All Change Yet Again, At Leyton Orient

by | Apr 12, 2016

So insane have the statistics become in relation to the hiring and firing of football managers these days that it takes quite something to cause one to perform a double-take, but somehow Leyton Orient have managed it. The departure of player-manager Kevin Nolan after a period amounting to fourteen matches over a time-span of less than three months means that the new man in the position – until, we presume, the end of this season at least, although presumption of any degree of continuity at Brisbane Road has proved to be a fool’s errand over the last couple of years – will be the seventh manager that the club has had since the increasingly eccentric waste management maestro Francesco Becchetti purchased it from Barry Hearn for £4m in July of 2014.

Of course, fourteen matches is no time period at all in order to judge a new manager’s suitability for such an idiosyncratic career path. Nolan departs Brisbane Road with a fifty per cent win ratio – although Orient have lost three of their last four games, dropping the club out of the play-off places and into the relative mid-table anonymity of eleventh place in the current League Two table – with Andy Hessenthaler replacing him in charge of the team until the end of the season. Over the course of the last twenty-four hours, news reports have given conflicting information regarding the circumstances surrounding Nolan’s departure. BBC Manchester reported that he was interested in the newly-vacant Bolton Wanderers job. Elsewhere, it was suggested that Becchetti himself was warming up to pick the team, with some rumours suggesting that he had already been interfering in areas into which he should not be involving himself.

Bolton Wanderers new chairman Ken Anderson was reported as having stated that they had identified three potential replacements for the relatively recently departed Neil Lennon, so the extent to which there might be anything in that particular rumour would seem to have been limited, to say the least. Meanwhile, a statement issued by the club’s Chief Executive Alessandro Angelieri – with suggestions by this time circulating that Becchetti may be looking to appoint head of recruitment Rob Gagliardi and operations manager Vito Miceli to take charge of the first team – this afternoon read as follows:

Everyone at the club is fighting hard to make sure we reach the play-offs this season. Whilst that aim remains within reach, we have decided that Kevin should focus entirely on his playing contributions until the end of the season. We believe that Kevin will be able to make a bigger impact on the team without the distraction of managerial duties. Andy Hessenthaler, who has been assisting Kevin over the past few months, will take charge of the first team in the interim.

Not for the first time over the course of the last year and nine months, Leyton Orient supporters may well be forgiven for wondering what on earth is going on within their club. Francesco Becchetti has already overseen the club’s relegation from League One at the end of last season – a team which, it should be remembered, had finished in third place in the league table and only missed out on promotion to the Championship after a penalty shoot-out at the end of the season before his arrival at the club – and a failure to truly be able to get grips with a tight promotion race in League Two this season means that whatever managerial changes come about within the club these days tend to be seen as symptoms of malaise there rather than a cause of it, by many.

There remains a possibility, however, that there could be more to the timing of this particular sacking than meets the eye, with it coming just days after the filing of accounts for the 2014/15 season (PDF Download) which indicate that the club’s relegation from League One, a masterclass in incompetence which came just months after the club had only missed out on promotion by the slenderest of margins, had quite a drastic effect on the club’s financial position, which is all the more surprising for the fact that the club sold one of its most-prized players, Moses Odubajo, to Brentford for £1m in June 2014. The Leyton Orient Fans Trust (LOFT) has questions regarding these accounts, which it publicly asked earlier this week:

  • How exactly have the 2014/15 losses been covered by Mr Becchetti or his family’s Leyton Orient Holdings Limited – whose Accounts filing we note is overdue- and where does this feature on the submitted Accounts?
  • We were informed in January by the Leyton Orient CEO Alessandro Angelieri that all differences between costs and operating turnover were being covered by “capital  injections” from the President that were not recallable, rather than loans. Was that definitely the case at the time of
    these Accounts, because it is completely unclear how the operating losses were covered?
  • Who are the major “Creditors: Amounts Falling Due Within One Year”, which has increased by £3 million to over £6 million?
  • Will Leyton Orient’s minority shareholders receive a fuller set of accounts showing summary profit and loss and a more detailed balance sheet than the abbreviated accounts?
  • Will Leyton Orient’s Directors be holding a shareholders’ meeting to explain the financial situation and outline future plans of the Club’s majority shareholder? LOFT firmly believes Directors of all senior football clubs should make their financial decisions and objectives clear, and that the custodians of the Club must be financially open and
    accountable to their supporters on a regular basis.
  • In light of the unprecedented increase in operating losses last season, what is the projected loss for 2015/16, and what planned budget will be sanctioned for next season (whatever League we are in)?
  • Will the Leyton Orient President, Francesco Becchetti, meet with fans’ representatives and/or shareholders to answer questions & discuss his stewardship and objectives? Despite many repeated requests from us, and repeated assurances from his representatives that this would happen, he has completely avoided doing so to date.

All good and entirely fair questions. After all, Leyton Orient has been a member of the Football League for coming up to one hundred and eleven years. This might sound unremarkable to some, but at a club where trophies and excitement have been thin on the ground over the years that record is one to be proud of, and while relegation from League Two is off the menu for this season – in fact, the club is still only two points off the play-off places this season and could well yet get promoted – but financial losses have a tendency to precede budget cuts and a narrow division with a salary cap is not a place to be if the budget of your club does tumble over time.

They are, however, questions that those who are currently claiming to run Leyton Orient may not be particularly happy to answer and, whilst it feels like a stretch to believe that the club would go to the trouble of getting rid of a manager less than three months into a two and a half year contract to provide distraction from terrible financial results, the truth of the matter is that the tenure of Francesco Becchetti has been so filled with oddity that there are few who would genuinely be surprised if it ever did emerge that this was, indeed, the case. Becchetti should, of course, stay well away from the dressing room and the training ground. Purchasing a football club, put simply, doesn’t come with the right to have any say whatsoever in the what happens on the pitch. With the appointment of manager number seven, one can only reasonably ask two questions: what will to take to get Francesco Becchetti to alight the managerial merry-go-round? And what state might Leyton Orient be in by the time he decides to step off?

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