Writer: Matt Diner
Date:Wednesday September 19 2007
You switch jobs, swap houses, change countries, wives even, but you NEVER alter your allegiance to your favourite football team. This is certainly the case for me and other supporters of East London`s finest and I`ve made it my task in life to spread the word (ok, I can hear you now: Get a life!).
The O`s are in my family`s genes. My old dad used to take me as a kid to see the O`s play in the former 3rd Division South. He was born in 1910 and saw Clapton Orient play at Millfields Road, Lea Bridge Road and of course Brisbane Road. He never saw their league games played at Wembley though (there was a programme for one of those matches on sale recently on eBay which went for a humungous amount of money). Dad was a one eyed Orient supporter if there ever one.
I started taking my son to watch Aston Villa as (we now live in The Midlands and my thinking was why should he have to suffer like me all these years?) But no, he wants to follow the O`s like his old man, so Barry Hearn and David Dodd, here`s another supporter for you!
I attended Parmiter`s School in Bethnal Green and many of my contemporaries (including the current British Ambassador to Iceland!) supported the O`s. At the annual reunion dinner, the air is thick with tales of the Orient from yesteryear.
After a lifetime working for a multinational chemical company which has given me exposure to taxi drivers in practically every major city in the industrialised world, I have come to realise that football is an international language spoken by sometimes mad individuals whilst zig zagging in and out of traffic.
It will surprise no-one to learn the first thing you get asked in taxis from Moscow to Melbourne, after the usual "you English?", is the health of Manchester United. Then the usual point about how great a player Bobby Charlton was. At this point, I would always tell my driver friend about the fine set of players in E10. and spread the Oriental gospel.
During one mad drive around Red Square Moscow, one unbelievably cold night in the mid 70`s, my allocated driver went through his repertoire of English teams, including, would you believe, QPR. Queen`s Park bleedin` Rangers, I ask you! I told him, through my Russian speaking colleague, that I had seen MY team wallop QPR 7-1 and 9-1, such was their magnificence (the latter was the great Eddie Brown`s debut, although I somehow forgot to mention it was a friendly game. The 7-1 game was actually the even greater Tommy Johnston`s home debut).
Jet-lagged one time in Melbourne (which has a big Greek population), I told my driver in a preamble before promoting my beloved little club, that I`d once seen his team, Panathanaikos, playing Ajax at Wembley in the European Cup Final, hoping he might show a bit of interest in the O`s. Sadly not; His response was unrepeatable in polite company. You can`t win them all.
Another time, when Celtic were having on field punch ups with certain South American players, I was in Madrid and we passed a large football ground. Pointing to the stadium (Spanish, you see, is not one of my languages), I asked my driver "Real?". "No", he replied courteously, "Athletico". Suddenly, things clicked into place in his mind. His words tailed off and then, through slit eyes and pointing a sausage like finger accusingly at me, he asked in a manner that implied I would be shot at dawn if my answer was not up to scratch: "Cel-teec?". "No," I said excitedly, hoping to engage him in pleasantries, "Orient, Orient". "OREE-ENT?", he queried, giving the impression he`d got a cross between an alien from outer space and a simpleton in his cab.
This experience was to repeat itself on many occasions in many cities. My overseas colleagues, all football fans to a man, were fascinated by my tales of following a small club up and down the country, to the extent that, even now when one is in touch, they always ask after The Mighty O`s (even if they do it with a snigger!).
In one of my braver moments, I agreed to take the company`s football team to play our German agents` in a goodwill friendly match. So far so good but when I tell you they were based in Hamburg, you will perhaps realise where this one is heading. Keeping fifteen or so virile young men, most of whom had never been south of West Bromwich, out of the Reeperbahn is no simple task.
It just so happens, on the Friday night, O`s were playing Aston Villa, in a match which should have seen us once again in the top tier (3rd May 1974). No satellite TV or mobile phones in those days so the waiting was terrible. I slipped out of the hotel somewhat surreptitiously early on the Saturday morning to go to the Central Station in Hamburg to get an English paper, only to find the so and so`s were already there, waiting for me, chanting/clapping "Orient, Orient", to the great amusement of everyone, including the good burghers of the city. So, 1-1 it ended and we stayed down, but who would have thought that, so soon after the debacle of 62/3 and the near collapse of the club, we would have got so close to the 1st Division again?
By Alan Chandler
Date:Wednesday September 19 2007
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|Leyton Orient||2||-||0||MK Dons|
|5. Sheff Utd||46||19||18||9||14||75|
|7. Leyton Orient||46||21||8||17||7||71|
|8. MK Dons||46||19||13||14||17||70|
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