The O Zone: Ada the wind-up kit man and ‘Chingford John’ form the backbone of clubs like ours

Life behind the scenes at Leyton Orient

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The Independent Football

Football clubs are full of characters and I spent a bit of time this week with one of our longest-serving employees, Ada Martin, our kit man, learning a thing or two about his role.

Ada has worked for Leyton Orient for more than 20 years in different capacities from groundsman to kit man, knows the club inside out and is also one of the biggest wind-up merchants I know. He works seven days a week and looks after all the kit, from academy to first team.

One thing I found interesting was how much more there is to the role than simply washing the kit. Ada’s job goes beyond the laundry room and is a lot about player liaison as he looks after their every need, from ordering their boots and base layers (lycra undershorts, etc) to making sure they have the right food available on a match day.

As well as a wind-up man, Ada is a right perfectionist and will pack and unpack the skip of equipment for an away game up to four times before leaving to make sure nothing is forgotten. He likes to go the extra mile for the lads with little touches like warming up their boots in a dryer before a game.

Being so much at the heart of things he sees all the changing-room routines and superstitions, such as David Mooney, our top scorer, always sitting last in line despite the others getting changed in numerical order. Ada plays a part too as one of his last routines before kick-off is to put the armband on the captain, Nathan Clarke, always on his right arm. “I know exactly how he likes it,” he tells me.

Unfortunately, Saturday was a day to forget on the pitch as we surrendered a 1-0 lead to two late Peterborough goals. It was uncharacteristic of us but, as the gaffer said after the game, “Setbacks are part of the tapestry we’re creating.” Thankfully, we have another game tonight at home to Bristol City so we can get it out of our system.

While the atmosphere in the changing room afterwards was befitting the dark clouds above the stadium, the day had begun with a rainbow over the old East Stand, which was more appropriate, given the rejuvenation we have seen as a club this season. Twelve months ago almost to the day we played Crawley at home in front of 3,463. On Saturday we had 6,717 inside the Matchroom Stadium, the bars were packed and hospitality fully booked. Those sort of numbers have a big impact on budgets and the chairman, Barry Hearn, was pleased with how the figures are looking at our last breakfast meeting.

There were some around the ground who attributed the rainbow to the presence of a man called John Burman. We were contacted towards the end of last year to let us know that “Chingford John” (as he was most commonly known) had left the club £150,000 in his will. It had come completely out of the blue and we were quite taken aback at the gesture as, while that might only equal one player’s weekly wage at some Premier League clubs, for us it is like a major sponsorship deal.

John was, by all accounts, a kind and unassuming man, who worked the majority of his life on the railways as a signal operator. It has proved difficult to track down his family and those who knew him well, but the handful of fans who did come forward speak warmly of him and share happy memories of long away trips in his company, even through the bleakest of times for the club.

We dedicated Saturday’s game to “Chingford John” and, though we didn’t get the result we wanted, his legacy will go beyond one game as 60 per cent of that money can be spent on the wage budget and could end up being the difference when it comes to funding and sustaining our push for the Championship. Thank you, John, and may you rest in peace.