Leyton Orient: A Football Manager story
With trepidation and a tense excitement, RealSport steps into the void left by Justin Edinburgh as manager of the historic Leyton Orient on Football Manager 2018.
For anyone who has ever had the pleasure of strolling into Brisbane Road, the home of Leyton Orient, you’ll be familiar with the meshing of history, pomp, ceremony, and dilapidated, antiquated architecture.
Perhaps I’m being slightly unkind, the ground holds a certain charm in spite of the very real need for a significant facelift.
I’m here today to meet Nigel Travis. Travis took control of Orient in June 2017 at a time when the club was managerless, had only nine players and could barely find two quid to rub together. Since then, the club has seen a decent upturn in financial fortunes and while Justin Edinburgh did a good job during his time in charge, the board and Travis have sought me out as the man to take the club to the next level.
A former player of absolutely no repute whatsoever, I have earned my opportunity to manage one of the great historic clubs of English football on the backroom of strong tactical acumen and the ability to keep a strict hand on wages and finances.
Meeting the boss
I walked into Mr Nigel Travis’ office unsure what to expect. I’d heard plenty about the grey-haired businessman but nothing really prepares you for the first time you shake hands with a multi-millionaire.
Sat at a beautiful antique mahogany office desk, Mr Travis and I worked through a brief discussion about the history and societal standing of a club like Leyton Orient and the place it holds in the local community.
Travis asked me, plain and simple, whether I honestly thought I was the right man to succeed Justin Edinburgh or whether I was worried that I was out of my depth.
I had to think for just a moment, but I replied firmly.
“Yes, Mr Travis, you’ve hired the right man. The club that was once famous for a low-budget, fly-on-the-wall documentary around John Sitton will be known for far more glorious achievements under my leadership.”
Bold words, no doubt, and without even meeting the lads, maybe I was getting a little too far ahead of myself.
The dressing room
As any manager worth his salt would know, how quickly you bring together a wide and varied group of players holds the key to success at any level.
Walking into the small, cramped dressing room facilities, I picked up the familiar smells of liniment and sweat. It was a warmish afternoon, and the boys had just been put through a quick session by the staff that had remained in Justin Edinburgh’s absence.
Every face turned toward me and all noise ceased the moment I stepped over the threshold. This was my only chance to make a first impression on my new charges. Make the right one and this could be a magical season. Make the wrong impression, however, and 2017/18 could be my only campaign as manager of Leyton Orient.
The first man on my right as I entered the room was defender George Elokobi. I remembered him from his time in the Premier League with Wolves. He was stout, muscled and stable, exactly what I’d need from my guys at the back this season.
I briefly chatted with the lads, talking about a push for promotion straight back into the Football League. To my surprise, the room as a whole was quick to agree that we really needed to expect promotion as a minimum this season. Overall, the group was positive and receptive to everything we discussed.
The hardest part of my initial chat with the playing group was a long discussion with club captain and hard-nosed central midfielder Charlie Lee. Lee had come through the academy ranks at Spurs before carving out a career in the lower leagues and he was the sort of player you build around at this level. The only problem right now was that he’d suffered a serious cruciate ligament injury and would be sitting on the sideline for 12-13 months.
The centre of the park was going to need reinforcements and quickly. Bringing in the sort of players that would fit my standard 4-3-2-1 formation would be difficult, however, given our transfer budget was non-existent and we were already spending more than our budget on wages.
With Lee gone though, I would need to shuffle the deck.
Beyond that I was quietly happy with the balance in the squad. Jobi McAnuff looked a proper player and the sort of winger that would fit nicely on the left for me and provide good service to a central man.
That central figure up front was likely going to be Irishman David Mooney. The 30-year-old had spent an entire career in the lower leagues, spending copious amounts of time in the Championship and League One and was the sort of striker who could bag 20 goals this year and drag this side back into League Two.
This isn’t going to be an easy task. Money is tight at Orient and the playing group will only be as good as the gaffer. I’m unproven. I have ideas, I have a philosophy, I’m keen to work with a young, vibrant playing group and develop the best and brightest but things don’t always pan out that way in football management.
Even the best managers in the world can end up out on their ear after a bad spell. Jose Mourinho has been sacked in the past, so while he’s busy preparing for his first season in charge of Manchester United, I’ll be on the training paddock with a bunch of knockabout lads keen to make a push up the football pyramid.
I’m looking forward to an exciting and interesting journey and I hope you’ll join me as Leyton Orient look to become the next big thing in British football.
Leyton Orient: A Football Manager story will be an ongoing feature chronicling a Football Manager 2018 save game. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.