Leyton Orient blog: Patience is required
PUBLISHED: 16:00 26 April 2016
Simon O'Connor Photography
Sam Churchett gives his thoughts on events taking place at Brisbane Road
One angry Leyton Orient fan shouted ‘play for the shirt, not for the wage’ repeatedly from the stands at AFC Wimbledon on Saturday. With very little fight left in the O’s side, the away supporters watched as their League Two season all but came to an end. Whilst we all want to see players kiss the badge and put their bodies on the line by playing for the shirt, there are very few players left in the squad who could do so with any conviction.
With so many new faces at Brisbane Road this season, it is naive to expect to have a team full of loyalty. If the rumours are true with Kevin Nolan declaring himself unfit and refusing to play, then even he felt no sense of commitment to the players or the fans, unwilling to sacrifice a personal foothold in order to help the O’s get into the playoffs.
The previously rejected playing contract suggests he came largely for the managerial opportunity and whilst it is difficult to blame him for his actions, it was never his red and white army, despite fans singing it from the stands in hope that it one day would be. Personally, I believe Francesco Becchetti overlooked Nolan’s managerial shortcomings in order to tempt a player of Premier League quality into an Orient shirt with an expectation that he would win them promotion from midfield.
Lacklustre performances coupled with increasingly predictable tactics meant that this did not go according to plan. Whilst there is much disappointment in the number of managers the O’s have had in the past couple of seasons, it was a creative gamble by the president which could have led to the former West Ham United captain scoring a dozen goals and helping the E10 outfit climb into the top three.
Despite the lack of confidence from so many in the Italian’s decisions, one trait the Brisbane Road faithful and its owner do have in common is their hunger for success. The 2013/2014 campaign changed the mind-set of many Orient fans, replacing hope with expectation. And whilst ambition is not a bad thing, it must be handled with care and isn’t something O’s supporters have been accustomed to in the last couple of decades.
This appears to have created an impatient desperation for promotion back to League One and frustration amongst fans, which is further compounded by Becchetti own desire for success. His uncontainable passion matched with his inexperience in English football has resulted in the O’s stumbling their way into dangerous territory. With that in mind, LOFT’s recently organised protest was not completely unfounded despite its failure due to poor timing, poor execution and the proposal itself acting as a catalyst for disharmony amongst the very supporters who share many of their concerns.
In order for the club to create a foundation on which to move forward, both the fans and the president must come to terms with the fact that returning to League One may need to be approached as a two or three year project. Most importantly this must begin with the appointment of a trusted and experienced manager. Only then can the O’s begin to form a squad of like-minded players and create a group with the required unity to achieve their goals.
Jon Richardson once wrote ‘when the foundations of your house are rotten, you do not paint your living room.’ Orient must go back to basics before contemplating another promotion push. The question of whether or not the club have begun the search for a new manager so far remains a mystery, however one name should certainly be on the list for consideration. Andy Hessenthaler has shown himself to be nothing but an absolute professional at the club. He has been honest and committed despite a difficult season which seems to have earned him the trust of fans and players alike.
It remains unclear as to whether or not he is the man to take Orient forward, however be it as manager or an assistant, his continued involvement in E10 may prove vital in keeping the core group of players together heading into next season. One of those core players who deserve praise, despite difficult spells this season, is Ollie Palmer.
His unfaltering effort in each game, regardless of the situation or who he is expected to play alongside, has helped him win over a few critics in recent weeks. Whilst many would agree that he has not shown an abundance of quality or been able to get himself amongst the goals, he consistently applies himself more than any other player on the pitch and for that reason he is an asset.
Even if he is restricted to appearances from the bench, I believe he can still play an important role and would like to see more players getting around him in future to take advantage of his hard work. Hopefully he has a fantastic pre-season and can kick on come August.
With fifteen players either coming to the end of loan spells or out of contract at the end of the season, Orient find themselves back in the same situation as twelve months ago, without a manager and in need of rebuilding the squad. Now is the time for the O’s to find itself a new identity through encouraging promising young talent and allowing them to grow into a side of experienced professionals and a manager with a three-year plan.
Having overseen the club in taking two steps backward, Becchetti must reset the clock on his five-year goal of reaching the Championship and show patience if the Brisbane Road club are to turn their fortunes around and build effectively for the future.
Up the O’s.