There has been so much for Orient fans to cherish this season but their supporters have been the most long suffering in London football history according to a new study.
The Fan Suffering Index table for all 92 League clubs was commissioned by the makers of Warren United, a new animated sitcom on ITV4 later this month, about a diehard fan of a perennially struggling football club.
The show’s producers commissioned the statisticians at the English National Football Archive (ENFA) to compile a "Long-Suffering Fan Index". ENFA’s top "stattos" crunched data from 220,000 match results since the first Football League season in 1888-9 to rank the current 92 Football League clubs by their lack of success, weighted by extra factors including the size of their average home crowds.
Longstanding Orient fans – who include the musician Julian Lloyd Webber and TV presenter Bob Mills – may feel their suffering goes all the way back to 1881 when the team was founded by Glyn Cricket Club, but in fact things only became really grim for the O’s when they joined the Football League in 1905.
Nonetheless, they still top ENFA’s London suffering table with a "Long-Suffering Fan Index" rating of 62.83, ahead of AFC Wimbledon in second with 62.45, and Dagenham & Redbridge in third, with 58.51. Arsenal, by comparison, prop up the London table with just 30.22. Orient came ninth overall in the national rankings.
In their first season in the league, Orient finished rock bottom of Division Two, after only managing to win seven of their 38 matches.
After years of mediocrity interspersed with abject failure, the club’s fans finally had cause to celebrate when they were crowned Division Three (South) champions in 1956. Then, in 1962, the East Enders enjoyed an even bigger knees-up when the O’s were promoted to the old Division One – to this day, the greatest moment in the club’s history.
Orient’s stay in the top flight was short-lived, lasting just one season, as the O’s finished bottom of the pile ten points behind the next-placed club, Manchester City. Since then, it’s probably fair to say that life has not been too kind to them, with the nadir coming in the mid-1990s when they failed to win a single away match for close to two years.
The show's co-writer Simon Nye said: "Orient fans have followed their club through... thin and thinner. They are true fans."
In compiling their index of fan suffering, ENFA’s statisticians factored in data on everything from domestic league and cup honours won (giving different weightings according to the importance of the competition) to average league position, promotion and relegation, and progress each season in the FA Cup.
They also weighted the results according to average home attendances, so the index was not merely a measure of on-field success or lack of it.
European competitions, however, were not included – some comfort perhaps for Orient fans, who still await the day when their club takes the field against the elite of Europe.
Ironically, Orient fans are, at least for now, probably just as happy as those of Arsenal. While the Gunners have an FA Cup final to soften the blow of seeing their title hopes fade in recent weeks, O’s fans can also look forward to some knockout drama in the play-offs, which could well bring them promotion to the Championship.
Fans wishing to see the results of all the clubs can find them at firstname.lastname@example.org.