One of the questions I get asked most about working at Orient is: “What is Barry Hearn like to work for?” I usually just relate the first time I met him. I’d been here about a week when he called me into his office and introduced himself. He asked me a bit about myself and then said: “Look, I don’t want you to ever worry about trying something and it messes up. I’ll never criticise you for that. If you try something and it doesn’t work, then try something different. I like people that work hard and bring ideas to the table.”
Barry sets you high standards and lets you get on with achieving them. He loves us to produce different charts and spreadsheets to monitor progress – such as a breakdown of areas in the ground that sell the most programmes on a match day. The way he tots up figures in his head is unbelievable. Sometimes he’ll put us on the spot about a figure that is not in our spreadsheets and myself, Rob (marketing manager) and Tom (commercial manager) will be scrambling about for a calculator before Barry (below) has the answer already.
When the three of us met this week Barry was pleased we were above our target for season-ticket income and set us some new objectives before arranging to meet us for breakfast again early next month at his favourite greasy-spoon café on the High Road.
At the training ground on Thursday a few of the lads were in early and having a bit of toast, passing a newspaper about and discussing whether Rickie Lambert will get the call-up for the World Cup next year. Most have played against him at some point and you can tell how pleased they are that one of their own is in the limelight.
I sat down with Tom, one of the manager’s sons, who is on his school holidays and getting advice from Matt, our analyst, on players he should sign on Football Manager. Adam, our kit manager, was there as he had arranged for a mate to bring the “Nike van” down for the players to look through the new boots. The majority of players at League One level don’t get free boots, but instead get discounts with certain companies and vouchers from the PFA to put towards their gear. They swarmed around the van, passing round the latest models and trying them on, though Lloyd James was soon back in the changing rooms when he learnt no freebies were on offer.
Before each game I print out a photo of the referee and his statistics for the gaffer and when I dropped them into his office on Friday, I could tell something was on his mind. It’s difficult to keep anything secret in football, and the gaffer had heard on the grapevine that Stevenage, our Saturday opposition, had signed someone from QPR, though not announced it, so he set me the task of finding out more. I discovered a QPR XI played Stevenage last month and was investigating that when the gaffer got a call from a contact who confirmed it was Michael Doughty. He was straight on the phone to his coaching staff to talk through plans. By seven, when the news was released, the gaffer had done his homework and planned accordingly.
That may have made the difference as the lads battled to a 1-0 win, with Kevin Lisbie getting his fourth goal in as many games. There’s barely room to swing a cat in the away changing room at Stevenage and afterwards it all steamed up as the players celebrated to tunes on Shaun Batt’s iPod. They even tried to drag me into the shower: fortunately, I managed to fight them off. After three league games we’ve scored nine, conceded one and sit top of the pile. Obviously, you can’t read a huge amount into the table at this stage of the season, but in football you have to enjoy the good times as they don’t always come around that often. At this stage last year we had one goal and no points.
Proofreading a 68-page programme on your own under pressure is difficult, though I still get annoyed at myself when I spot a spelling mistake or wrong score-line. Thankfully, I’ve never dropped a clanger like the one in the Stevenage programme. In the “visitors” section was a full-page article which “takes a look at a former Leyton Orient favourite”. This sort of feature is fairly common, though what was unusual was that this was about Bobby Moore, who never played for Orient, and it implied he spent the majority of his career at Brisbane Road rather than with West Ham. Whoops.