Something a bit different for you today. I talk about all of Leyton Orient’s managers under the maniacal stewardship of Francesco Becchetti. Enjoy!
Coming off the back of an incredibly successful 2013/14, Orient looked in very good shape under Slade. Fans were happy, players were happy and at the beginning Becchetti was happy to have Slade in charge. However, it turned very bizarre very quickly. Unlike the previous freak season, Slade and his teams usually start very slowly, this season being no different however this wasn’t acceptable in Becchetti’s standards. He was told by Mauro ‘I’m good at my job, honest!’ Milanese that he had a game to save his job, and a rejected approach by Cardiff despite the ultimatum rubbed salt into the gaping wound. As a result, Slade walked away from a club where he was adored and the club has deteriorated ever since.
A familiar name to the QPR fans out there, as their former left back comes in to replace Slade. He was at Orient before, signing rather extravagant names for Orient’s stature on rather extravagant wages. One case of this is Andrea Dossena. Remember him? The guy who scored that free-kick for Liverpool to beat Man Utd 4-1 at Old Trafford? That Dossena. Signed by Milanese on a £7,600 per week wage, TRIPLE the wage of any player that narrowly lost in the play-offs the season before, but I digress.
Milanese as manager was about as useful as using a fork for soup, winning two games in his 6 week tenure as manager before he was also given the boot. Oh, and his attempts at claiming wrongful dismissal at Orient also revealed his attempts at unlawfully signing kids for the Orient youth team without parental consent, while making an earner himself. Classy.
Anybody who played the early incarnations of Pro Evolution Soccer on the Playstation may recognise this name. Liverani came in when Becchetti wanted to make Leyton Orient a brand in Italy and what better way to do that than bring in a 3-time appearance maker for the Italian national team. The only problem about that? He couldn’t speak a word of English. Aided by then goalkeeper coach and future professional recruitment bullsh*tter Rob Gagliardi in translation, Liverani tried to reverse the O’s fortunes and keep them in League One.
It didn’t help when Liverani decided to bring on loanee Ryan Hedges for 45 minutes the day after he’s completed a full 90 for the Wales U21s. It didn’t help when he dropped another loanee Luke O’Neill entirely from the matchday squad for a game despite being named man-of-the-match the game before. It also didn’t help where he persisted on playing Gianvito Plasmati up top and allowing established club icon Kevin Lisbie go out on loan. Things did not improve and Orient were relegated to League Two 12 months after being two penalty kicks away from the Championship, swiftly followed by Liverani’s sacking. Unbelievable.
But never mind, Becchetti had learned that he needed an experienced manager who knew the lower leagues inside out. Step forward Ian ‘He’s one of our own’ Hendon, a manager with bags of experience. Well…if you’re counting a 16-month spell at Barnet, then sure he’s experienced.
It was looking good for Hendon initially. Won the first 5 league games of the season and got fans confident on winning the league at the first time of asking (I was so confident I put £20 on it!). But alas as we have realised over the years, it’s never that simple at Orient. Performances started to slip, drawing more games than Mourinho’s United side, and the team had to endure a ‘morale-boosting’ trip to the Marriott hotel.
Cue chants of “We’re f*cking bored” at the home game vs Exeter and Hendon was shown the door by Signore Becchetti. He may have been one of our own but Hendon was eventually on his own.
Wait a second. THE Kevin Nolan? The Premier League midfielder who had over 400 appearances in the top-flight? That Kevin Nolan? Yes, after training with Orient to keep his fitness levels up, Nolan saw an open door for the most precarious managerial job in England and thought “I want some of that!”, eventually being appointed player-manager.
On the pitch, it was hardly flawless from Nolan’s Orient but he got them playing a hell of a lot better than we’ve seen at the club for a while, winning a whopping 7 of his 15 games in charge! However, off the field there was problems with Nolan and Becchetti. Becchetti removed Nolan from managerial duties to focus on playing while Nolan wanted the vice versa if anything, while rumours of Nolan’s work ethic away from the club didn’t do him any favours, Nolan was to never appear for Orient ever again.
Not to forget Nolan drunkenly trying to start a fight with youth players at the end-of-season Star Man awards. Oh dear!
A bit of context is needed here. When Hendon was in charge, Becchetti decided to infiltrate the technical area in a drunken tirade (Surprisingly common at Orient). What happened next? He ended up kicking then-assistant manager Hessenthaler up the backside, getting himself a £40,000 fine and six match stadium ban. Yet Hessenthaler got the manager’s job 4 months later!
Like Nolan, Hessenthaler won 7 games in a near identical record to Nolan. The start of the 2016-17 season wasn’t terrible by any means although having to watch Gagliardi’s greatest Football Manager hits on the pitch every week became an eyesore for every fan going. Again, rumours of interference and a *cough* strenuous relationship with Becchetti resulted in Hessenthaler’s dismissal in September, 6 weeks after the beginning of the season. Gone in the blink of an eye.
Where the bloody hell did this one come out from?! Alberto Cavasin, an Italian manager who couldn’t speak a word of English (Sounds familiar doesn’t it?), and a manager who hasn’t managed a club since being relegated from the Serie A with Sampdoria back in 2011, ended up trying to steer HMS Orient away from the lower end of the league. Did it work out? This is Orient, so of course it didn’t. This was a man who actually believed that Zan Benedicic and Jens Janse had an ounce of footballing ability, a man who had to use ex-Middlesbrough defender Gianluca Festa’s son to translate for him in training and at post-match interviews, and a man who somehow managed to make performances even worse than under Hessenthaler earlier in the season.
So after a measly 53 days in charge, a period which covered 2 wins in 10 games and included a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Sheffield United, Cavasin was too shown the door. At least he left us with a parting message, which was nice of him.
At this point, Becchetti clearly couldn’t be bothered scouring the depths of the Italian Lega Pro for the next Antonio Conte wannabe, so he plumped for someone who knew the club inside out in Andy Edwards. Did fortunes change? Not a chance. Orient’s manager was a man who learned his coaching craft in the youth team, a developer, a nurturer. He wasn’t used to telling Ulrich N’nomo that you have to shoot to score and not do stepovers every 10 seconds. He had his rare moments of glory as well, like his wins over Crawley and Accrington as well as the latest of last gasp equalisers at home to Cambridge, but like his many predecessors it was to no avail.
When Edwards resigned to take a role at the FA’s youth setup, there wasn’t much anger in the voices of O’s fans. He earned his respect amongst the fans, especially as the club was in the midst of a serious crisis. I’d imagine in the future when Orient is back to becoming a dominant force in E10, Edwards would be welcome back with open arms by the fans. Andy Edwards: Brilliant youth team coach, not so brilliant first team manager. I’ll leave you with this ‘fun’ fact about Edward’s reign as manager…
He won as many games as Cavasin. I bet you didn’t know that one!
Some say he was an estate agent from Romford, some say he was a Billericay used car salesman. All we know is that Danny Webb was next in the hottest of hot seats at the Orient. Chosen by his proximity to Becchetti at the time and not for managerial experience, Webb was given an impossible task. No funds to buy any players, seeing first teamers exiled and even forced out of the club and a reliance on youth teamers to keep Orient in the Football League.
But he got the players working hard, something Orient fans haven’t seen since the Nolan era. Results wise, he got was expected considering the vast majority of his team was playing youth team football at the start of the season. There weren’t good moments, like the 5-0 massacre at Accrington Stanley on a Tuesday evening, the 3-0 defeat at Crawley which I insist is the worst performance I’ve ever seen from an Orient side (Bold claim given I’ve watched a 5-1 home defeat to Yeovil!), and the frantic finger-pointing that we’re used to seeing on Strictly Come Dancing.
However given our plight, the good moments were incredible. A 4-0 battering of Newport County on a rugby pitch is up there (especially as Newport fans were chanting about Webb’s coat being from Poundland), but THAT Valentines night in Plymouth, coming back from 2-1 down after 88 minutes to win is up there with Cox’s free-kick vs Peterborough in my greatest Orient moments. Webb even stood up to Becchetti’s madness! It may have resulted in him handing in his resignation, but at least he tried.
Danny Webb: The closest thing we’ve had to Stella McCartney at Brisbane Road. Although I did like his suit number at the Grimsby game.
And now we’re left with Omer. Trying to save a club depleted of morale and wage, many points behind the dotted line of survival and an even more increased reliance on youth team players (practically senior pros at this point). An impossible job if there ever was one. But he tweets regularly about his ‘lions’ and also seems a really nice guy, so there’s always a positive!
It’s hard to judge Omer’s time as manager because he was given a rowing oar to try and steer HMS Orient away from the iceberg. Anything he tried was only for pride, but amazingly we had that even more in the end than we did at the beginning of Becchetti’s reign.