Leyton Orient needs rid of Francesco Becchetti… he’s abused his power to run it into the ground

Updated: May 1, 2017

To many a modern day football fan the relegation of Leyton Orient from the Football League may seem but a drop in the ocean however, to those embedded in the beautiful game, the drop off of one of England’s longest running clubs will be a hard pill to swallow, and one made even harder given the devastating circumstances surrounding it.

Founded in 1881 as the Eagle Cricket Club, Leyton Orient would go on to spend 112 years in the Football League, making them the second oldest club in England behind Fulham, spending one season in the top flight of English football in the 1962-63 season, along with enduring a successful Cup run to the FA Cup semi-final in 1978 under the stewardship of Jimmy Bloomfield.

With more and more money being injected into the free flowing game, 1995 saw the London club taken under new ownership as sports promoter and long-term O’s fan Barry Hearn bought the club for £5million in partnership with his media company Matchroom Sport and eventually renaming the Brisbane road ground the Matchroom stadium. Times were changing and with Hearn in charge a period of success for Orient was on the horizon.

After suffering a Third Division Play-off final defeat by Blackpool in 2001, form dipped and with the club second bottom of the league in 2003, former player Martin Ling was brought in to resurrect the club. Several years of steady improvement ensued and in the 2005/06 season, Orient gained their first automatic promotion in 36 years, finishing third and ending their 11-year slump in English football’s bottom division.

Steady times followed and Leyton Orient remained solid in League One until the 08-09 season saw the team struggle for results which eventually led to the departure of Ling halfway through the season. Managerial changes proceeded and after Geraint Williams was put in charge for a season, Russell Slade was named manager on the April 3, 2010.

Having previously managed the likes of Brighton and Hove Albion, Grimsby Town, and Yeovil Town, to name a few, Slade boasted a strong and experienced track record, however the four years he spent at the East London club are what he will be remembered for most.

Originally brought in on a temporary basis halfway through the 09-10 season, he managed to keep Orient safe and out of relegation, albeit by the lonesome point, but it was the years that followed in which he endeared himself to the Leyton faithful.

After a poor start the following season, Orient hit great form halfway through the season and went on to record a record-equalling 14 match unbeaten streak before running out of steam towards the end of the season and narrowly missing out on the playoff places. Players, fans, and coaching staff kept their heads aloft however, and after two years of mediocrity, the O’s spurned on to finish third overall in the 2013/14 season, beating Peterborough United in the playoffs, marching onto Wembley to face Rotherham United in the final.

A fantastic end-to-end action-packed match followed and after 120 minutes of thrilling football, the score was tied at 2-2 with penalties being needed to split the difference. However unfortunately for Orient fans it wasn’t to be, they lost 4-2 in the shootout and it was Rotherham who were promoted to the Championship.

The club was subsequently sold to what Hearn believed was a trusted buyer in Italian businessman Francesco Becchetti, and unbeknown to all at the time, this would spell the eventual end for Leyton Orient in League football as we know it. Subsequent relegation to League Two followed and after an awkward 2015-16 season, this year has been nothing short of a disaster both on and off the field. Five managerial departures this season alone, along with hearings being brought against Becchetti for unpaid taxes, and combined with reports that staff and players haven’t been paid their wages, made the 22nd April 2017 the saddest day in Orient history as their 112 year stay in English League football was brought to an unfortunate and undeserved end.

New ownership is meant to bring with it promise, trust, and a renewed sense of optimism. But for Leyton Orient and its fans, Becchetti’s ownership brought with it anything but that. The so-called businessman has abused his power and used his own personal greed to run one of Britain’s longest serving clubs into the ground. A situation easily avoidable had proper checks been put in place has led to an injustice for the O’s and all associated with the club, but until Becchetti leaves and sells the club then it’s hard to see anything changing.

Becchetti needs rid of and whether the club are in the Premier League or playing non-League football, he will soon learn that unlike himself, it is the fans that are the heartbeat of the club and they will keep fighting day in day out until he is gone. All we can hope for is that Leyton Orient gets back to where they belong and start to rebuild as soon as possible.

By Ryan Walker

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