A Brush with folklore but Orient are forbidden to mention Everton

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The Independent Football

Leyton Orient are truly delighted to have drawn Everton in the fourth round of the FA Cup. This is not simply because the trip to Goodison Park will provide the players with a rare glimpse of life at the top, but also because they will be underdogs – and under no illusions.

Leyton Orient are truly delighted to have drawn Everton in the fourth round of the FA Cup. This is not simply because the trip to Goodison Park will provide the players with a rare glimpse of life at the top, but also because they will be underdogs – and under no illusions.

Paul Brush's men are relieved they do not have to face a club from their own backyard. A week after the heights of their Fratton Park triumph, when they defeated First Division Portsmouth 4-1 in the third round, the O's plunged to the gruesome depths of a 6-1 mauling at the hands of those perennial Third Division whipping boys, Carlisle United. Considering that nine of the 11 Cup heroes started the match, excuses are hard to find. Brush barely tries: "The pitch was awful," is the manager's frank assessment, "but, then, so were we."

Rumour has it that some of the players had one eye on the Cup when they ran out at Brunton Park. "I honestly don't believe that," Brush says. "The players did an extra session on the Monday after the Portsmouth victory and, if anything, concentrated more on Carlisle than they had done at any stage during the season. The word Everton was actually banned from our vocabulary and I was very confident we would get a good result when the boys lined up before the game."

Less than 30 minutes later, Orient were 4-0 down against a team who had previously scored only 10 goals in 12 home league games all season. "For some reason we just froze," Brush explains. "By half-time, I was only worried that we might be beaten by the Nationwide record score. I have spoken to Glenn Roeder [the West Ham manager is an old friend] since and he agrees with me that receiving a thrashing is the most dreadful feeling in the world [the Hammers capitulated 7-1 to Blackburn Rovers earlier in the season]. It was awful, without doubt, the worst ever moment of my football career."

In contrast, Brush singles out winning his first game as a manager, when Orient defeated Swansea 1-0 back in October, as the highlight. "I know it sounds daft, but I didn't know you could feel like that about football. That's why I don't want any more lows."

The heavy defeat at Carlisle still hurts, but the Orient manager insists his players will have recovered come Saturday. "As we have a league match on Tuesday against Lincoln, I have instructed the players not to talk about the Everton game until Thursday," Brush says. "But I know, deep down, they are all excited at the prospect of going to such a legendary club. We start as underdogs, of course, but if the lads can just relax and make sure they enjoy the moment, then there is no reason why we cannot cause a bit of a shock."

As a player, the greatest upset he was involved in was when his then Second Division West Ham team won the 1980 FA Cup final against Arsenal. He was an unused substitute that day, but played a part in the two semi-final matches against, of all teams, Everton. "We drew the first 1-1 and won the replay 2-1. I don't remember much else, except we celebrated well."

Before Orient's visit to the South Coast for the last round, the Pompey chairman had unwisely rubbed Brush's players up the wrong way. "It is good we have avoided a big club at this stage of the season," Milan Mandaric said. "We should beat Orient." Everton are clear favourites, but it is worth noting that Walter Smith has minded his P's and Q's when it comes to the O's.

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