Leyton Orient, by Glenn Moore
On 25 May 2014 Leyton Orient were twice on the brink of reaching the second tier of English football for the first time in more than three decades. As they prepared to celebrate promotion at Wembley that day, the idea that they could be playing a league match at Braintree within four years – and coming home elated after a win – was beyond comprehension.
Nevertheless, on Tuesday night around 1,600 O’s fans made the 40-mile journey back from Essex in jubilant mood. Justin Edinburgh’s team had won 5-1 at Cressing Road to extend their lead at the summit of the MANarama National League (sponsors Vanarama have renamed the competition in support of the charity Prostate Cancer UK).
Victory eclipsed a club record set in that 2013-14 season when Russell Slade’s team began with a 12-match unbeaten run before having to settle for a play-off place. At Wembley they led Rotherham 2-0 with 35 minutes left, then led again in the penalty shoot-out.
Two failed penalties followed, and less than three years later they were relegated from League Two ending a stay in the Football League dating back to 1905. This precipitous decline, which almost concluded with the club ceasing to exist, began when long-term owner Barry Hearn sold to Italian businessman Francesco Becchetti. This proved ill-fated as Becchetti rattled through 11 managers, overseeing two relegations, a string of unhappy headlines, and the alienation of supporters. Soon after dropping out of the League the club faced a winding up order.
This, however, was staved off and the club bought by a consortium fronted by Nigel Travis, an Orient fan and former schoolmate of Hearn who had risen to head up Dunkin’ Donuts. The bulk of the cash was provided by Texan millionaire Kent Teague whose enthusiasm has extended to watching the club’s walking football teams play.
The pair brought stability off the field and, after a brief stint by former Crewe boss Steve Davis, Edinburgh provided it on it. The former Tottenham defender arrived at Brisbane Road at a low ebb having been fired in quick succession by Gillingham and Northampton Town. However, he had good experience at non-League level having taken Rushden & Diamonds and Newport County into the National League play-off places, winning promotion with the latter.
Edinburgh banished fears of a second relegation as the Os finished mid-table. This season they began by snatching a late equaliser at Salford and have been unbeaten ever since with six wins in the last seven games. Macauley Bonne, a 22-year-old signed by Davis from Colchester United, took his O’s total to 31 goals in 57 matches with a hat-trick at Braintree. Just as influential have been the experienced Jobi McAnuff and Dean Brill, youth product Josh Koroma, East Thurrock recruit Marvin Ekpiteta, and an injury-free run that has enabled Edinburgh to name the same XI for nine successive matches.
MANarama National League is a hard one to escape. Less than half the clubs relegated from League Two in the last decade have bounced back. Orient are on course to buck the trend.
For more on Leyton Orient visit: https://www.leytonorient.com/
For more on the MANarama National League visit: https://thenationalleague.org.uk/
For great deals on cars and vans visit: http://www.vanarama.co.uk/