Jonny Davies: We laughed, we cried... and 'Bazza' brought the house down at Player of Year bash
The O Zone: Life behind the scenes at Leyton Oritent
Tuesday 29 April 2014
It wasn't just the season that started back in August, but also the preparations for the Leyton Orient Player of the Year awards, which took place on Monday night at the Dorchester Hotel on Park Lane. The idea for the five-star dinner and comedy night at one of London's finest hotels was born over a fry-up in the Royal Café, the chairman Barry Hearn's favourite greasy spoon in Leyton during one of our now infamous breakfast meetings last year.
It has been a few years since the club has done a proper end-of-season dinner but Barry has been determined to bring it back and make it a money-making night for the club to raise funds for the academy – as well as being a top evening of entertainment.
It didn't come cheap at £1,500 for a table of 10 but Barry can be persuasive and over the past few months he has been starting meetings with the question: "How many tables have you sold for the Dorchester?" This was directed at the commercial lads, Rob and Tom, before filling them in on his latest sign-ups and what items he had managed to source for the auction.
In the end we had almost 400 people at the event made up of clients, friends, supporters, business associates and, of course, the players and staff. There were some big names in attendance from the world of sport and business with the likes of Bill Kenwright, the Everton chairman; Derek Llambias, the former Newcastle managing director; and Nigel Travis, the chief executive of Dunkin' Brands – the company behind Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin Robbins – to name but a few.
We even managed to get some of our celebrity supporters along including Lord Lloyd-Webber, who said grace at the start of the three-course meal and wished us well for the play-offs, plus comedian Bob Mills who delivered a superb set after the dinner.
In many ways, though, the chairman, "Bazza", was the main event as he took over the microphone from John McDonald, the master of ceremonies, for the auction. There were some top-notch items on offer, from tickets to see Carl Froch v George Groves at Wembley (which went for £3,000 a pair) to a signed Andy Murray shirt that we had managed to get through his mother Judy who attends the PDC darts – another of Barry's business interests.
The chairman had the room in stitches and soon got them to part with their money as we raised a decent sum through the auction and a couple of other bits from the night.
The players were sat across three tables, with many of them choosing to bring their respective partners. There was no alcohol for the lads as we still have a league game to go against MK Dons on Saturday, plus the play-offs.
Our defender Elliot Omozusi was a double award winner as he picked up the Community Player of the Year award and the Players' Player prize. It was terrific to see him giving his acceptance speech and smiling for the cameras having turned his life around since returning to the club following a prison sentence just over a year ago.
Meanwhile, there was barely a dry eye in the house as the captain Nathan Clarke picked up the main prize of the Player of the Year Award. Clarkey gave an emotional acceptance speech as he thanked his family and talked of how difficult it can be living apart from his wife and two daughters, who have remained living up north during his time at Orient.
Most guests stayed for a few drinks afterwards before heading out to one of the queuing taxis outside, some of which had Os fans at the wheel, eager to give one of the lads a lift home.
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