The O Zone: Passports at the ready, it’s the party season

Life behind the scenes at Leyton Orient

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The Independent Online

It is Christmas party season and a football club celebrates the occasion like any normal company. Clubs do it in different ways: at Leyton Orient we have two parties, one for the staff and one for the players which they organise themselves.

The staff party was in Camden last week. There were about 30 of us in total, from the maintenance men through to the office team and coaches. Sadly, the gaffer, Russell Slade, didn’t make it as he was still struggling with the virus that kept him out of the  game against Walsall.

The club paid for us to go to Shaka Zulu, where we had a meal followed by drinks. Everyone was in good spirits and put in a good shift, with a fair few staying until closing time. Showing true professionalism everyone managed to make it in the next day, though I didn’t envy the coaching staff having to be in from 8.30am.

It was good to have us all out together as there are so many comings and goings at the club it’s rare that we are all under the same roof. Most of the staff work out of an office area at the ground, but the maintenance team are based in the east stand while the coaching staff are usually at the training ground.

They often come to the Matchroom Stadium during the afternoons. The gaffer will go through letters from supporters, make phone calls to agents and scouts, and watch DVDs of opponents. Nuge [Kevin Nugent], the assistant manager, is never normally far from a big flipchart, where he will be sketching out set-play routines and key messages. Deardo [Kevin Dearden], the goalkeeping coach and chief scout, will be scouring through the week’s fixtures looking at which games and players need to be monitored.

It’s very lively when they are all in, though their computer skills leave a lot to be desired. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to demonstrate to them how to attach a document to an email.

It’s a tight-knit environment and, as well as the Christmas party and a trip to Ascot in the summer, we regularly do activities together. The gaffer sometimes takes us to the pub quiz while a few of us play futsal each week. Tom, our commercial manager, who sits next me at work, has even moved into the flat next door, which might be excessive.

On other occasions the office can be more desolate and the captain, Nathan Clarke, took over a spare desk last week to spend a few hours going through the paperwork for his coaching badges before an evening helping to coach the academy players.

The gaffer recovered to make the trip to Bradford on Saturday, when we were held to a 1-1 draw in injury time, having led through a quality strike by Lloyd James. It was a decent point to put the players in the mood for their own Christmas party that evening.

The players had arranged to go to Leeds to spend the fines money they’ve been saving for months. Before they headed off, I had to make a very important delivery. As you will be aware, I’ve already been a chauffeur and dog walker for the players this season and I added courier to my job description on Saturday.

I had a panicked phone call from the defender Scott Cuthbert on Friday evening after the players had travelled to Yorkshire. He had forgotten his passport to use as ID on the night out.

Fortunately, he realised that I lived close to his wife’s workplace, and wasn’t travelling up until Saturday. I was able to pick the passport up before delivering it to him in Bradford.