The music wasn’t blasting out quite as loud in the changing room after the game this week. Our 100 per cent record had finally come to an end after a 1-1 draw with Walsall. It was a bit different seeing the players a little despondent. Nobody was too downbeat, though; after all, we are still three points clear at the top of the table.
Our start to the season is garnering plenty of attention, and not just from the media. It may also be helping attract players. We had an unexpected visitor at the club last week when Tom, our commercial manager, got a phone call from Lottie on reception, saying: “There’s a guy down here who says he plays for Arsenal with his friend.”
Tom popped down and found himself talking to Olivier Giroud, the Arsenal forward. It transpired he had a friend with him who played professionally in France but had moved to London and Giroud was asking about the possibility of getting him a trial with us.
Monsieur Giroud was by all accounts very pleasant and mentioned that he knew some of our French players from his days at home. Tom took his friend’s details and passed them on to Kevin “Deardo” Dearden, our chief scout-cum-goalkeeping coach, though it remains to be seen whether we will be adding to our French contingent.
I also received an email from a lad claiming to be “THE MOST SHINING STAR OF IVORY COAST”, who is a “playmaker and can also change depending on the tactical needs in support of strikers”. While he “awaits a favourable response from the good respectable sirs of Leyton”, I file it in my “international players” email folder and pass his CV on to Deardo. He will make enquiries and decide whether it warrants a follow-up.
As well as dealing with such emails and coaching the keepers, Deardo, who some readers will remember playing in goal for Brentford, Torquay, Wrexham and a dozen other clubs in a busy career, coordinates our scouts. As well as monitoring potential signings, they watch forthcoming opponents and produce lengthy reports on them, detailing such aspects as formations, set pieces, and the strengths and weaknesses of individual players.
These reports are supplemented by the gaffer (Russell Slade) watching the opposition in the flesh when time allows, and also with Matt, our performance analyst, on DVD. These DVDs are precious things for us. At the top level games are filmed and streamed all over the world but in League One, though the highlights are readily available online, to get hold of a full 90-minute recording of another side can be tricky. Networks and bartering are invaluable and after a game one of the coaching staff will be on to someone they know at a club who have faced our next opponents requesting a DVD in the post. Later in the season they will be ringing someone at our end asking the same thing and we invariably return the favour.
One thing that makes our ground, the Matchroom Stadium, unique is that we have the blocks of flats in the corners. On Saturday we had a good attendance of nearly 5,500 and probably another 100 or so watching from the balconies of the flats with barbecues, beers and friends.
The club owns several of the flats, which is an asset for us as it does allow us the possibility of bringing in players and staff from further afield – like Giroud’s pal, or my correspondent from Ivory Coast – and providing them with a home if need be. Yohann Lasimant, for instance, one of our trio of French players, lives up in the flats after he hopped over the Channel this summer to join us. Maybe he’ll soon have another compatriot as a neighbour.
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