The O Zone: Soup and sandwiches and a hard-earned point make Molineux a grand day out
Life behind the scenes at Leyton Orient: What we lack in numbers, we make up for with character
Monday 30 December 2013
It's unlikely that anywhere else in the world would you get 28,598 people turning up to watch a match in the third tier, but that was the case on Sunday when we travelled to Molineux for our much-anticipated top-of-the-table game.
It's one of the magical things about League One; one week you can be travelling to a side that averages attendances under 3,000, having clambered through the non-league pyramid, the next you find yourself at Molineux, which was a Premier League stadium two years ago. It's one of the games you look for straight away when the fixture list comes out.
For staff and fans alike, the match-day experience varies as a result. At some grounds you won't meet a soul from the opposition and be lucky to get a lukewarm tea. Which makes you that bit more determined to enjoy the Molineux days when they come round, with their warm press rooms offering sandwiches and soup. I got there a bit earlier than normal on Sunday and was given a warm welcome and even a tour on arrival by a particularly helpful steward.
The players usually arrive about 1.30pm and, while I was being shown around, they were going through the usual ritual of walking out of the tunnel, headphones on, to look at the pitch and have a flick through the programme. The atmosphere was more subdued than normal as Molineux looked enormous and we'd learnt the game was a sell-out, yet it seemed scarcely possible that all of the black-and-yellow seats would be filled by kick-off.
For the players, the facilities on offer don't seem to vary as much from ground to ground, as most away changing rooms are fairly basic. Ada the kitman brings all they need and is the first to arrive to lay everything out, from socks to chewing gum. That means the rooms look much the same when the players arrive, it's just the size that varies – and the Molineux one was roomy. Others, you might be surprised to hear, are not really much different to Hackney Marshes.
We are down to the bare bones in terms of players at the minute, as the busy winter period is starting to get the better of us. With four of our key players missing through injury or suspension, and a fifth casualty in the form of Romain Vincelot coming off with a knock at half-time, the squad is particularly stretched. Like many smaller clubs we lack depth.
This provides opportunities for others, though, such as Jake Larkins, our 21-year-old goalkeeper, who enjoyed his Christmas dinner, having never played a professional league game, yet four days later found himself starting in front of a full house at Molineux.
The disparity in resources was underlined when the team sheets came out. Our subs' bench contained five players who have never started a league game for us, including three youth teamers. The Wolves' bench was a tad more daunting with a host of internationals on it – including Kevin Doyle, Wayne Hennessey and Leigh Griffiths.
Nonetheless, one of the other magical things about League One is that any of the teams can give each other a game. One of the gaffer Russell Slade's favourite sayings is: "There's no such thing as an easy game at this level," and this is reflected in the fact the intensity of preparation is the same every week, regardless of who we are playing.
What we lack in numbers, we make up for with character and despite Wolves coming flying out of the blocks and going in front after four minutes, we held on and came back to snatch a point, which gave our 2,000 travelling fans something to smile about.
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