January to May 2015
In our last football update, Leyton Orient were currently sitting in 4th position at the halfway mark. It wasn't a bad position, but slightly below expectations for fans who were expecting at the very least promotion. Can Heskey turn his season around and gain that crucial automatic promotion spot? Let's find out.
With many clubs adjusting their squads in the January window, Heskey instead addressed injury concerns by signing Peter Ramage
on loan from Crystal Palace. The 31 year old centre back went on to play 6 games for the O's over 2 months, covering for injured defenders Shane Lowry, Mathieu Baudry and Nathan Clarke and forming a vital partnership with young Tony Leese.
Sky Bet League 1
Although Leyton had showed some glimpses of their true best in the first half of the season, the O's needed to lift a notch to secure automatic promotion. Sitting in 4th after December, Heskey's team were almost sure fire favourites to at least make playoffs but the fans wanted more. Could they deliver?
After the celebrations of a new year, Leyton Orient resumed proceedings in January
, kicking off the year in style with a 5-2 thumping of Bradford. An unusual 2-0 win over Fleetwood, consisting of 2 own goals, was followed by a stalemate with Preston and a thrilling 3 goal comeback at Colchester which saw the teams equal on 4 goals apiece. A disappointing loss to Scunthorpe spoilt the mood slightly, but Leyton hung on to remain in 4th place after 28 games.
was a month of resilience, with heads dropping as the O's dropped 3 points again, this time to Rochdale. However, the team rallied around under-pressure manager Emile Heskey and pulled off a stirring 2-0 win over Notts County, despite having 10 men for 80 minutes. On the road, they defeated Chesterfield 2-1 before dismantling Oldham 4-1 in front of the home crowd, with James Wilson scoring a memorable hat trick. The O's then professionally closed out Walsall to end a great month, which saw them rise to 3rd place after 33 games
With just 15 games to go, the promotion battle heated up in March
. With Bristol City storming to a comfortable lead, it was looking to be a race between Swindon, Leyton Orient and Doncaster for that crucial 2nd place, and whilst Leyton had the chance to move up the rankings, they failed to take it. Their first game against league leaders Bristol City ended in a 3-3 draw, but they couldn't carry the form into their next 4 games, losing to Peterborough, Barnsley and Crawley and drawing with Yeovil. The O's fans could only watch in despair as their side fell to 4th after 38 games.
Frustration reigned in March as Leyton fans feared their promotion chances were gone.
April and May
were well and truly the months of truth. 8 games for Leyton Orient to redeem themselves. Sitting 9 points behind 2nd place Swindon, Heskey needed to pull off something special. And boy did he deliver.
Game #1 - Coventry (A)
There couldn't have been a better stage for Leyton to get back on track. Coventry were just below them, buoyed on by their home crowd, and in far better form than Leyton. They proved it in the first half, making continual runs at the Orient goals and were it not for Adam Legzdins, it might not have been 0-0 at half time. After the half, Leyton appeared to get some more ascendancy in the match. Tony Leese pulled off a remarkable performance in central defence, immovable at the heart of defence, and after 75 minutes of rugged defending, Leyton Orient finally had their breakthrough. James Wilson, always deadly around goals, received the ball on the brink of the box and played a pinpoint pass to Shaun Batt to the right. The speedster initially lost control of the ball, but took a shot on the angle and managed to squeeze it in. Now bursting with confidence, Leyton forced Coventry onto the back foot, and although it was only their 3rd shot on target all game, James Wilson's 85th minute tap-in was thoroughly deserved for the O's.
LEYTON ORIENT 68 POINTS, SWINDON TOWN 75 POINTS
Game #2 - Gillingham (H)
With a morale lifting win over Coventry, Leyton were all of a sudden huge favourites to defeat Gillingham at Brisbane Road and it took just 5 minutes for the O's to take the lead through Jobi McAnuff. Darius Henderson added the second just 8 minutes later, a huge contrast from the late win earlier in the week. By the end of the first half, both McAnuff and Henderson had scored again and although Gillingham drew one back late, it was an emphatic 4-1 win to the O's.
LEYTON ORIENT 71 POINTS, SWINDON TOWN 75 POINTS
Game #3 - Crewe (A)
The ball was well and truly rolling for Leyton at the start of the Crewe match, with 2 stellar wins under their belt whilst Crewe were facing certain relegation. Perhaps it was complacency, but Leyton's game slipped and they conceded twice in the first half hour. Enter James Wilson. The 18 year old put on a masterclass in poaching, snagging 3 goals to turn the match around and give his team a vital 3-3 draw.
LEYTON ORIENT 72 POINTS, SWINDON TOWN 75 POINTS
Game #4 - Doncaster (H)
Another huge barrier awaited Leyton- the red hot Doncaster Rovers, but unlike the Coventry game, the O's had the full backing of 5,000 home fans. Brisbane Road was momentarily silenced in the 3rd minute as Harry Forrester found the net, but it would be for long as the prolific James Wilson scored twice in quick succession. He made it 3 shortly after half time, and although Doncaster managed a quick reply, the game remained Leyton's. In one of the most memorable Brisbane Road moments, veteran striker Kevin Lisbie, having announced his retirement, came on and scored a brace in a matter of minutes. Beautiful stuff.
LEYTON ORIENT 75 POINTS, SWINDON TOWN 76 POINTS
Game #5 - MK Dons (A)
Now the weight of the world was on Heskey's shoulders. Win this, and Leyton would go into 2nd. Lose, and Swindon may just run away with it. In his way was MK Dons, a ferocious side at home. Dean Bowditch sent the home fans crazy with a 26th minute goal, giving MK Dons the vital lead. As Heskey watched his team drop to 3rd on the live league table, his side lifted a cog, with some beautiful passing culminating in a simple Darius Henderson tap-in. Rejuvenated at the half time break, you just knew it would Leyton that won it- and who else but James Wilson to bag the winner?
LEYTON ORIENT 78 POINTS, SWINDON TOWN 77 POINTS
Game #6 - Port Vale (H)
The stage could not have been better set. For one, the Leyton fans were manic, for the O's had risen into 2nd, the automatic promotion spot. Second, Leyton Orient were in the form of their lives, having gone 5 games unbeaten and dispatching all who came their way. And finally, Heskey could have his personal vendetta. For he did not take being dismissed by Port Vale so lightly. His counterpart, Peter Schmeichel, could only watch in despair as his side went 3-0 up within 20 minutes. A penalty for Port Vale eased the pain, but then McAnuff added his second and Lingard scored a screamer. 5-1. And when Schmeichel managed to claw it back to slightly less imposing 5-2, Darius Henderson had the last laugh. 91st minute hat trick. You could almost taste promotion.
LEYTON ORIENT 81 POINTS, SWINDON TOWN 78 POINTS
Game #7 - Sheffield United (H)
Club icon Matt Lockwood said before the match that this was Leyton's biggest match in over 50 years, when the O's last played in the top flight of English football. It had been a 33 year hiatus since Leyton had played in the 2nd division, and Heskey now had a chance to make history. 6,205 people stacked Brisbane Road to witness something special, and when Dean Cox went down inside the box, the roof almost came off. Stand-in captain Darius Henderson converted calmly, signalling to the crowd as he went. Half time blew, and with Swindon losing, Leyton were currently guaranteed promotion. Henderson went down in the box, and to the detriment of United fans, he scored his second penalty for the night. Nothing could calm the Leyton fans down now, not even a late Sheffield United goal. For WE ARE GOING UP!
LEYTON ORIENT 84 POINTS, SWINDON TOWN 78 POINTS - PROMOTION GUARANTEED
Game #8 - Swindon (A)
It seemed so long ago that Swindon had been a full 10 points clear of 4th place Leyton Orient, that they had been in the front seat for promotion. All of a sudden, they had collapsed, losing 4 games and drawing 5 whilst Leyton steamed on. Now, faced with the uncertainty of playoffs, their fans wanted at least a win to get some momentum. Early on, it seemed that way. Michael Smith scored an early goal and Swindon seemed in control. However, as always, Leyton Orient could never be written off and Dean Cox equalised 15 minutes later. Late in the game, Swindon had held onto draw, but the O's juggernaut relentlessly attacked, finally culminating in goals to McAnuff and Leese. Leese decided to one-up his goal with an own goal, but Leyton hung on to win. The promotion chase was complete.
Sky Bet League 1 Table
To Leyton fans, it's the greatest sight they've seen in 33 years. The league may have been out of the O's grasp; after all, Bristol City were simply unbeatable and fully deserved the 100 points. But after a stunning end to the season, one of the best chases in League 1 history, Leyton Orient will finally be playing in the Sky Bet Championship once more. Magical.
The FA Cup was beginning to become intense, and we wouldn't be getting any games like the Stevenage demolition again. In fact, our next opponents, Bournemouth, might see us not playing any further part at all.
Bournemouth had all the advantages; playing at home, in form, and buoyed by the fact they were looking at promotion into the Premier League for the first time in their history. When their pacy striker Callum Wilson drew first blood, it was an expected half time lead for Bournemouth. However, just after the break, their goalkeeper Lee Camp made a rookie mistake of taking a very wide free kick. Inevitably, it landed straight at Jesse Lingard's feet, and despite being in his own half, he saw Camp stranded helplessly about 20 yards away from his goal. His 60 yard stunner was one of the best goals that year in England, and drew the O's level. Bournemouth, perhaps shocked, couldn't get the expected equaliser and in the end paid the price. Jay Simpson, injecting his pace into the game, was too much for the tired defenders to handle, and in the 82nd minute, won the game for Leyton Orient.
Jay Simpson may have been replaced by James Wilson in the first team but still acts as a brilliant super sub.
But after the 'tough' challenge of Bournemouth came the O's biggest opponents yet. Journeying into the Fourth Round with us were Premier League club Stoke, featuring the likes of Marko Arnautovic and Asmir Begovic, whilst Leyton could only really hold up James Wilson in response. In the end, the gap in quality showed. Stoke and Leyton both had 6 shots on target, and possession was almost 50-50. But the EPL team converted their chances, and the League 1 team didn't. Goals to Arnautovic, Odemwingie (2), Huth and Cameron (2), compared to a measly single goal by Darius Henderson meant that Stoke won 6-1. And they didn't even dominate the game.
He was one of Leyton's best in the first half of the season and didn't fail to disappoint in the second. In the end, the speedy young poacher scored a brilliant 36 goals for the season, but what is perhaps even more impressive is his 19 assists despite not being a creative player. Wilson even topped the league for assists and of course was leading goalscorer and assister for Leyton Orient.
Lowry made a risky move down from the Championship to join the O's and was eventually repaid with promotion back up and his best season to date. The 26 year old Aussie was a regular in defence, partnering with Mathieu Baudry and Tony Leese, and as well as being one of the best players in the league, made his international debut as a result.
Wilson's partner in crime, the big target man worked wonders at his new club and formed a deadly partnership with his poacher. The pair scored 67 goals between the two of them, Henderson contributing 31, and also managed 12 assists to finish 4th on the League tables. Despite his age, Henderson is still a great worker and although he might not be starting in the Championship he will remain as a solid back up.
Now A Word From...
The promotion, the glory is ours, and it just goes to show what happens if you don't stop believing in yourself. We were struggling to make the top 4 and then we just hit a new level, blitzed the comp. Bristol City, credit to them, they deserved first spot but we bloody well deserved second after that effort. Mentally and physically the lads put in their all, and I can't thank them enough. The Championship awaits.
Watching Leyton this season has been a pleasure, simple as that. They scored the most goals in the league and the way they played definitely showed that. James Wilson, I can't shut up about him, f**king unbelievable, 36 goals was a brilliant return from him. The rest of the team was great too and I think Emile did very well to steer this wonderful club to promotion.
I would just like to make an apology to Leyton Orient fans, for my unprofessional behaviour at the start of the season. I didn't repay the trust that the club paid in me, and the fans, and trying to force a leave was selfish. I have reconsidered and now I wish to stay with Leyton and create a lasting legacy at this wonderful club.
What a club, WHAT A CLUB!!! I knew when I bought this club that it had the recipe for success, and Emile was just the man to give it to me. It's been a terrific year for everybody involved and I think we have the capacity to improve more. This is just the start of a golden era for Leyton Orient.
Next Time on "Emile Heskey - Rebuilding The Reputation"
IT'S THE PROMOTION CELEBRATION!!!!!