The O Zone: Even lunch tastes better after our flying start
Behind the scenes at Leyton Orient
Monday 26 August 2013
I had a feeling we’d begin the season fairly well but I would never have predicted that we’d make our best start for 103 years. Winning is becoming a habit and we have some invaluable momentum behind us after Saturday’s win.
When the team are doing well it gives everyone at the club a lift, from the chairman, Barry Hearn, who is on cloud nine, through to the stewards dealing with happy punters and Julie the cook, whose new chicken pesto recipe is going down a storm.
It also leads to more media attention. Viewers of the Football League Show will have seen us being featured in Mark Clemmit’s slot with Clem going behind the scenes on Saturday, interviewing Barry, the gaffer Russell Slade and some of the players.
Just for a change it wasn’t Kevin Lisbie in the spotlight. Having played a fair bit of Premier League football at Charlton and even scored a hat-trick against Liverpool, he’s our biggest name and the vast majority of media requests we get are for him and he’s always more than happy to oblige. This week Dave Victor from BBC London came down to see him.
Lis has had a remarkable start to the season and, at 34 years old, is enjoying some of the best form of his career. Given his reputation, people often say to me: “Blimey, I never realised Kevin Lisbie is at Orient now,” and the story of how he came to us is an interesting one.
I was talking to Lis recently about turning points in a career and he explained he was out of contract at the start of the 2011-12 season, having been released from Ipswich. As he lives near to our training ground he got in touch with the gaffer to see if he could come in and keep fit with us.
Originally he was told “not this time”, as we were preparing for a big game, but then his phone went off again and the gaffer said he could come in, and that they would put on a special session for him away from the other preparations if he wanted.
That Saturday, chance would have it that two strikers went down injured and Lis, being in the right place at the right time and having been impressed that the gaffer had gone out of his way to accommodate him, was then only too happy to sign the deal offered to him. He’s been here ever since, scoring 32 goals in 68 starts.
Another factor in our good start has been the improved pitch. It suffered last year with the terrible winter weather and relentless midweek games in the second half of the season. Our groundsman, Colin James, called the experts in over the summer and it was relaid with a new drainage system, thanks to some significant investment from the club.
It was given its first real test on Saturday against Crewe as it absolutely hammered it down but, while Charlton’s game across the Thames was called off, we were able to carry on, romping to a 2-0 win thanks to a stunning first-half performance.
Afterwards I had the honour of a visit to “The Bunker”. It is a little room off the tunnel with a sign that says “MANAGEMENT ONLY”.
On a match day it’s where the gaffer and his staff base themselves. It’s quite small, with a sofa, a couple of chairs, a TV and a little kitchen to the side. The opposition management team will usually pop in for a drink after a game, as is traditional, and on Saturday even I got pulled in by the gaffer for a quick beer to celebrate our start.
As usual, though, no one is dwelling on it as we forgot about the Bank Holiday to prepare for the visit of Premier League Hull City tonight in the Capital One Cup.
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