The O Zone: The gaffer was too ill to take charge but still sneaked out to watch

Life behind the scenes at Leyton Orient

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The Independent Football

This week illness hit the Os camp. It's that time of year and unfortunately in football clubs infection can spread quickly with people training, showering and eating together. The training ground was a quieter place than usual when I popped in on Thursday as half the youth team had been sent home and a couple of the first-team lads were struggling.

Given the ease of a bug spreading and the need to keep everyone in a small squad fit, every precaution is taken, right down to not allowing goalkeepers to room together on away trips in case one gets ill then infects the other.

In addition Lee Southernwood, our head of sports science, gave a presentation to all the players and staff about keeping healthy in winter. It included all the basic things, such as the importance of washing your hands and eating plenty of fruit and veg, through to different vitamin supplements the players should consider taking.

Unfortunately by the time Saturday's FA Cup tie with Walsall came around, our defender Scott Cuthbert had gone down with a virus so he missed out. Dean Cox was also struggling but managed to play and ended up scoring the winner.

One key man was missing though: the gaffer, Russell Slade. I'd spoken to him on the phone on Friday evening and he hadn't sounded himself. Then on Saturday I arrived at the ground and was told by our assistant manager Kevin Nugent that he'd be taking the match as the gaffer was ill.

However, just as we were getting ready for kick-off, Matt, our analyst, said to me: "Have a look over there," and pointed towards the flats in the corner of our ground. As I've mentioned before, the gaffer lives in one of them. His flat doesn't have a view of the pitch, but on the top floor is one occupied by our midfielder Johnny Gorman that does. The gaffer had borrowed his keys and you could see him, sitting on a chair, silhouetted in the gap made by opening the patio doors. He was even wearing his lucky baseball cap.

Nobody really clocked him until Dean scored and all of a sudden the patio doors flew open and the gaffer came careering out on to the balcony to celebrate!

Elsewhere this week it was good to see the age-old tradition of players singing to their new team-mates as an initiation is alive and well. On Tuesday we had a curry evening for charity organised by one of our commercial partners, the Star of India in Leytonstone. The restaurant put on a singer for the night who belted out the hits, but he didn't top the bill.

Normally the players' initiation song will take place on the first overnight away trip after they've joined the club. On Tuesday, though, Dean Cox decided it was as good a time as any to nick the microphone off the singer and get Robbie Simpson up to sing.

Simmo was probably the first player ever to do his song in front of a fully booked Indian restaurant, but got a standing ovation for his recital of MC Vapor. His MC-ing was something to behold and is well worth a watch on