In the end the O’s couldn’t quite raise their game enough against a decent Stockport side who remain very much in the hunt to join us in League One next year last Saturday; but being brutally honest, I am struggling to be even slightly down about it. Seeing the O’s lift the trophy as champions in front of another packed house at Brisbane Road was all that really mattered.
As we reflected last week (Orient Nerd Weekly Ramblings- Job very much done by our League Champion O’s!), it has been an incredibly successful season for the O’s, one of the best in the club’s entire history and one that we will look back on with great pride in the years to come.
With just one more match to play away at Bradford, there is just one final opportunity to carry on the party. With an anticipated crowd of 25,000, with reportedly more than 2,500 of the Orient faithful (© Dulcet Dave) making the trip, it promises to be quite a day out, especially if the home side are able to secure their place in the play-offs as well.
For me as a hopeless football obsessive the end of each season always seems to bring with it a slight sense of melancholy as we contemplate a whole two and a half months without the weekly routine of following our beloved team. However this year at least we will have the whole summer to continue to reminisce about the season we have had, and to start looking forward to our first campaign back in League One for eight long years. With some interesting looking away trips already confirmed, I for one can’t wait for the fixtures to be released in June so we can start planning our schedule for the next campaign.
Even before the season has ended, there has been some speculation on which players we might retain, those who might move on, and others that might be judged surplus to requirements. According to a number of reports (thanks Len Jacobs for the heads up!) we have a total of 13 players that will be out of contract at the end of the season: Paul Smyth, Omar Beckles, Jordan Lyden, Jordan Brown, Lawrence Vigouroux, Craig Clay, Jayden Sweeney, Darren Pratley, Sam Sargeant, Dan Happe, Rhys Byrne, Jephte Tanga and Sonny Fish.
Several of those names leap off the page as being players we simply cannot afford to lose, and tying the ones we know we need to keep down to new deals as early as possible is the number one priority for Martin Ling and the Board. Others that remain under contract may also attract suitors from a higher level and we need to make sure that what we are offering, both financially and in terms of our prospects for the season, provides sufficient incentive for them to stay in E10.
We also have a number of players whose loan agreements are coming to an end. It is fair to say that Idris El Mizouni and Ed Turns have made the biggest impact in terms of establishing themselves as regular starters, but any prospect of keeping them for another year will depend very much on their parent clubs. Ipswich just this week secured promotion to the Championship which feels like it could be either good or bad news for O’s fans. Will they look to recruit better quality players to bolster their squad and thereby push the Tunisian midfielder down the selection pecking order, or will they judge a player with a championship-winning season’s experience a useful addition to the squad?
Similarly, Brighton are edging ever closer to potential European qualification this year, might they see their academy centre half and Wales Under-21 skipper as much needed cover if they do enter the two games a week grind that brings? Not wanting to be too pessimistic I can’t see us keeping both players although I would of course be more than happy to be proven wrong.
We also have another four players whose loans are due to end: Charlie Kelman, Stephen Duke-McKenna, Jamie McCart and Kieran Sadlier and it will be interesting to see what the thinking is on each of those from the powers that be. Might we let them all return so that we can free up some of our budget to bring in the 5 or 6 new recruits that Richie has already spoken about? Or are there grounds for looking to extend some of their stays?
Speaking of the gaffer, it seems “silly season” has started already with rumours emerging this week that he is apparently the bookies’ favourite to be the next manager of Reading. While I am sure Richie is an ambitious manager and an attractive proposition for many clubs, does a club that has been docked points, has been under a transfer embargo and has just been relegated to League One really seem like an enticing prospect? Especially given Richie’s previous experiences at Salford and Doncaster. Equally from what Richie himself has said this season, it really does feel that he is not even halfway through the job with us, and we can only hope that he sees establishing us in League One and then potentially pushing for promotion as the next stages of his work.
Finally, the missus and I had the absolute honour of attending the Supporters Club’s Star Man awards on Monday. It was a fantastic evening and a true reminder of just how very special our club is. With many thanks to Keren, Linda and everyone from the Supporters Club for all their efforts and a truly memorable evening.
Up the O’s!