May 21 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
“A series of inept, gutless and witless performances against sides from both ends of the table have plunged us back into the relegation mire”
It’s been a little while since I wrote a blog; a few weeks ago I moved house and one of the very last things to get sorted was the internet. One of the first post-unpacking tasks was to arrange the pictures on the walls. Pride of place round the house is given to my better half’s collection of Nancy Farmer paintings (mostly depicting angels and devils in compromising positions – all suitably gothic), but one small corner of the house will be forever Orient. Okay, so the shrine in the spare bedroom where no-one will ever see it, but I have three signed photos depicting defining moments from recent O’s history adorning the wall in there.
The topmost one shows top scorer-turned boo boy Gary Alexander celebrating his vital goal at Bradford in the penultimate game of the 2006/07 season. The middle one depicts a press of O’s players celebrating Craig Easton’s goal in THAT game at Oxford. The one at the bottom shows an altogether less heralded goal. The diminutive Orient forward has opened his body up to place a side-footed shot wide of the keeper; his eyes tracking the ball which still just about appears in the bottom right of the picture, whilst an England international full back looks on in despair.
As with last season, the belief that a cup run always distracts from league form was proved incorrect in 2005/06, as the O’s marched to a last day promotion whilst also reaching the fourth round of the FA Cup. Creditable away wins at Rushden and Chesterfield were followed by a comprehensive and thoroughly enjoyable victory at Fulham’s Craven Cottage in the third round. The fourth round saw us visit the Valley for the first time since March ’82, but an unfortunate 2-1 defeat (the highlight being Lee Steele’s aforementioned equaliser which sent the unprecedented 9,000 travelling fans into raptures) put paid to our chances.
I still haven’t forgiven Jay Bothroyd for his twice-deflected daisy cutter in injury time which robbed us of a replay, though seeing him kicking his heels on the bench during QPR’s cluster fornication of a season is slightly mollifying.
A mere four years later this top division vs. bottom division clash became a third division derby match, and the O’s have more than held their own in the subsequent fixtures (winning two of the five games so far). This weekend they make the short trek from E10 to SE7 and the task seems more daunting than it was eight years ago. Heading there in the FA Cup, it was a nothing-to-lose shot at a big club for a team that was on top of its game, and almost invincible away from home. This time around we take an increasingly poor side to face an excellent Addicks outfit.
As a confessed south east Londoner who watched my first ever game of professional football at the Valley, I’m secretly pretty pleased that they’ve managed to sort themselves out after a few years of financial troubles and abject on-field performances. Chris Powell must be commended for putting together an outstanding squad for this level. He may have had some comparatively significant backing from the new board, but to have guided his side to be well clear of the three big-hitting Yorkshire clubs whilst still essentially a rookie manager is some achievement.
Orient on the other hand just get worse and worse as the year goes on. Having put themselves in a comfortable position well away from the relegation zone six weeks ago, a series of inept, gutless and witless performances against sides from both ends of the table have plunged us back into the relegation mire.
I must admit that my natural pessimism has kicked in (the O’s remain four points above the drop zone with games in hand on everyone below them), but there is currently nothing about the side which suggests that they have either the wherewithal or the desire to arrest their current slump. It’s a squad riven with too many loan players, too few full backs - the sight of poor old Terrell Forbes being shoehorned into left back against Sheffield Wednesday was acutely painful - no creativity in midfield, no pace, no athleticism, no obvious game plan and only one remotely adequate striker.
With a tough run-in (games against Huddersfield, Sheffield United and Notts County look just as daunting as our trip to Charlton), little latitude to change the squad (ridiculously, the club only have one loan left) and, worst of all, Calvin ‘the new James Scowcroft’ Andrew occasionally on the pitch, Orient are in serious danger of sleepwalking into League Two.
This weekend’s game might well be a long slog for the players, but it will be a longer slog for the fans who will be undertaking the trek from Leyton to Charlton in the morning to raise funds for the Dale Jacobs Memorial Fund in aid of St Marks Hospital and MacMillan Cancer Research. If you spot them on their trek through the wilds of east London, or around the ground on Saturday, then be sure to give them a few quid for their trouble. In fact, if you’re an O at the turnstiles, you’d probably be well advised to chuck your entrance fee into the collection buckets and head home.
But am I writing off our chances at the Valley a little too early? It would be ‘typical Orient’ for us to head to the runaway leaders and get something, I suppose. I’ll keep a space free on the wall for my shiny new signed photo of Jimmy Smith’s inevitable bicycle kick winner.
Follow me @KidSampsonO and England’s second oldest fanzine @leytonorientear on Twitter.
Issue 219 of the Leyton Orientear will be on sale before the Notts County game on the 6th of April.