Orient in limbo during public health crisis

Orient fans celebrate a late goal against Sutton during the club's chase for promotion (credit Simon O'Connor)
Orient fans don’t know when they’ll be able to see their team play again (credit Simon O’Connor)

Jim Nichols looks at what’s next for Leyton Orient FC

With all professional football in the UK postponed for the foreseeable future because of the coronavirus pandemic, this will be a difficult time for clubs across the country.

Like many other businesses, football clubs are fearful for the future, during a period where they have no certain incoming cash for an indeterminate amount of time. For Leyton Orient this is no different, although the club has stated that it fully supports the decision taken by the English Football League (EFL) to suspend the season.

Prior to the postponement, Orient had slowly started to build some momentum in this difficult campaign. A 2-1 win against Cambridge United in their final match extended the club’s unbeaten home run to seven matches and lifted the club to 17th in the table, with their ongoing Football League status all but secured. Jordan Maguire-Drew and new signing Danny Johnson were on the scoresheet, while goalkeeper Lawrence Vigouroux made a superb save in stoppage time to ensure the O’s went away with three points.

In some sense the club can take solace from their secure league position and plan for the future accordingly, but this is of course no ordinary time. The club announced that a couple of the Orient players had tested positive for Covid-19 and so the squad has been in isolation, with no training taking place.

During this time Orient’s media team have been seeking to entertain supporters who have been missing their weekly fix of football, and came up with the idea of hosting a FIFA20 computer game tournament. Using the hashtag #UltimateQuaranTeam on Twitter, they invited other clubs to join in and soon a 128-team tournament had been created, involving football clubs from around the world! Teams from as far afield as USA and Australia signed up, while Manchester City and other big European clubs such as Ajax and Roma also got involved.

The event is encouraging donations, of which 75% will be given to the EFL to support struggling clubs, while the remaining 25% will be split between the mental health charity Mind and the World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 solidarity response fundraiser.

Goalkeeper Sam Sargeant was selected to represent Orient in the opening game of the FIFA20 tournament against a representative from Lokomotiv Moscow, however a 6-3 defeat meant Orient exited their own tournament at the first stage.