Last season Tranmere Rovers opened the season twelve games unbeaten, a run which stretched to mid-October and left them seven points clear at the top of the League One table. However a stuttering winter followed by just three wins in their final seventeen games saw Tranmere drop to a disappointing 11th place finish.
So far this term Leyton Orient have been faultless in their opening eight League One matches. 24 points from 24 seeing off all in their path. But, the question is can Russell Slade’s men lead the club to the second tier of English football ahead of established sides at that level including Wolves and Peterborough.
The similarities between Rovers and Orient are hard to miss. Both clubs have traditional footballing values, running on tight manageable budget with a small but loyal following. With the success of another similar club in Yeovil last year, who gained promotion via the play offs, it is not surprising that more from League 1 are fancying a shot at making it to the Championship.
The Leyton Orient side is a mix of experienced heads like top scorers Kevin Lisbie and Dave Mooney, alongside players who weren’t given the chance at past clubs like Mathieu Baudry and keeper Jamie Jones who has played 240 times for Orient. With veterans Lisbie and Mooney leading the line from the front the young players are be given a chance to show their skills. The team spirit this small squad has shown so far is finally starting to get peoples attention around the League 1 scene.
The resurgence of Mathieu Baudry as a player has been one of the real success stories of this side. Coming to England in January 2011, signing for Lee Bradbury at Bournemouth, the Frenchman had an in and out first five months in League 1 struggling to cement a place in the side. Following injury problems and a change of manager Baudry was released in June 2012 and signed for Orient with a point to prove. Mathieu established himself as a regular in the heart of the defence and soon became a fans favourite for his robust defensive style. If he can remain fit throughout the season Orient are going to be difficult to break down and to coin the footballing cliché goals win games but clean sheets win leagues.
To back this up Orient have a man who certainly knows how to score a goal or two. Kevin Lisbie is very much an old horse of the Football League representing no fewer than ten sides all around the country. Since returning to play in London, the Hackney born Jamaican has enjoyed the most prolific spell of his eighteen year career to date. An average of a goal in every two games has made him one of the most feared marksmen at this level. If Lisbie can maintain the form that has seen him start the season with six goals in the opening eight than it is more than likely that Orient will spend most of the season looking over their shoulder.
The final word has to go to manager Russell Slade, one of footballs true nice people. When Slade joined the O’s in 2010 they were a club lacking direction, but with Berkshire born former teacher at the helm Leyton Orient have become one of the good feel clubs around the league. Running most of the time on a very limited budget Slade has got his side playing for the fans, the shirt but most prominently their future careers as footballers and he does not look likely to let up.
For a side like Leyton Orient to even be in consideration for League One promotion is an achievement but if they can avoid picking up serious injuries and not see the lights of Championship football before it is a reality than this group of players certainly can achieve something special this season.