The O Zone: How a Premier League red card ruined our hopes of a relaxing end to the transfer window

Life behind the scenes at Leyton Orient

All actions have consequences and Allan McGregor’s red card for Hull City against Crystal Palace last week had wider implications than you might have first realised.

The mood was good at the final whistle on Tuesday after we beat Coventry 2-0 and produced some of the most pulsating football we have seen all season. It was a third clean sheet in four appearances for our on-loan goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic and our fourth win on the bounce. It looked like all our January transfer business had been done and we could look forward to a relatively relaxed deadline day ahead of the trip to Rotherham on Saturday.

Sky Sports News was on in the changing room above the steaming bowls of pasta and chicken breasts, with the lads discussing other results and looking out for goals or good performances from their pals at other clubs. When the Hull score flashed up, the more switched-on among the group spotted straight away the red card for McGregor. Half in jest they thanked Eldin for his efforts and said their farewells in case he would be recalled.

Eldin had been superb for us in the four games he played but, like most goalkeeper loans, he had a 24-hour recall clause in the deal. By 11pm, when I left the ground on Tuesday, goalkeeper coach Kevin Dearden and the gaffer, Russell Slade, were already bracing themselves for a phone call from Hull and forming a contingency plan.

The players had the day off on Wednesday to recover but the gaffer was in bright and early, hammering the phones all day in search of a new keeper as confirmation had come through from the Tigers that Eldin would be leaving us. It was proving tricky, as other players who had been offered to us around the time we brought Eldin in had fixed themselves up elsewhere. Hopes of a tranquil deadline were scuppered.

Thursday started in the same manner. Kevin even took his phone out on to the training ground while he was coaching the goalkeepers in case it rang, and it was a bit more tense on the staff lunch table. Fortunately, progress was made with the news that Charlton’s Ben Alnwick could be available, having fallen out of favour at The Valley. Matt, our chief executive, had spoken to his agent and it emerged Ben’s availability hinged on a meeting with Charlton that afternoon.

It made for an anxious atmosphere in our office as we awaited news of the outcome. Lindsey, our secretary, is one of the busiest people in the window as she has to put together all the paperwork. At close of play on Thursday, there was plenty of pacing about as Lindsey was waiting to hear if she needed to prepare a contract, while also fielding calls from the gaffer hungry for any updates. Meanwhile Ada, our kit man – and Lindsey’s husband – was equally in the lurch as he had packed the gear for the trip to Rotherham but needed to know if he would have to print a new shirt.

Eventually, news came through that Alnwick was free to leave the Addicks, enabling Lindsey to prepare the paperwork in time for him to pop in at 8.30am the next morning to sign, then jump straight on the coach to meet his new team-mates and travel up to Rotherham. Ada, ever resourceful, even managed to save us a few quid by giving Ben the same number as Eldin and peeling off the letters on the shirts before replacing them with the name of the new owner.

All that was left was to co-ordinate an announcement and Ben was officially an Os player. After that frantic morning it was a relatively straightforward deadline day; Marvin Bartley signed a permanent deal, having been on loan previously from Burnley, and Jamar Loza extended his loan stay from Norwich until March.


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