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John Sitton: Orient For A Fiver (Warning: Explicit Language)

Former player, former manager. John Sitton is back at Leyton Orient, and he's bought the club he loves with a £5 note.
Started on 7 May 2014 by fmhunter
Latest Reply on 9 May 2014 by Northwood
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fmhunter's avatar Group fmhunter
9 yearsEdited


I cast my mind back to when I was a baby, and my Dad used to take me to the Arsenal. And I cast my mind back to the early 70s, and the days of the great Leeds side, and they were saying about the catalog of games; 65-75 games a season. And they asked the captain Billy Bremner about it and he said: "Well, when you're winning, you're not tired. You don't get tired, when you're winning".

Now what I'm saying is, the amount of work that I'm going to put in to this football club, the amount of work my players are going to put in, when the results do go the wrong way like they have done for the best part of 40 years - that coupled with the fact the amount of work we're putting in anyway, possibly the work of five people between three of us, the work of six people between four of us, you find yourself and all you're doing is sleeping. And the most important people are on a family photograph sat on top of the fireplace at home, the most important people, are the ones that suffer. So we all need energy, and we'll find it from somewhere...we'll find it from somewhere.

I didn't quit as a player, and I ain't gonna start quitting now. I got a living because of that, I got a living out of football because I never quit. I ain't gonna start quitting now.


My name is John Sitton.

Between 1985 and 1991 I played 174 games in a Leyton Orient shirt - I played for the football club I love as much as my three kids. To the average Joe, that might actually sound sick and twisted - but they say you can't help falling in love, and I couldn't stop and never will stop my love for Leyton Orient Football Club.

After I finished playing in 1994, Orient were enduring horrendous financial difficulty. It was so bad, they hired me and my then co-manager Chris Turner to turn around fortunes on the field. Trust in me, there has never been a more difficult job in football. We had to strip back the foundations and start again. An 18 man squad and two coaches. 18 players who didn't know what it meant to wear the Leyton Orient shirt, and it made me feel sick.

We succeeded in management of O's, we did. I remember, like it was yesterday. We've two games to go, we need 4pts to avoid relegation and save the club from inevitable liquidation. Imagine that pressure? It's unbearable. I didn't sleep a wink for at least 3 weeks, and neither did Chris. The players? Slept like babies. Because they didn't understand what Leyton Orient means to the fans - Leyton Orient to them was wages, not heart.

We salvaged 4pts from the final two games. Orient were safe in the Second Division for another year, and so were the books.

Unfortunately, during this deeply distressing and stressful time at the club - we were being filmed by a local wannabe journalist who was creating a documentary about how Leyton Orient was bought for a fiver by Barry Hearn - after then owner Tony Wood did his best to run a circus and the club into the ground.

These half-time team talks from myself being broadcast on Channel 4 got me the sack after keeping Orient up.



18 years later, and having not managed a football club since, I am back.

Finances are still dire, the players not much better. But trust in me, I will go to hell and back before I see this club fail any more. I'm still positive, of course I'm still positive. On my three kids, I love Leyton Orient Football Club.

I'll tell you what's gone before, it's airy, fairy, fantasies. That's what's gone before. I'll tell you all now, if allowed, something can be built at this place. But there has got to be an element of realism about it.

I've only brought back two things from my time in charge the first time round in 94/95 - and that's the dodgy tracksuit, and a sign for the dressing room wall. It reads: 'Nothing Great Was Ever Achieved Without Passion and Enthusiasm'.

Truer words, never spoken.
gripping start

Also the first story i will have ever followed good luck :)
Thanks mate - welcome! Hope you enjoy the site :)
Got to love another Leyton Orient story and cannot wait for more of your rants.

Chapter 1

I'll take you back to the night I decided that this was what I wanted to do again.

Football management, a cruel yet financially rewarding job to be bad at - should you be lucky enough to manage a team in the Championship or higher and get the sack with two and a half years let on your contract. Down with the mighty Orient, in the third tier of English football where they've wallowed for a space age, if you get sacked you need a new job - as the pay-off ain't gonna put food on the table for a wife and three kids.

I was sat at the bar in my local boozer, 'Coach & Horses' (the favourite boozer among Orient fans and the one I went and got hammered in when I lost my job), when the barman said:

"You like the Orient?"

"Leyton? Love 'em to bits mate." I said with a proud look on my chops and a quick tingle down my spine as does happen everytime I tell someone who I support. That's love.

It was at this point he'd been scrolling through the news on his phone and told me that current Orient manager Russell Slade had resigned citing personal reasons before the start of the 2013/14 Third Division campaign. I was almost lost for words, the young lad behind the bar (though I'm sure of legal age) hadn't the foggiest clue who I was - but seemed so pleased about Slade's departure.

"I love the excitement of getting a new manager in, all the names branded about. It says here Edgar Davids might fancy it! Imagine that!" he said.

Yeah, imagine that. A superbly decorated Champions League winning Dutch international footballer who resigned from Barnet because basically the standard was p*ss poor just like it would be in League 1 - and besides, just because you were a brilliant footballer will not make you a brilliant coach or manager.

I excused myself from the conversation and took myself outside. I lit up a cigarette, pulled out my phone and punched in the number for Barry Hearn - the owner of the club, who sacked me 18 years ago after buying Orient for a fiver.

"Barry? It's John Sitton."
"Bloody hell, how are you?" said the owner.
Wow, really nice start. Loving the update style, really interesting so far and love the cliff hanger.

Also #Edgar4assistant ;)

Chapter 2

18 years of suffering. I'll not hide it, I turned to black cab driving after Orient because the documentary slaughtered my profile. For 14 months after I got the sack, I applied for over 30 jobs in the Football League and Conference. I'd say 75% of them, I never even got the courtesy of a reply. Nobody wanted to know me. Most excuses were about player power, lads wouldn't sign for a club where John Sitton is coaching. Imagine that feeling? OK, I lost the plot at half-time, I regret it. But for it to change my life in such a way - I was exiled from the game and there was nothing I could do.

Now, though, with Russell Slade leaving there is a vacancy back at Orient. I rang Barry and we had a chat. It took a lot of persuasive language for me to even get him to think about taking me back - when finally he invited me to an interview.

It's the morning of the interview, 09:18 to be precise, interview starts at 10:00 down at my old stomping ground - Brisbane Road. I arrive at the ground 15 minutes early, best suit on and a 36 page portfolio on how I can turn Leyton Orient around - realistically.

I'm watching the clock as it ticks towards 10:00, and with every tick I grow more nervous. I haven't done this for 19 years, the cab driving job was handed to me so interviews are a thing of the past as far as I'm concerned. But not now.

"John? Barry is ready to see you now." said a kind looking woman, blonde mid-forties, if I was single I would - that sort.

I picked up my briefcase and calmly knocked on the door. There was a plaque reading "Barry Hearn - Owner" upon the frame, the door swung open.

"John! Long time no see old friend."

"Not as old as you Barry, that's the main thing.". As far as opening lines in a job interview go, I think this was probably up there with the worst. Nevertheless, I opted for Scotch over coffee, settle my nerves a bit. After we'd got around the issue of me having to clarify that I'm not an alcoholic, drinking at 10:00 in the morning, we got down to business.

He told me that the club had received 28 CV's in a day, some from high-profile football league managers. Phil Brown, Tony Adams and Edgar Davids were the three that were apparently 'leading the way'. I wasn't sure what to make of that, but all I could do was be myself and try to talk about the club I love in a passionate and knowledgeable fashion - which I think I did.

We discussed finances, players coming in and out, my day-to-day involvement within the club and finally - a contract. I did not think that this would be happening in the first interview. To put this into perspective, I earn around £25,000 a year driving a black cab. Barry has just slid a contract under my nose with £98,800 per annum written on it. Unfortunately, there wasn't a pen along with the contract, but he said he felt the interview had gone well and he would let me know of the outcome with a phone call in the coming days. Davids and Adams were yet to be interviewed.

I left through the front door, things have changed at this club, for the better. Swanky inside, fresh on the out - I had a good feeling about it, and I was beside myself with nerves. This job could change my life, forever.

All I want is the phone call. I climbed back into my car and drove for 5 minutes back to my house, where I waited all night and all day, for three days.
Fantastic start mate, good luck with Orient, hopefully you do well :)

Chapter 3

I was walking out of my front door to go and work with the same black cab I've driven around London for 15 years, when my phone rang.

Every time it rings I go crazy with excitement, hoping to god it's Barry Hearn from Leyton Orient, it never is. Though this time, I pulled my mobile out of my pocket and the cigarette falls out of my mouth. I was gobsmacked, three whole days on from the interview and Barry Hearn is ringing me, I was so excited I actually forgot to answer, which enraged me, almost as though just because I couldn't answer the phone a job offer would be rescinded.

It rang again, 'Voicemail' appeared on the screen. I pressed the green button and listened in.

"John, it's Barry. Give me a call back mate, we need to talk."

What does that mean? We need to talk? My mind was racing - my black cab shift starts now, I should be doing a pick up on Thornhill Road...oh forget it.

I rang him back, and he picked up after ringing out twice.

"John! Was beginning to think you didn't want it!"

"Want what?" I said, trembling with a mixture of nerves and anticipation for what this phone call was to hold.

"The job you ruddy muppet, cleaner."

"What?!" I exclaimed.

"Oh sweet mother of Mary, John, you are the new manager of Leyton Orient Football Club. Come down to the ground now please mate."

Sh*t. I can't believe it, I've done it! I'm back in the game! Back at the Orient, the club I adore!

I tore down Oliver Rd at about 50mph over the limit in a black cab - I ran in through the front door, not even noticing three reporters trying to get my attention as I flew past. Stood before me were a crowd of people I'd never seen before, then again why would I have? They all seemed intent on introducing themselves, name first then role within the club - they were so nice and encouraging and seemed so pleased to have me back at the club. Some were quoting lines out of the viral YouTube video of the rant that got me the sack and laughing - that kind of got to me, I want that to be a thing of the past.

Then I clocked Barry, grinning from ear to ear, he walked over, firmly shook my hand and then softly spoke words that made me well up:

"Let's get cracking. Welcome, to Brisbane Road."

First up was a picture on the touchline, holding a club scarf and then of course the standard Leyton Orient shirt picture with ' 1 Sitton' on the back. A quick interview with a raft of reporters and then back to Barry's office.

He had Sky Sports News on, who happened to be reporting the story of my return. It was just footage of my breaking the speed limit on the club car park and bolting it in through the stadium doors - admittedly it might take me a few weeks to get back into the swing of things.

All he wanted to discuss was staff, and immediately I requested that I sign my own assistant manager - and so on the spot an email was fired off from Barry's laptop to Kevin Nugent, notifying him of his contracts end. It then hit me, I need to replace him. Who?!

I spent a total of 7 hours working with Barry, discussing budgets and players etc, and I approached ex Scotland and Premier League goalkeeper Craig Gordon to come and be player/assistant manager at Orient - he accepted and is set for a medical in the morning.

Goodness, it feels good to be back, and that £98,800 a year will not be wasted. Tomorrow, I will meet the players - hopefully they are a better bunch than the set of heartless cockroaches I had 18 years ago.

As I was leaving, there was a phone-call interview playing on Sky Sports News between myself and Jim White - underneath my picture, it read 'John Sitton - Leyton Orient Manager'. Never have words ever looked quite so sweet.
I like the start and good luck!
Wow man, this is a really good story so far! :)


Pre-Season Results


Coaching Staff Changes

On my first day back, the club terminated the contract of current assistant manager Kevin Nugent, as I had requested that I bring my own in. This request was granted and after Craig Gordon failed his medical, meaning he couldn't sign as Player/Assistant Manager, I held talks with a lad who played for me at Orient in 94/95. Colin West has great knowledge of the club as I do, he played for us for 6 years and established himself as a favorite amongst O's fans. So, we are the partnership. Forget 1994's Sitton & Turner combination, now it's Sitton & West.

I moved to bring in a better goalkeeping coach too, and having sold our number one in pre-season I thought we could kill two birds with one stone, appointing the vastly experienced Northern Irishman Maik Taylor as Player/Goalkeeper Coach. The 41-year old stopper has been a real asset to the club on the training ground and we hope he can perform his way into my starting XI.

The final change to the coaching staff includes the biggest name. 29 year old first team coach Brandon Hayes and I met up over coffee in my office, where he was told that his contract had been terminated. He agreed to do so mutually and we parted ways at that moment. We needed someone who could coach the young strikers to a high-level and someone has a great knowledge of the game at the highest level, and so former Manchester United, Blackburn and Newcastle striker Andy Cole was appointed 'Team Coach' a day later.

I'm happy now with how things look on the training ground.

Sitts' Summary

I was out of the game for 18 years, not months, years, which has obviously made things a little trickier now I'm trying to settle in. Players change, there are more wimps than hard-nuts, and so I've signed Gary Jones from Bradford, a real no nonsense fella who will give it you on the training ground if you're not 110% committed. The players have had a month to get to know me now, and we're getting on well. With the outgoing players I have already made the club financially secure, but with the signings made we can still easily challenge for a place in the top 6. We are all now looking forward to getting into the first game of the Sky Bet League 1 term against Carlisle, after going unbeaten throughout pre-season.

All the best,
loving the story. hopefully you can carry the unbeaten form into the league
This is some excellent writing and very true in tone to Barry Hearn. Keep it going and good luck with the upcoming season.

Give Shaun Batt a chance on top. He might surprise you. :)

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