Non-League: Leyton Orient

After 112 years of league football, Leyton Orient of East London dropped down into the National League. A stone’s throw from the London (Olympic) Stadium, the new home of West Ham, a trip to Orient offers a more authentic experience than a match in the top flight.

At the time of writing, Leyton Orient is a troubled club. This is not uncommon for the club in its recent history – it was famously sold for £5 in 1995 to sports promoter Barry Hearn – but at the start of 2017-18 season the ‘Os’ start life once more under new ownership. Orient is now owned by fan Nigel Travis after three years under Italian businessman Francesco Becchetti, during which time the club was relegated twice and went through 11 managers.

Orient is one of London’s oldest clubs, having spun out of the Glyn Cricket Club (1881) to become the Eagle Cricket Club (1886), then Orient Football Club (1888), Clapton Orient Football Club (1898) then Leyton Orient after World War II. Between 1966-87 the club reverted to simply Orient Football Club before returning to the name they are currently known as. Keeping up? Even the name ‘London Orient’ was suggested a few years ago.

Given the club’s position, less than 30 minutes’ tube ride from Oxford Circus on the Central Line and just one stop from the transport hub of Stratford, the club’s small size remains something of a mystery. Its East London fan base is challenged by Premier League neighbours, West Ham United, as well as the other successful London clubs.

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For Orient’s part, the club has spent just one season in the top flight of English football 1961-62, although they did beat West Ham at home that year…

At the start of season 2017-18 the club started life in the fifth tier of English football, the non-league Vanarama National. I went along to visit with the travelling Maidstone United fans, my local club. Although I have visited Orient on and off for ten years when I lived in London, this was my first trip as a visitor. The home sections are modern and functional, but the visiting fan is treated to the East Stand, an old school red brick stand with an iron roof that really gives you an authentic feel of football as it was.

Orient’s support certainly picked up after the first goal in a 2-0 home win, but with a buoyant away support, Stones fans managed to keep the East Stand buzzing. The crowd was 5,085 for this fixture, which is solid by non-league standards.

How to get to Leyton Orient FC

Tickets aren’t cheap. Although less they were in League Two, tickets at the 9,000-capacity Matchroom Stadium, Brisbane Road, cost £20 in the East Stand and £18 elsewhere. Brisbane Road is around 500m from Leyton underground station (Central Line).

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