Fan’s View 23/23 – No.39: Orient at home

Article by Paul Beasley Tuesday, February 27th, 2024  

First the good news, the very good news. The planning application for the new stadium at The Triangle has gone in to Cherwell District Council. There will still be “bumps along the road” but this is progress indeed.

Now the bad news, the very bad news – the football. Not bumps along the road here. As I see it, more there’s a f**kin great big sink hole, let’s drive straight into it.

Oxford United 1 Leyton Orient 2

I’ve given up on this season, written it off. So hopefully I won’t get as wound up as I have been doing when we f**k up yet again between now and the end of April.

He’s not been here long so I won’t be shouting for his head and I doubt there is any credible alternative available at this point in time but I have to be honest and say I have no faith in Des Buckingham. He appears to be out of his depth and nothing he said on the radio post-match inspired me to think otherwise. Why didn’t the interviewer ask “Why have you not addressed the glaring weaknesses that were there for all to see against Northampton? What did you set out to do differently today compared to that game?” How does that saying go – the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. Actually we did get a different result here, we lost instead of drawing.

A few have said that our form was dipping when Liam Manning left and Buckingham inherited a squad going the wrong way. The facts don’t bear that out.

When Manning left we were second in the league with a record of W10 D2 L3 (71% of available points won). Of his last five games two were wins, two were draws and one was a loss. (53.3%)

Buckingham’s record reads W5 D7 L7 at 38.6% of points won. Over a season that equates to 53 points which only gets a team to just above the drop zone, or possibly not.

Lesson learned? The need to put matters right?

Didn’t Tuesday night’s shite exist in the heads of the manager and his coaching staff? Didn’t seem to as we made the same mistakes only worse, which is criminal. Absolutely criminal.

We’re not even being entertained as the team finds ways to drop points. Now we have not even got that pathetic unbeaten run to cling to. Pathetic I call it because that only brought us 44.4% of points available and that isn’t taking you anywhere.

Not one caller to Radio Oxford has bought into whatever it is that Buckingham is trying to do with this team. “Perplexed” was how one fan said he felt. You could even tell that Nick Harris was holding in some anger.

I booed at the end. Probably doesn’t do any good because I know the staff and players will be feeling hollow inside. But if I – and plenty of others – didn’t, that might be seen as tacit acceptance that we are okay with it all. Mrs FV thinks booing is wrong. Okay perhaps it is but it will always happen when people pay good money and get nothing in return. This is happening now with monotonous regularity.

The opposite of the jeering is applauding. No way did our team deserve any of that after such an unacceptable performance. Yet as I left there were little groups of supporters clapping our massively underperforming yellow shirts off the park. Each and every one of us is entitled to do what we want in such circumstance but I was sorely tempted to enquire “what the **** are you doing, has the rancid show you have just witnessed pleased you?”

My son who is usually a reasoned measure of restraint said this was worse than ever. When the visiting fans sang “f***ing useless” he joined in. I then followed. We just set ourselves up to have the piss taken. Might as well sing along and make a joke of it.

Radio Oxford caller Tim told me before kick-off: “We’ll lose this game.” Spot on Tim.

I didn’t travel to the game with any belief. This team playing the way they are under this manager doesn’t inspire belief. The opposite in fact.

Our fans tried their best but got nothing back. Away from home our supporters are passionate. In OX4 in our three sided affair that’s nigh on impossible to replicate. When there’s no sign of DB barking out instructions when the plan (if we have one) isn’t being executed or has been countered by the opposition that doesn’t help. Plan B unlikely when there’s little to signify we have a Plan A.

In the toilets just before leaving the ground I heard one fan bemoaning the fact that this morning his daughter played in a losing team and now OUFC had been beaten. Bring on the rugby he said. I’m thinking I bet you’ll get the hat-trick, England will lose. Sure enough Scotland won 30-21. One newspaper headline on Sunday described the England performance as “error strewn”.

Error strewn is a perfect description of Oxford’s performance.

Attempting miserably to play out from the back, even still in tight situations. That’s never going to work for a team so low on confidence. But what’s the alternative? We’re not much cop at getting the ball forward quickly and keeping it.

Both sides played a 4-2-3-1 formation but we often didn’t appear to have as many players as they did in the centre of the park. We ended up with less possession than Orient, played fewer passes than they did and were less accurate than they were with these passes. They also had more shots than us and more on target. Their tackle success rate was 85% compared to our 67%.

Second best at everything. A sad indictment of our direction of travel as we go seeking those sink holes.

Tim in his usual radio slot referred to us not doing the “muck and nettles” stuff. That goes alongside the soft underbelly I’ve recently been banging on about. We don’t win the battles, we don’t win the right to play and then we capitulate. We very very rarely get on top in any game for sustained periods even on our own patch.

How about instead of a day’s training the players are made to watch the Carabao Cup Final over and over again and told to focus on Liverpool’s indomitable spirit.

At present it goes without saying that the team are not playing well nor are individuals within it. Even the better ones are currently far from being standouts. None better than average. Some way below average. It’s a downward spiral with one feeding the other.

Jamie Cumming pulled off a superb save keeping out a well struck free-kick heading for the top corner but he must be wondering what he’s got in front of him.

We miss Elliott Moore massively. Taking into account games in all competitions this season our record with him in the team is W18 (53%) D7 (21%) L9 (26%). Without our captain it is W3 (30%) D2 (20%) L5 (50%).

The back line without him has been noticeably struggling. There’s murmurings again that Sam Long isn’t good enough. When our form took a turn for the worse we reeled off names who, when they returned from injury, would put us back on track. Greg Leigh was one such player. He’s clearly one of the first names on the team sheet but he’s not at the high level he was before he departed to get injured for Jamaica. Although he’s not picked as a scorer his goals have dried up. As ever, he was winning plenty of headers here but I thought this was his worst game in an Oxford shirt. Corporate hospitality wine intake said otherwise. MOTM – well they have to be made to feel important.

The temporary central combo of Ciaron Brown and Stephan Negru isn’t the strongest we’ve put out in recent times. The latter has cost us recently.

We seemed to get dribbled round so easily. As I said above our tackle success rate was 67% compared to the 87% of our visitors.

Cameron Brannagan, as always, was trying with everything he had but it was to no avail with there being no other “leader by example” on the pitch. His frustration is evident when he runs with the ball. It reminds me of primary school days when most youngsters don’t know what they’re doing. A team concedes a goal. The big kid (there’s always one) gets angry. He might not be any good but being so much larger than anyone else demands the ball and then just ploughs through the opposition knocking them all to the ground as he goes. But this isn’t the playground. This is the real thing. And we have no physical giants compared to all around us. How many have gigantic spirit other than CB?

Alongside our stand-in captain was Jay Matete. Such high hopes when he came in. He was awful here. It took him 20 minutes to get anywhere near the pace of the game. A mate posted “Matete who came with such promise is giving us absolutely nothing!” Is he anywhere near match fit?

In a game like this when the battle needs to be won before the football can be played Ruben Rodrigues comes over as someone who swans around a lot. Tyler Goodrham didn’t shine like he often does. The other wide man was Josh Murphy who has claims to have been our best player over the last few games. His pace worries opponents. Puts them under pressure, even more so if a man he’s up against is on a booking. Three minutes in Oliver O’Neil not only pulled Murphy’s shirt but refused to let go. Referee Martin Woods was on top of the situation, waiting to see if there was an advantage. There wasn’t and he rightly showed an early yellow card. Then immediately another because Murphy had kicked O’Neil. Poor discipline. The right decision but an over officious referee might have brandished a different colour.

Up front Mark Harris was an isolated figure.

None of the four subs made much of an impression. Will Goodwin had half an hour to show what he can bring to the party. He’s one of our most expensive signings of all time. Early days so I’ll say no more.

Our goal in the 20th minute was superbly worked which proves we do have the talent. Midway in our half Brannagan picked up a ball we’d defended. He fed Long to his right and as our no.2 was about to be challenged he moved it forward to Murphy. We were now actually moving at pace. Murph quickly brought the ball inside and played it forward (yes forward again) to Harris who was close to the centre circle due to the high red line. Harris’s first time angled pass sent RR, who had got beyond his marker, away. In an instant he was in the penalty area along with four teammates and four defenders. The ball whipped in was so very inviting. Tyler Goodrham now has another goal to his name for a clever flick. Lucky boy actually – no contact on the ball with replays clearly showing it was an own goal.

And that was as good as it got.

Another lead squandered.  This time we managed to get to half time still in front which was an achievement in itself the way we were playing. None of this: we can take these, let’s get at them with proper attacking front foot football and we’ll get more goals. Oh no!

Only six minutes after the break it happened. We were no longer winning.

It all started with a long Orient clearance. Brown did well winning his duel and getting his head on the ball. Matete then nodded it to Leigh who popped it back to him. Matete let it run past him but needed to stick out a foot, to get to it before George Moncur did, sending it Brannagan’s way. We didn’t look comfortable. It wasn’t easy for Brannagan and he lost out to Oliver O’Neill about 15 yards outside our penalty area. Orient got the ball out wide. Leigh went to cover and got nutmegged. For some reason he slid to the floor as he attempted to get it clear, the ball not even making it out of the area. Darren Pratley, who will be 39 in two months’ time, picked it up and laid it back. Fair play to RR who came running back nicking the ball away. There were enough yellow shirts around. Goodrham was wearing one of them. He tried a little touch. My inner voice is now screaming “someone please put your ****ing foot through the ****ing ball FFS”. Next Matete lost out in a challenge. Orient then played a couple of first time passes (that’s the way to do it) and despite us having seven outfield players in the area Moncur was free enough to score. Should Negru have done better in his attempt to block the shot?

Then 26 minutes later it was 1-2.  Very little we do seems to work out. It’s constant. It can’t all be down to bad luck. Owen Dale managed to pinch the ball in midfield but got in an immediate tangle with Goodwin. There’s no understanding. Players get in each other’s way. Away Orient went. The ball was shifted wide. O’Neill slipped it past Long to Moncur who had run free, closely followed by Marcus McGuane. Moncur then brings the ball back inside and scores. Easy easy easy. I thought MM’s effort to prevent this was pathetic. Brown went ape shit. I know how you feel mate. I still feel the same two days later even though I said I was going to let it go.

There was plenty of time left to get an equaliser. I didn’t think we’d get one let alone a winner. The score stayed at 1-2, of course it did.

Enough is enough. We’ve been here before yet still keep coming back for more punishment because we’re loyal supporters. Before the game I purchased my tickets for Bolton and Port Vale. I’d already got my Pompey ticket. If we don’t buck our ideas up we could get slaughtered at Fratton Park. Portsmouth have won six and drawn two of their last eight. That’s 20 points won. In our last eight we’ve won eight points – that’s bloody relegation form.

Leyton Orient Financial Analysis by Colin Barson

Following on from Northampton being a shorter financial analysis, this one, for Leyton Orient will also be similarly brief. The reason this time is that Leyton Orient don’t publish full accounts, but instead publish a shortened version of them, without a lot of the interesting stuff that I like to look into. They don’t go full on North Korea, with only the bare basics of their Balance Sheet available (I’m looking at you High Wycombe Wanderers!), there is a Profit & Loss, but not much of the detail that goes into it. Therefore, it leaves me with some gaps in what I’d like to benchmark against others, and one or two of the areas have a calculated extraction from that which is available. But the major numbers are there, and I’ve been able to find a few other things out too, so here it is.

Leyton Orient are currently owned by Nigel Travis, a 74 year-old Londoner, who’s spent many years in the USA and made his money with the Dunkin’ Donuts brand. He took over at Brisbane Road, or whatever they call their stadium these days, in 2017 through the acquisition vehicle Eagle Investments 2017 Limited. Eagle are registered at Companies House, so not a shady BVI or Cayman Islands outfit, which is good to see. Prior to his takeover the club were owned by Francesco Becchetti, an Italian who definitely falls into the wrong’uns category. Becchetti seems to have been a bit of a madman and his tumultuous reign ended just before Leyton Orient went down to the National League. I still remember the classless behaviour of their fans, and also their Chairman at the time Barry Hearn, when they relegated us on that awful afternoon in 2006, so in my book that was poetic justice.

Travis appears to have steadied the ship somewhat over the last seven years, with gradual, rather than spectacular, improvement, on and off the field. The club is predominantly a lower league club. Although they’ve spent 41 years above the third tier, most of them are way back in time, and over the last 50 years they’ve only had eight seasons in the second tier, with the rest being below that level and 23 of them in the fourth or fifth tier. In the time since they’ve been in the second tier, they have generally averaged 4,000/5,000 and several times less than 3,000 and have only averaged over 6,000 once, which was last season.

So that brings me onto the numbers. The club feature at the lower end of most metrics for the division and were 16th of 18 for income and 13th of 18 for expenditure. They made a loss of just over £2.3m (16th of 23) and had a negative equity of over £10.5m.

As ever the analysis is based on year ended 2022, but Leyton Orient have helpfully already published their 2023 accounts, and it’s worth taking a look at them too. They won League Two with their highest average crowd (7,844) for 45 years. So, you’d think it would be a good set of accounts, but not so. They lost over £3.9m and their negative equity rose to £14.5m, with retained earnings of a huge negative £20.7m. Their turnover hardly moved from the previous year at £6.25m, a modest increase of only £100,000. Their expenditure went up from £8.4m to £10.2m, a very big year on year increase for a fourth-tier club.

The 2023 figures make me wonder whether Mr Dunkin Donuts has got bored with gradual improvement and maybe wants to start “going for it”? The statement in the 2023 Directors’ Report is the thing that would alarm me most though, if I were a Leyton Orient fan. After one successful year, albeit one where they lost £3.9m, they talk of their stadium not being big enough and have announced a ten-year plan to move to a new stadium. Really? I mean, why on earth would they need a new stadium? After a history in the lower leagues, of 3,000/4,000/5,000 crowds and being “little Orient, every Londoners second club” it seems like they might be getting ideas above their station to me.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 27th, 2024 at 10:44 am and appears under News Items. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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