The O Zone: No, it’s not 1973 again, Slade really is Christmas No 1

Life behind the scenes at Leyton Orient

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The Independent Football

Despite our defeat to Crawley on Saturday, Wolves dropped points too meaning we stay top for Christmas Day. So with Russell Slade being the gaffer a few of the local press went home happy they can produce their “Slade is Christmas No 1” headline which they have been itching to use over the last few weeks.

This is the first year I have worked in football and unlike most workplaces where things start to wind down for the holidays, we are busier than ever with the Crawley game marking the first of six matches in the next 18 days.

It means the training schedule is a hectic one. Lee Southernwood, our head of sports science, has been busy tweaking and adjusting the schedule to allow the right amount of recovery for players, while our physio Mike and his team are putting the hours in to make sure everyone is available for selection.

For the players it’s very much business as usual otherwise and they seem to enjoy the games coming thick and fast. There’s no tinsel or Santa hats at the training ground, though Julie the cook did make a Christmas dinner for everyone on Thursday which went down well. Our French players in particular enjoy a roast dinner and there was even chocolate cake which was a treat.

Following the Christmas dinner we had the annual hospital visits with the players visiting Whipps Cross and Homerton to hand out presents for youngsters and spread a bit of seasonal joy. It’s something the players enjoy doing and I think they were quite humbled by the reception they received. It was noticeable how many people are keeping tabs on our fine form as I lost count of the number of people that wished them well and urged them to get promotion.

The players, like most of their colleagues around the country, will be in training tomorrow for a 9.30am start. That is an hour earlier than usual to give them a bit more time to spend with their families on Christmas Day, though they won’t be scoffing too many chocolates in front of the TV as we have a trip to Gillingham to look forward to on Boxing Day.

For the staff too it’s an incredibly busy time with all the games, though in the spirit of Christmas a few of them found the time to help the gaffer with a favour last week. I’ve mentioned before how he lives in the flats at the ground and while a problem with his roof is being fixed he has shifted into one of the places next door. It was all hands on deck as Steve, the stadium manager, Nathan, the assistant groundsman, and Kevin Nugent, the assistant manager, led a delegation up to the flats to help the gaffer move his furniture into the new flat. I did get a bit of stick from the manager as he noted my absence, but Christmas deadlines on the programme meant I was otherwise tied up.

All that is left for me to say is a happy Christmas. It seems a lifetime ago that we started the column with the eventful journey up to Carlisle on the opening day of the season back in August and it’s been a roller coaster ride since that’s covered everything from Olivier Giroud, Mrs Lisbie’s cooking and dogs that talk French. So far, so good though, and hopefully in 2014 the column can document our promotion to the Championship.