Leyton Orient’s roots can be traced back to 1881 when members of the Glyn Cricket Club formed a football team for the purpose of keeping fit in the winter months. In 1888, on the suggestion of a player who worked for the Orient Shipping Line, the club took the name of Orient, which fits in nicely with our location in East London.
The club changed its name in 1898 to Clapton Orient in order to try and gain support from the affluent residents of Clapton, London, whilst 1937 saw them move to their current home in Leyton. The end of World War II found Orient in financial trouble. A fighting fund was set up to alleviate these problems, and yet another name changed followed, this time to Leyton Orient.
In 1962, the O’s reached the pinnacle of English football, gaining promotion to Division One and two years later, Orient registered their record attendance of 34,345 for an FA Cup tie against near neighbours West Ham United.
1978 saw the O’s best performance in the FA Cup, losing 3-0 to Arsenal in the semi-final at Stamford Bridge but in the league fortunes weren’t so good until 1988/89 when they beat Scunthorpe United and Wrexham on the way to victory in the fourth division play-offs.
In recent times, Orient have again faced financial problems. As the end of the 1994/95 season approached, with relegation looming, the news came that the Club faced severe financial problems, with the PFA covering players’ wages for a while.
Orient were asked by the Football League to confirm that they could fulfil their fixtures to the end of the season and for a while it looked as if the O’s might not finish the season, let alone start the next one.
After small businessman Phil Wallace admitted he did not have sufficient funds to buy the club, sports promoter Barry Hearn stepped in to take control of the club he supported as a boy.
The club has been stabilised financially – redeveloping three sides of their Brisbane Road ground along the way – and following two heartbreaking play-off final defeats in 1999 and 2001, they finally ended a stay of 11 years in the basement by climbing into League One last term.
2005/06 was a thrilling campaign for O’s followers in both League and Cup. Not only did they gain promotion in the most dramatic of circumstances – with a last minute goal at Oxford on the last day – but they also knocked Premiership Fulham out of the FA Cup before falling to a narrow defeat at Charlton Athletic in the next round.
The O’s have remained in League One since, posting successive 14th place finishes in 2007/08 and 2008/09, while February 2009 saw a new man take over the managerial reigns at Brisbane Road in the form of ex-Ipswich player Geraint Williams.
He was replaced by Russell Slade towards the end of the 2009/10 campaign and he took the O’s to the fifth round of the FA Cup the following campaign – where they drew 1-1 with Arsenal before bowing out after a replay.