A look at Orient ahead of the new season...
Last Season’s Finish: 8th
Nickname: The O’s
Ground: Brisbane Road
The side’s return to England’s fourth tier began brightly with Orient winning all five of their opening league matches. But the form soon unravelled as Orient’s thin squad was exposed - a long-term injury to star midfielder Dean Cox was a big blow to the side.
Hendon was relieved from his duties at the start of 2016 and was replaced by ex West Ham midfielder Kevin Nolan - who started equally well in charge before Andy Hessenthaler took over as caretaker - their challenge for the top six petered out as the season reached it’s end.
Manager: Andy Hessenthaler
The experienced manager made nearly 200 appearances over five years for Watford, and over 300 for Kent club Gillingham as a player.
He went on to become player-manager for the side, and fans voted him the club’s ‘best ever player’ by fans in a local radio poll in 2005. He was also named ‘Gillingham’s greatest ever player’ by the Professional Footballer’s Association in 2007.
He returned for brief spells as an assistant and caretaker after three years at nn-league Dover Athletic before leaving Gillingham again at the end of the 2014-15 season. from there he joined Orient as an assistant before stepping up to the role during the last campaign
Key Man: Jay Simpson
The former Arsenal youngster netted 25 goals last season and finished the campaign as the side’s top goalscorer. Remarkably, only seven of those came in 2016, highlighting the storming start to the season from the forward.
Press View - George Sessions - Archant London
Last Season - Summary:
Last season was a rollercoaster for Leyton Orient and their fans with numerous highs and lows throughout the campaign, which culminated with a disappointing end.
It started so well with Ian Hendon winning his first five matches, but they struggled to get victories consistently after a stunning August. They weren’t helped by cruciate knee ligament injuries to Paul McCallum or Dean Cox, however, and they were made to stay in the Marriott Hotel, Waltham Abbey for a couple of days in November after a defeat to Hartlepool United.
Hendon steadied the ship and hoped to be backed in January with the squad looking thin, but he wasn’t and was sacked. Kevin Nolan replaced him as player-manager and enjoyed a fantastic start to as O’s boss. He won seven of his first 11 games in charge to take the club within touching distance of the automatic promotion spots. A run of four-games without a victory followed and unbelievably president Francesco Becchetti decided to make Nolan just a player.
The move was never going to work with Nolan not appearing again and Andy Hessenthaler doing the best he could in caretaker charge, but only getting Orient to eighth – when the play-offs were the minimum requirement at the start of the season.
The star man of the team was Jay Simpson who found the net 25 times, but struggled for goals after January. Orient missed Dean Cox badly last year and if he can return from injury with no ill effects, he’ll be key to any success they achieve.
Prediction for next season:
Orient will target promotion again and judging some of the signings they have made you can understand why. But they need more consistency on the pitch and off it, president Becchetti has to let Hessenthaler manage and then they’ll get the results they want.