Leyton Orient chairman Barry Hearn insists the O's can complete fairy tale script at Wembley (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Leyton Orient chairman Barry Hearn claims the O's could write a fairy tale script with Rotherham United win
Barry Hearn believes Orient will have written the script for a new version of the Cinderella movie if they can crown a fairytale season with promotion at Wembley on Sunday.
The O’s are just one win away from the Championship and their chairman insists victory would complete a remarkable story fit for the big screen.
Hearn said: “I’ve been fortunate to have been involved in some massive events but this would be right up there if we got promoted. To go up with this squad with the budget they’ve got, being underdogs all year, would be a Cinderella story.
“It’s a fairy story. The club is Sleeping Beauty, Russell Slade is Prince Charming and he has kissed her and woken her up.”
Hearn continued: “Fight fans will remember James J Braddock beating Max Baer and they turned this into a film called Cinderella Man. If we can go on and win on Sunday then we will have created the script for another Cinderella movie.”
Russell Slade has managed Orient on one of the smallest budgets in the division and has not spent a transfer fee on a player during his four-year tenure.
The O’s boss recently won the joint LMA League 1 manager of the year alongside Wolves’ Kenny Jackett and Hearn insists there is no one he would rather have in charge of the club.
“I can’t speak highly enough of Russell and the job he’s done,” Hearn said. “What he has achieved with a budget of less than £2m, Kenny Jackett has achieved with £20m. He gives me 100 per cent every single day and I’d love him to be here for a long time. I’m sure Russell wants to manage at a higher level but hopefully he can do that with us.
“He’s cemented his status as an Orient legend and is our most successful manager in terms of a win percentage. He has done everything I could have asked from him.
“I always believe in giving people the responsibility and time to do a job and he’s a great example of what that can get you.”
Hearn added: “You have to be prepared to go through bad times and you have to show character which this team has got in abundance.
“He is integral to that as his man management is his biggest strength. We couldn’t have a better manager because there isn’t one out there.”
Orient have been run prudently under Hearn with Slade managing the club’s recruitment through a collection of free transfers. The chairman believes Orient are an example to other clubs at this level but accepts they need to win promotion to avoid making a loss.
The sports promoter, who is preparing for two trips to Wembley with a full house attending the Carl Froch v George Groves fight at the end of this month, said: “It always amazes me how many people make mistakes in football when they overspend and lose their business intelligence. We have adjusted to the reality of living within our resources, paying our bills and not going into administration.We have played it dead straight and sometimes good guys get paid back.
“You have to plan a strategy and we are a good example in this division. We still lose money at this level but it’s virtually impossible not to unless you go on a cup run. But if we got into the Championship we would avoid a loss.”
Hearn will not forget the scenes last week when he celebrated in the directors’ box alongside the squad, in front of the supporters, following their semi-final win over Peterborough United. He insists the supporters deserve their chance to celebrate at Wembley.
Hearn said: “I don’t think anyone who has been to Orient would be able to remember a night like it. The whole place was rocking and it was something that I will never forget. It will go down in legend.
“Standing on the top of the balcony will go down as one of the top ten moments in my sporting life but I hope we can go a bit better on Sunday.
“Last week was like climbing Everest and we’re going to have to climb an even bigger mountain on Sunday.”
Orient had already sold 20,000 tickets by the end of Monday and the increased demand has led to the club taking on an extra 5,000 seats for the Wembley final.
“The support has been amazing,” Hearn said. “We sold about 8,000 tickets for season ticket holders which was nearly three per ticket. But it’s just gone through the roof at the start of this week with fans queuing down to Coronation Gardens. I think we sold 8,000 tickets online in just two hours.”
He added: “The fans have been unbelievable and helped take our average attendance up to 5,500 this season. I’m so pleased they are seeing some benefits because they are the heart and soul of the club and deserve this success.
“It seems like anyone with East End connections has bought a ticket and we just hope that they come back and watch us next season.
“It’s hard to describe what it would feel like getting into the Championship. If we could go up it would be a miracle and it would be another one to keep us up competing if we got into the Championship.”
Hearn, who has experienced the disappointment of two play-off final defeats, in 1999 to Scunthorpe and two years later against Blackpool, insists accepting the possibility of losing is part of sport. But he believes the side would respond to any setback and build on it next year should they miss out against the Millers.
The chairman said: “We have to be prepared to lose as well as win. Having felt it, I don’t want to experience it again but it can happen.
“It’s always disappointing to lose but it’s very satisfying to get there. Of course it would be euphoric if we won but you have to be prepared to lose.
“If we get beaten then we will have virtually the same squad and we’ll have to go again next year. If we get knocked down then we’ll just have to get back up again,” Hearn vowed.
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