Orient – the other side of the story
Earlier today I wrote about that day thirty years ago when Burnley beat Orient 2-1 and escaped being the first club to suffer automatic relegation from the Football League. Lincoln City were the side to go that day and, thirty years on, in a strange turn of events, they’ve returned from a second stint in non-league football having replaced Leyton Orient who relegated over a week ago.
These things happen in football. Back in the 1960s, Oxford United were the club chosen to replace the defunct Accrington Stanley in the league. Many years later, when the new Accrington Stanley reached the Football League it was Oxford United they replaced.
I know I’ve poked fun at Blackburn Rovers over the past couple of days; that’s what football fans do and there’s always that sense of satisfaction seeing your local rivals suffer, particularly when things are going well for your own team.
But we are a fortunate club. It is run by a board of directors who might not be perfect, probably far from it, but can be trusted to run the club. They are Burnley supporters. Any decisions they make are what they believe to be in the best interests of our club. Some are correct decisions, some not, but I think it would take a very negative supporter right now to think that they aren’t getting most of them correct.
Over more recent years, we’ve seen clubs suffer because of owners/directors who don’t have the same feeling for their respective clubs as our directors do. We’ve seen the mess at clubs in the past such as Portsmouth and, although we’ve laughed, the situation at Blackburn is simply not right. Then there are clubs such as Blackpool, Charlton and Coventry right now.
There’s also Leyton Orient, the club we played thirty years ago to save ourselves. If you are confused that Orient has suddenly become Leyton Orient, I’ll explain. They had a number of names and I believe came into the Football League as Clapton Orient. They had moved to Leyton in 1937 and to reflect that they changed their name to Leyton Orient when football resumed after the second world war.
They had, for a time in the 19th Century, been known simply as Orient and they switched back to that in 1966 until 1987 when they reverted back to Leyton Orient. The game at Burnley thirty years ago was the last they played under the name Orient.
This particular, and frightening story, of Leyton Orient is actually only three years old. Owned by Barry Hearn, the club, under the management of Russell Slade, ended the 2013/14 season in third place in League One, behind champions Wolves and runners-up Brentford. They beat Peterborough in the play-off semi-finals but were beaten by Rotherham in the Wembley final on penalties after a 2-2 draw, this after leading 2-0.
It was at this point that Hearn sold the club to Italian Franceso Becchetti who arrived with big ideas for the future of a club that had just come so close to reaching the Championship but the story has been one of anything but success.
A year after the play-off heartache there was worse to come with relegation to League Two having ended the season next to bottom. There was hope of an improvement last season; they ended in 8th place in League Two although six points behind AFC Wimbledon, the team directly above them, who went on to win the play-offs.
This season has been a nightmare for them. At the half way stage, with 25 points, they were hovering some four points above the drop zone. A return of 11 points in the second half of the season has seen them finish bottom some 12 points from safety.
Russell Slade, I mentioned him as being the manager three years ago. He’s not there now and neither are the eight managers who followed him. One of them, Andy Hessenthaler, the former Gillingham boss, was subjected to an attack on the touchline after one game, receiving a kick, not from a fan but from Becchetti who was charged with misconduct by the FA. Hessenthaler was only the number two at the time.
That’s the on field mess and off the field it is a hundred times worse. I don’t know enough about it to go into detail but, for starters, they failed to pay their staff recently, they have survived one winding up order and are facing another and guess what? No one has seen Becchetti for some time.
The Football League, fast becoming one of the less competent of organisations under chief exec Shaun Harvey, once Ken Bates’ yes man at Leeds, have now suggested they will consider new rules for incompetent owners, quoting the Leyton Orient crisis.
“I am certain over the coming months we will be looking at the relationship between the EFL (Harvey’s daft name for THE Football League) and the club owners to see if there is anything the clubs think we will be doing to protect the reputation of our clubs and the league itself,” said Harvey.
“It is something I am sure the board will want to look at. I think I would be very interested in having a debate as to what is possible for us to achieve. How far that goes will never be far enough for some. We have got to find the right level for doing that.
“We want to see good owners of football clubs running stable clubs where fans are able to enjoy the football. We are never going to achieve that across 72 clubs at the same time. What we have got to do is get the majority to that position.
“I would never want to see another Orient. I do not think anyone is comfortable with the breakdown in relations at Coventry. You look at other clubs where the relationship could not be better. We have such a wide breadth of clubs and club owners. One size fits all will never work. What we have to do is work on the extremes.”
At least he mentioned fans because those suffering at Leyton Orient right now are just that, the fans. They are at their wits end I would imagine and have set up the Leyton Orient Regeneration Fund that has already raised £155,000, and well done to the supporters of Brentford and Blackburn who raised over £2,000 in a bucket collection two days ago.
The fans believe the best solution would be for Becchetti to sell the club as a going concern but they are planning for the worst should it come to that.
Leyton Orient is a club far from Burnley both geographically and on the football map. We once played them in the First Division. That was back in the 1962/63 season. They came up with Liverpool but went straight back down again. I’ve seen us play them home and away at all four levels of the league.
We haven’t played them now for 23 years. The last game between the two clubs was on 19th February 1994 when they beat us 3-1 at Brisbane Road. For the record, Ian Bogie, Danny Carter and Trevor Putney scored their goals. Ours came from Gary Parkinson, his first for Burnley and we all know where his next goal was scored.
But a bond was formed between us thirty years ago today. It still exists. Many of us have a soft spot for them. Right now though, we can do no more than wish them well. That’s on the field with their plan to get back into the Football League and more so off it with the hope that they can rid themselves of this dreadful owner who hasn’t been seen for some time.
Football fans deserve better than this; Leyton Orient fans certainly do.
Recently, a Leyton Orient fan visited our message board to explain the situation. It prompted some ouf our members to make a donation to their regeneration fund. To learn more about it, or to make a donation, click HERE for the full details.Share this page :