Leyton Orient is one of the oldest football clubs in London, having existed in some form since 1881. The club has played in the lower half of the English football league system for most of its history, and spent just one solitary season – 1962-3 – in the top flight before being relegated again. Today, the club competes in League Two, the lowest of four divisions in the English league having won promotion from the National League in 2019 under the stewardship of former Tottenham defender Justin Edinburgh, who sadly died from cardiac arrest in June 2019. The club sat in a comfortable 17th place when the League Two season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, well clear of the relegation places.
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Leyton Orient History
Leyton Orient owes its existence to the Glyn Cricket Club, whose players formed the football club in 1881. Many of the founding players were alumni The Independent College, Homerton in neighbouring Hackney. The club underwent numerous name changes and didn’t adopt the name Leyton Orient until the 1940s. Prior to that, the club was called Clapton Orient, in acknowledgement of the town it originally represented. The club had moved two miles up the road to Leyton in 1937. Another name change followed in the 60s when the club was known solely as ‘Orient’ during a period where the club flirted with ruin and only benevolence and fundraising drives maintained the club’s existence. The team reverted to the name Leyton Orient in 1987 and thankfully they’ve retained it ever since.
The chequered history of the name is enough to fill a chapter of any historical compendium dedicated to the club. It also reflects the story of the Leyton Orient on the pitch in many ways. Following the club’s election to the football league in 1905, Orient enjoyed relative stability without seriously threatening promotion from the second division to the first. Performances dipped in the post-war years and after relegation to the newly established third division, Orient spent years in the lower reaches of the then lowest tier of the football league. Fortunes improved in the mid-1950s, when Orient earned promotion back to the 2nd division. They retained that status for the next 6 years, before winning promotion to the first division for the first and only time in Orient’s existence in 1962.
Relegation & Promotion
Unfortunately, this flirtation with the elite proved to be a fleeting one. Leyton Orient were relegated in last place in 1963 and fans still await a return. The club dipped back down into tier 3 during the 1960s as the club suffered near financial oblivion before rising again to the 2nd division, where they spend most of all of the 1970s. Orient bounced between tiers 3 and 4 throughout the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. They nearly achieved promotion back to the 2nd tier Championship in 2014 but bad times were to follow. Italian businessman Francesco Beccheti’s acquisition of Orient triggered a steep decline which culminated in a disastrous 2016-7 season which ended in relegation to the non-league for the first time since Orient’s election to the football league. Thankfully, a change in ownership and the steady leadership of Edinburgh saw the club promoted again in 2019 only for tragedy to strike with Edinburgh’s death the following summer. Leyton Orient enjoyed a comfortable first season back in League Two under the leadership of new manager Ross Embleton.
Leyton Orient Trophies
Leyton Orient’s trophy count is predictably modest. They are two time winners of the third tier of English football, as well as National League champions once. The club achieved promotion to the top tier by finishing 2nd in the Second Division in 1962, their second highest league placing of all time. They won the FA Trophy, the most prodigious non-league competition, in the year they were promoted. Aside from these successes at national level, Orient won numerous competitions at local level in its early years.
Leyton Orient Stadium
Leyton Orient’s name changes were accompanied by a nomadic existence in its early years. They finally moved to their current home on Brisbane Road in 1937. The stadium has originally been home to another local club, Leyton F.C., and has undergone numerous changes throughout its history. The club gradually upgraded Brisbane Road’s four stands throughout the 1960s and 1970s, adding more seating. Orient famously demolished the South Stand in 1996, hoping for national lottery funding to rebuild it. The funding failed to arrive and it was 1999 before the stand was reestablished.
Today, the Leyton Orient stadium is officially known as The Breyer Group Stadium although fans still refer to it as Brisbane Road. The East Stand, with a capacity of 3636 is comfortably the biggest in the ground. Brisbane Road’s South Stand is named after Orient’s record goalscorer Tommy Johnston while the North Stand, now called the Qualiteach Community Stand, also functions as the family area. The West Stand was renamed in honour of the late Justin Edinburgh in January 2020 and boasts the most modern facility. Although its capacity is some 800 seats short of its opposite number, the Justin Edinburgh Stand is considered the ‘main stand’ at Leyton Orient.
Leyton Orient Forum
We want to establish this site as a place to meet and chat with other Orient fans. But there is already a well-established Leyton Orient forum and messageboard online. The snappily named Independent Leyton Orient Forum sees the most activity and lively chat. The forum admins devote a special area of the site to Justin Edinburgh tributes too. Most other Leyton Orient forums are now closed, or direct fans to the Independent Leyton Orient Forum.
Leyton Orient Twitter
Leyton Orient’s marketing team is active on Twitter and other social media platforms. You can find the club using the handle @leytonorientfc. The Leyton Orient twitter feed features a mixture of news, interviews, highlights, polls and other club content. Similar topics feature highly on the Leyton Orient Instagram page as well. The page attracts 31,000 followers, which is considerably more than the club’s average attendance of 5600. The Leyton Orient Facebook page is a little bit less active but has earned a whopping 63,000 likes. At the time of writing, all these platforms and the official Leyton Orient website are fixated on the news that England Captain Harry Kane will sponsor the club from 2020, giving up shirt space to three different charities.
Leyton Orient Players
Harry Kane’s sponsorship is sure to attract publicity. As an 18 year old, the Spurs icon spent a spell on loan to Orient, scoring 5 goals in 18 games. He has retained an affiliation with the club, hence his current involvement. While Kane’s contribution on the field is modest, other former players have made much more of an impact.
Leyton Orient Legends
Former England winger Laurie Cunningham is one. He started his career with Orient, playing 75 games in the 1970s. A pioneer and icon for black footballers, Cunningham later became the first Englishman to play for Real Madrid. A bronze statue of him now stands near Brisbane Road.
Midfielder Peter Allen holds Orient’s record for appearances. He played in 490 matches across a 13 year spell in the 1960s and 70s, scoring 29 goals. Striker Tommy Johnston, after whom the South Stand at Brisbane Road is named, scored more goals than any other Orient player. Johnston only spent five years with the O’s (across two separate spells) but his phenomenal scoring rate saw him plunder 121 strikes in less than 200 matches. More modern heroes include Martin Ling, a classy midfielder who played in the Premier League with Swindon before joining Orient. Ling also managed the club between 2003 and 2009.
Leyton Orient Squad
Jamaican international veteran Job McAnuff captains the current Leyton Orient squad. The midfielder is a firm fan’s favourite having led the O’s out of the National League. He previously played for Wimbledon, West Ham, Crystal Palace, Watford and Reading, where he spent one season in the Premier League. At the other end of the age-scale is 22 year old Jordan Maguire-Drew, a pacy winger who joined Orient from Brighton. Maguire was another key member of the 2019 promotion side and carried his form into league football. Irish striker Conor Wilkinson joined the club in the summer of 2019 and top scored with 8 goals before the COVID-19 pandemic ended the League Two season prematurely.