Back to square one

The Breyer Group Stadium
The Breyer Group Stadium

Jim Nichols on another month of changes at Brisbane Road

Two months ago I wrote about Ross Embleton’s decision to step aside as Leyton Orient manager, and last month about the appointment of Carl Fletcher as his replacement.

This month Embleton is now back in charge, once again on an interim basis. It has been a very strange period. Fletcher was sacked having failed to win any of the fixtures during his tenure, lasting just 29 days in the role. The speed with which the Orient leadership team made the decision to let Fletcher go was a huge surprise, but the fact that they came to the conclusion that he had to go was not.

There were rumours of player unrest from early on and neither the performances on the pitch, nor the interviews provided by Fletcher after disappointing results, inspired any confidence that he would be able to instigate an upturn in the club’s fortunes. The shock FA Cup defeat to non-league Maldon and Tiptree, a team four tiers below Orient, was clearly the final straw.

Both chairman Nigel Travis and director of football Martin Ling have been open about their thought process and have admitted their mistake in appointing Fletcher in the first place, citing an inability for the new man to fit into the club’s unique culture.

One thing it does raise is whether anybody will be able to fit into the evidently strong culture that was forged during Justin Edinburgh’s time in charge, prior to his sudden death in June. For this reason, it is likely that Embleton’s interim spell on this occasion will be for an extended period.

There are clear issues to be resolved on the pitch. The defence has struggled throughout the season, while under Fletcher the team suddenly seemed unable to create nearly enough chances. A few players that were part of last season’s successful side have not found the step up to league football as easy as they would have liked.

It now seems more likely than ever that this will be a season of transition for the O’s. It is a tight league from top to bottom, but any promotion prospects seem a long way off. The plight of two or three other teams in the division should ensure that Orient can steer clear of any relegation worries, despite the poor run of recent form.

Embleton’s role now will be to improve the results while also helping to form a strategy and basis from which to build a squad that can challenge for promotion next season. This will require some tough decisions, but if he can make it a success, it may be him rather than a new recruit that will lead the team on a permanent basis.