By Adam Virgo
IN a year clouded by uncertainty at Leyton Orient, there is one thing you can pretty much guarantee – this next managerial appointment will undoubtedly be the biggest in the club’s long history.
Whoever takes over at the Matchroom Stadium has a massive job on their hands. The O’s are in a relegation battle as we speak and the only way for them has to be up.
Last year, York City had the fourth best record in the National League from Christmas to the end of the season and still went down. If that happens to Leyton Orient, then I really don’t know where they go from there.
If they don’t know it already, they won’t find it easy against fast-improving rivals. Guiseley are now full-time and already picking up under Paul Cox, so too Barrow, who have a very experienced campaigner in Ady Pennock at the helm.
To be fair, I have some sympathy for Steve Davis. Whoever took over the Orient manager’s job after their relegation from the Football League was on a hiding to nothing. There was nothing wrong with the players he brought in but, without the injured Josh Coulson and George Elokobi, I felt they lacked a Plan B and the ability to win games ugly and grind out results – a necessary trait in an ultra-competitive National League.
Nine times this season the O’s have conceded the first goal in matches, while another nine goals have been shipped in the opening 15 minutes. Yes, they’ve got quality going forward, such as Macauley Bonne, but you can’t expect to score three goals to win a game. It’s a massive ask.
Still, Orient are a big fish in this pond and it’s no surprise that the managerial vacancy has attracted some big names.
Justin Edinburgh is one name being mentioned. He has extensive managerial experience in the Football League with Newport County, Gillingham and Northampton Town, but hasn’t managed in this league for some time. Martin Allen is another. He has recent experience, but I wonder if Leyton Orient will factor in his all-too brief spell at Eastleigh last season.
For me, though, the man who deserves the chance is John Askey. He has been the most consistent manager in the National League for the last three seasons and despite not boasting one of the biggest playing budgets, has got Macclesfield Town playing, perhaps, the best football in the division at the moment.
Experience at this level, at this stage of Leyton Orient’s season, is vital and John has that in abundance now – at both ends of the table.
Several other names have been touted. John Still has bags of experience at this level, but I’m not sure whether, at his time of his life, he would swap Dagenham for the stresses of Leyton Orient. Then there’s Dean Saunders, who I’ve got to know personally at BT Sport…I don’t think he’s in the right frame of mind right now to step back into the National League and take on the stress of managing amid such expectations.
Nigel Adkins and Kevin Nicholson are two others, looking to get back in, or more left-field appointments such as Daryl McMahon or Jay Saunders, who are doing terrific jobs at Ebbsfleet and Maidstone respectively. Either way, it’s a massive decision and they simply have to get it right; they have to get their house in order, and fast!
*This article originally featured in The @NonLeaguePaper, which is available every Sunday.
By Adam Virgo