of uncertainties at the club with a second winding up order being disputed in court on the 12th of June. Again, no matter what the outcome will be, whether the debt is paid or whether the club is reborn from founding a phoenix team, Becchetti cannot kill the solidarity and the passion shown from the supporters. We will be there regardless of the division! See you all in August, up the O’s!

*Bollocks banner image taken from View from the West Stand

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