There are few better ways to announce your arrival at a new club than by coming off the bench when you are 1-0 down and banging in two goals to turn things around and pick up three points, as Chris Dagnall did for us on Saturday at Crewe.
It’s been a whirlwind period for our new striker. He started the month playing for Coventry City on loan, was recalled then released by Barnsley, signed an 18-month contract with us and then made that dramatic debut.
As you may have figured, we don’t pay transfer fees for players. Our entire squad was assembled without a penny being spent on transfers and this summer will mark seven years since we last paid a fee when Wayne Gray joined us from Yeovil. Ironically they were managed by our gaffer, Russell Slade, at the time; so he has sold Orient a player but never bought one for us!
Barring injuries, Chris is the last deal for this transfer window and once it was agreed you could feel the atmosphere lift around the place as the gaffer was both pleased and relieved to get his man. He drove up to Yorkshire to meet Chris on Monday and called me on the way back to get me to break down some stats to compare his goals per games ratio at every level he’s played at. They must have only further convinced the gaffer that he was chasing the right guy as, when I arrived at the training ground on Thursday, Chris was being given a tour by our head of sports science, Lee, before joining in training with his new colleagues.
With new team-mates to meet, paperwork to sign and a move south to co-ordinate, it was a busy day for the new man, though it must have felt worth it on Saturday night. Chris’s goals not only endeared him to the fans, who christened him with a new song, but also won him instant respect from his new colleagues. You could tell from the high fives that they have bought into him straight away.
The press after the game were dying to talk to Chris, but I had a job to find him. I stuck my head in the dressing room but was told he had already showered and left, so I popped to the team coach where the fish and chips delivery had turned up for the journey home and was being sorted and distributed by the medical staff – not a job I envy.
There was still no sign of the two-goal hero until I came off the coach and spotted him standing on his own on the other side of the car park, chip package tucked under his arm, waiting to get a lift. When we play up north it’s rare that the coach will be full on the way home as the gaffer allows those lads with family up there, like Chris, to stay with them, reporting back for training after the weekend.
That sometimes is not until Tuesday unless, of course, they are injured – then they normally have to report in on their days off for treatment. Or if we’ve had a stinker the gaffer might want the boys in on a Sunday, but thankfully we haven’t had one of them yet this season.
Chris was only too happy to come back in and do his interviews and I even got a parting gift of a tray of uneaten sandwiches from the dressing room courtesy of Ada, the kit man, as I made my own way back to London.