Wednesday, 5 April 2017

A crisis in London: Leyton Orient's sorry descent

It's April, and we've now reached the tail end of the football season. There is still much to play for at the summit of leagues (although the Premier League may well be a full gone conclusion) and teams are fighting for survival with relegation dogfights likely to go down to the wire. However, I digress - this season has also been a year for crisis clubs; Blackpool, Blackburn, Charlton, Coventry and Morecambe all falling foul of chaos both on the pitch and behind the scenes, with shoddy ownership playing a major factor in the downfall of their seasons.

The turmoil at the aforementioned clubs is nothing when you compare it to the Italian spearheaded meltdown which is ongoing in the heart of London at Leyton Orient. A club destined for relegation for non-league football, not through a lack of passion or footballing misjudgement, but purely down to a poisonous owner.

The team which lined up against Wycombe Wanderers last weekend was a comparative shell of the squad which lined up at Wembley two seasons ago on the brink of securing the O's promotion to the Championship. Despite their squad's relative inexperience, from my perspective in the away end, the passion was still there both on the pitch, and even from the long-suffering supporters present in the stands, however, a swift straight red card for a high challenge and two quickfire goals from Matt Bloomfield and Myles Weston saw the Chairboys enter cruise control less than half an hour into the afternoon, soon after the life was predictably sucked out of the game and what buzz that existed around Brisbane Road was quickly distinguished. Much like most of the dismal home performances this season, the action on the pitch mirrored the situation that waste-management magnate Francesco Becchetti has created during his two-and-a-half year reign at the club off the pitch.

Since Becchetti's arrival, the O's have been relegated to the fourth tier despite extensive investment most notably in striker Jay Simpson and winger Jobi McAnuff, whom both earnt hefty paychecks for that level, seen a conveyor belt of failing managers - with eleven swiftly coming and going, and a most dramatically of all, a winding up order for unpaid debts in excess of £1 million. Whilst the toxic owner himself has been investigated for money laundering, banned for six matches for kicking Orient's then assistant manager Andy Hessenthaler, and operating at best a blasé ownership model - at worst suicidal. 

The culmination of all of this is Orient's worst home record in their league history (17 defeats from 21 outings) and their probable relegation from the football league - a membership that has spanned 112 years. The bedlum behind the scenes at the club was aptly summed up by a protest staged by supporters in the Brisbane Road director boxes during Saturday's fixture, with fans unveiling a banner sneaked in which simply read 'BOLLOCKS'.

Leyton Orient fans express their frustrations this weekend

For myself and other Wycombe supporters the game was more than gaining somewhat of a 'gimmie' of a victory and taking the three points back to Buckinghamshire, it was also about showing solidarity towards fellow football supporters and their club. Chants of 'Becchetti Out' and some less savoury chants rang around the group during the second half, after all what is occurring at the London club is disgraceful and I wouldn't wish it upon any football club, people's livelihoods are at stake after all - especially at this level.

Although the club survived a recent winding up order and given more time to pay outstanding the significant overdue debts, players and staff continue to see little or no pay, whilst Becchetti hasn't been seen on a matchday for months on end. Supporters are doing all they can to create a sustainable future for the club, with fan ownership become a more viable option for smaller clubs. However, as it stands, without footballing authorities acting against an owner clearly unfit to operate at the helm of a football club, Orient don't just need an action plan to stay in the division - they need a miracle.

Definitely puts things into perspective, doesn't it Arsenal fans?

Twitter @DLster

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