Having been a regular visitor to Brisbane Road over the past 47 years, you would have thought that by now I would have got used to the pain and disappointment of following East London’s premier team over that time.
Indeed, I always thought that nothing would ever come close to the heartache caused by the Villa game in ‘74 when we missed out on promotion to the first division by one point.
But then came last Sunday. In the end it was not so much the fact that we narrowly missed out on Championship (i.e second division) football for the first time in 32 years, but more the way it all happened.
A couple ahead at half-time and then 3-2 up in the penalty shoot-out – we basically not only blew it, but blew it twice. It would not happen to most teams, but then we are not most teams, we are Leyton Orient.
At half-time it was easy to differentiate between the not-so-regular O’s, who made up a large number of our 23,500 ‘fans’, who were happily talking about trips to Millwall and Leeds next season. The talk amongst them was that the game was already ‘in the bag’ – indeed the lady sitting next to me took a photo of the 2-0 score on the video screen, so confident was she of the final outcome.
And then there were the hardened Leyton Orient fans who, just remembering the club we supported, were simply hoping we could hang on for the next 45 minutes.
Well as we all know now, hang on we did not. In fact it’s probably fair to say that although there were technically still 11 people out there wearing red shirts for the whole of the second half, for the first 20 minutes at least, it appeared that those 11 players had not yet left the dressing room after the restart.
Indeed when Alex Revell hit his wonder strike for Rotherham’s second to bring the scores level, so dominant were they that I felt sure the Yorkshiremen would go on to win the match in normal time. It was in fact then to our team’s credit that we fought back, defended well and deservedly earned a draw at the end of the match.
And so it went to penalties. I hate it when our matches go to penalties. I always knew we would lose if it went to penalties. And we did lose it on penalties. I am going to write to the Football League requesting that our matches should not be decided by penalties. My suggestion will be that if games are level after 120 minutes they should be decided by the much fairer way that important two-legged European ties were decided in the sixties. By the toss of a coin.
Surely that should be the logical, fairest solution to resolving even games? That way nobody has to shoulder the blame – poor old Mathieu Baudry and Chris Dagnall would have been spared the nightmares they are going to have all summer about their misses in our lottery at Wembley – and another plus would be that it is all over in a flash with none of the flapping around that penalty shoot-outs inevitably bring, which just prolongs the inevitable pain. It may sound a daft idea to some, but let’s face it, it’s no more far fetched than thinking Orient could end up third in League 1 at the start of the 2013/14 season.
I fancy, however, that if the league do agree to my request I guess they will say it cannot be implemented in retrospect for this season so that I suppose we’ll all just have to accept our fate and the fact that at the end of the day, promotion was not going to be for us this year.
After the Villa game some 40 years ago so gutted was I at the end of the match that I just wanted to be left alone afterwards, and so walked the five miles back home to Chingford from Brisbane Road.
I had a similar feeling last Sunday and would have been quite happy to go back along the North Circular across London by foot, thus avoiding contact with any other human, but was eventually persuaded by mates that a pint would be the better option. (I think they were partly worried also, that should they leave me, they might find me under a double decker bus on the A406.) So now that the dust has settled what can Bazza and our-one-with-no-hair do to improve on this season and gain promotion next time round?
Well, we could maybe take the lead from other clubs as to how we can try to improve. Barry could instruct Slade to appoint a forward coach, and he could tell the great man the kind of football we should play. Maybe he could possibly give Russell £15m, so that we could sign a big lumbering centre-forward who on the few occasions when he’s not injured or suspended and manages to play, never scores.
Yes we’re all down in the dumps at the moment at Brisbane Road, but at least with the season ending so late this time round we’ve only got three weeks to wait before next season’s fixtures are out. Bearing in mind what happened this season, I guess no-one will want to face the O’s early on as we’re bound to win our first eight again.
Or maybe not. Indeed I suppose as Leyton Orient supporters we should maybe soon start looking for those four teams worse than us in the division to guarantee we stay in the league for at least one more season. Normality must surely return to Brisbane Road in 2014/15.
Anyway it only remains for me to wish all O’s fans, and of course Big Sam, a good summer and I look forward to seeing all 23,500 who supported us at Wembley last Sunday back at Brisbane Road next season.
Up the O’s.