With our game at Mansfield last Saturday having fallen foul of the weather (the only one in the top five divisions of English football as far as I can gather- conspiracy theorists make of that what you will!), it left something of a gaping chasm in the life of Orient obsessives. Especially considering that we are now well and truly entering the business end of the season. As I said last week though, we can only hope that Richie and the players benefited from the unexpected rest and additional time on the training ground.
The football-less void was filled to a small extent by the Q&A with Nigel and Mark Devlin that the club aired on its Youtube channel on Tuesday evening. Amongst a wide range of topics covered the most heartening, well for us traditionalists (old farts?) at least, was that Nigel confirmed that in the debate around whether in the future we might need to move to a new stadium or redevelop Brisbane Road, the board are almost in agreement that staying put is the best option, at least in the shorter-term, reiterating: “Most of us are very reluctant to move. So we’re trying to work through all that. But don’t expect us to be moving stadium anytime soon. And what we’ve got to do is to make the best of what is our home for many years in Brisbane Road.”
The ongoing crowd management issues with our home for the last 86 years have been well-documented, and frankly anyone who has been to the place for any of the recent “sell-outs” will be only too aware of its limitations, especially in the East Stand; but moving out of the area, most likely at great expense in terms of financing a new stadium, seems to me a risk we do not necessarily need to take at this point.
As was discussed on Wednesday evening’s Orient Hour (@theorienthour), the issues with our quirky old homebase are only really coming to light this season, in which we have topped the league since the very early months, have been playing some exciting and attractive football, and there is a feeling that something really special is starting to happen at our beloved club.
If (and like all other O’s fans I am staying very much of the “if” persuasion) we do go up and find ourselves in League 1 next season, we are highly likely to find the going a lot tougher and probably won’t get off to the kind of start to the campaign that we have this time around. As a result, we may not have the same appeal to more casual supporters that we have enjoyed this season. Therefore, Brisbane Road would likely prove adequate as we (hopefully) look to consolidate our League 1 status over the next two or three seasons.
If we ever get to the stage where it looks like promotion to the Championship might be a real possibility, that would be the time to worry about our limited stadium capacity. While we would have one of the smaller grounds in the third tier, it wouldn’t hold us back too much as long as we address the more immediate issues around crowd management and improving the facilities.
Turning back to matters on the pitch, next up is the visit of Colchester United tomorrow afternoon. It is probably fair to say that the U’s haven’t enjoyed the type of campaign that they were perhaps hoping for: they currently sit in 20th spot and have managed just two victories in their last ten matches. While of course we shouldn’t take anything for granted, especially given our recent difficulties in making our domination count, this feels like a game in which we really should be taking all three points.
After Saturday’s match there will be just ten games remaining (scary I know!) with four of those (Hartlepool away, Harrogate home, Gillingham away and Crewe home) coming against teams currently languishing in the bottom eight of the table; whilst perhaps our two toughest remaining tests against Carlisle and Stockport are both at home. It is also worth noting that Stevenage still have to play Carlisle tomorrow and Northampton at the beginning of next month, with Carlisle and Northampton meeting just after Easter.
While Stevenage’s midweek win over Crewe and Northampton’s victory at home to Mansfield cut our lead at the top to 6 points and the safety net for automatic promotion to 9 (although the Cobblers have played one more game), as we said last time our destiny remains very much in our own hands.
In other news, wasn’t it really heart-warming to see a total of four O’s: Richie Wellens, Paul Smyth, Omar Beckles and Lawrence Vigouroux nominated for prizes at the London Football Awards on Monday evening? A huge congratulations to Smudge for thoroughly deservedly being crowned EFL Player of the Season, and to the gaffer and Vigs for only being beaten by Arsenal representatives who it has to be said are not exactly having a poor season themselves. Another clear indication of just what a splash Orient are making with our performances this season, although we all know there is only one prize that we truly want come the end of this season.
Up the O’s