Saturday 28th September 2013
Leyton Orient have had a dream start to this season. It’s not often that a side has this good a start to a campaign let alone the O’s, who seem to either be battling for promotion or fighting relegation with each coming year. It’s rarely in between.
When I went to see them for the first time last season, a 2-1 win against Shrewsbury Town at the Matchroom Stadium, they were in the bottom four. Prior to this encounter with the Salops (I thought it was Shrimps?) they had lost 11 out of their first 16 games, but then went on to lose seven of their next 29.
Not that I’m taking credit for being the inspiration in this miraculous recovery that saw them just miss out on the play-offs and then embark on the run that they are currently having. It just so happened that this match led to a rich vein of form (although I’m certain my constant cries of encouragement reached the players and manager, Russell Slade, quicker than everyone else’s plus the fact I was forced to down a pint of beer for fear of missing the kick-off (or the beer), an incident I’m convinced the players witnessed and thought, ‘‘let’s win it for that brave man there. If he can show that kind of strength handling as ghastly a situation as having to virtually down the rest of his (half filled) pint then we can win this match’’).
No one would have predicted that they would have eight wins from their first eight league games this campaign, though. Whether the promise of a trip to Las Vegas laid on by their chairman, Barry Hearn, has helped I don’t know. What I do know is that I should be taken, too, for starting it all off. However, they should take notice of other teams that have had as good or even better beginnings in the past than what Slade’s side have had so far. Orient that is, not Wolverhampton Wanderers who Slade’s lead singer, Noddy Holder, supports.
Let’s take Manchester United for example. They began one season by winning all 10 of their first 10 games. This was not under Matt Busby or Alex Ferguson – the two most successful managers in the club’s history – but one Ron Atkinson in 1985-86. It seemed certain that the Red Devils would be lifting their first top-flight title since 1967 come May.
Instead, they ended up finishing fourth behind Liverpool, Everton and West Ham United. And just under a year after their first defeat of that anti-climatic campaign of ’85-86, Atkinson was sacked with the side lying second from bottom. If they had won the league in that 85-86 season then they may not have had began the next one so badly. And even if they did then I’m sure Big Ron would have been given more time to turn it round, which in turn would have meant no Ferguson.
Well, not for a good few years at least as they seemed destined to be together knowing their mutual respect for one another, but it shows how quickly things can change, and not just within that season, but years to come. If as big a club as Man United can squander that good a start then anyone can, including the mighty O’s.
Heart of Midlothian had an almost identical start to the 2005-06 Scottish Premier League campaign as what the East London have had in League One with eight wins in as many games and a goal difference of +17 (Orient’s is +18 at the time of writing).
Hearts still ended up having a great season by their standards: finishing second, therefore breaking up the Celtic-Rangers monopoly for the first time in yonks. And I’m sure Orient would take the same position if they were offered it now as it could take only two games for them to fall out of those two all-important automatic promotion places. It’s an unbelievable start that we rarely see, and I hope they keep it going in their match against Walsall today. But there’s still a long, long way to go.
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