Factfile #1: Leyton Orient
Throughout the coming season, new writer at Vital Walsall Dan Malin will be taking a closer look at the 23 other clubs with whom we currently share our beloved division. With Saturday fast approaching, he starts with our familiar foe and first opponents Leyton Orient.
The club`s name is one of the most distinctive in English football and there are few who do not know it, but where did it come from? Formed in 1881 with the intention of playing football during the winter to keep fit, the Glyn Cricket Club did not become Orient until 1888 after the name was suggested by a player who worked for the Orient Shipping Line. They later became Clapton Orient to try and entice the wealthier residents of Clapton to support the club.
As well as their distinctive name, Leyton (Clapton at the time) Orient is also well-known for their incredible bravery during World War 1. Following the outbreak of the Great War, all 41 members of the playing and club staff enlisted in the British Army together. They were the first club to enlist together and they gave more men to the cause than any other football club. On the last day of the 1914/15 season the Clapton Orient team beat Leicester Fosse 2-0 before being given a hero`s send-off. Tragically, it would be the last football some of them would ever play and 3 players lost their lives in defence of their country, with a further 13 being wounded. The effort made by the bravest football team in the land remains etched in history and the graves of the 3 footballing heroes have become something of a pilgrimage for O`s fans who want to pay their respects at the Thiepval Memorial.
Nearly 20 years later, World War 2 brought financial hardship and this was when Clapton Orient became Leyton Orient, following their move to Leyton. They maintained a steady, if not spectacular, existence until reaching the pinnacle of their history in 1962. They finished 8 points behind Champions Liverpool to gain promotion to Division 1. The bubble unfortunately burst after just 1 season in the top division as they plummeted out of the top-flight, ten points adrift at the bottom of the table.
Since then, successes have been few and far between but they did record their best FA cup performance in 1978 when they reached the FA cup semi-final, losing 3-0 to Arsenal at Stamford Bridge. During the 80`s they found themselves in the football league`s basement division and this is where they remained throughout the decade until a rare play-off final victory saw them promoted to the third tier of English football. They made steady progress until the mid-90`s when Chairman Tony Wood lost his coffee-growing business in the Rwandan civil war and it looked as though the O`s would go bust. The club were relegated to the lowest tier of English football and it was left up to, sports promoter and current chairman, Barry Hearn to save the club. The heart-break of 2 play-off final defeats, in 1999 and 2001, were finally healed in the 05/06 season as the O`s secured promotion with a dramatic late winner at Oxford United to league one. The goal that sent Orient up was also the goal that ended Oxford`s 44-year spell in the football league and the bitter pill was all the harder to swallow as it was Lee Steele who scored the goal, just 2 years after the striker joined Orient from Oxford.
This season marks their 5th successive season in the third tier and the only way is up for the O`s. Although, they may not be the most successful side in British football, they are by far one of the most interesting and they will no doubt continue to add to their colourful history.