In a new column following the fortunes of Leyton Orient, Jim Nichols is full of optimism
From May 2014 until December 2017, Leyton Orient were in free-fall. The one major cause for this was resolved the previous summer with a change of ownership, but fortunes on the pitch had continued to fade rapidly.
Enter Justin Edinburgh. The arrival of the ex-Spurs full-back as the thirteenth O’s manager in that short three-and-a-half-year period had an immediate impact. After the club’s National League status was comfortably secured last season, hopes were high for a promotion push in 2018/19. Yet the manner in which the team has taken to this task has perhaps surprised even the most optimistic of supporters.
At the halfway point of the season Orient sit on top of the league, despite a second defeat of the campaign at Boreham Wood in December, and remain on course for an end-of-season total of close to 100 points. This would usually be enough to take the title and with it an automatic golden ticket back into the English Football League. So how has this fantastic start arisen?
Firstly, stability. The new owners preached this after last summer’s takeover, and with a solid structure in place off the pitch, Edinburgh has been able to proceed with few personnel changes since taking charge. Experienced pros like Jobi McAnuff and Craig Clay have been reinvigorated while the emergence of bright young academy graduates such as Myles Judd and Josh Koroma into fully-fledged first-team squad members has enabled consistent team selections and the players’ confidence has soared as a result.
Secondly, goals. Macauley Bonne had a fantastic debut season and has gone from strength to strength this term, scoring 16 league goals already. He has been ably supported by the aforementioned Koroma. However, this is an area where Edinburgh may want to strengthen to avoid being over-reliant on a few individuals, as the goals have dried up slightly.
Thirdly, a strong defence and will to win. Orient boast the meanest defence in the division and surely there is no better centre-back pairing at this level than Josh Coulson and Marvin Ekpiteta. Results have therefore been achieved when the team has not performed to its full capability, helping to maintain confidence, while the squad’s fitness has shone through late on in games. The recent win at fellow promotion contenders Wrexham is evidence of that.
Finally, that man Edinburgh. He and his coaching staff have fostered a strong team spirit which has also found its way into the stands. If he can get through January without losing any of those talented players, and adding a crucial signing or two in attack to complete the jigsaw, then everything is in place to think that the club can still be top of the tree by April.