From a season out of a dream to now facing a nightmare, Leyton Orient fans are bracing themselves for their team’s dramatic exit from the Football League after a 116 year run. For a team that lost the League One playoffs on penalty kicks to Rotherham United in 2014 after leading the league for almost the entire season to suddenly be locked into the relegation places of League Two only three years later is an absolutely awful scenario. Orient fans are rightfully upset about the developments at their club, and now face the uncertainty of non-League football, and many are concerned that their club may cease to exist.
3 May 2014 – Leyton Orient end the season in League One with 86 points.— FootballLeaguePaper (@TheLeaguePaper) March 19, 2017
1051 days later, and under new ownership, they face the High Court. pic.twitter.com/uctmQdwbsx
Leyton Orient’s ownership struggles are too long to get into here, but basically, they are in deep financial trouble with an owner who barely seems motivated to pay the bills to avoid complete liquidation. The previous owner, Barry Hearn, had been a very public critic of West Ham United’s move to the Olympic Stadium, as Brisbane Road, Leyton Orient’s ground, is extremely close to West Ham’s new home. The “competition” argument from Orient as to why the move shouldn’t take place never really made a whole lot of sense, as Upton Park was already only a few miles from Brisbane Road. Leyton Orient has spent only one year in the First Division of the Football League, 1961-62 and hasn’t been above the third level of the League since the early 80s. Having a team that averages around 5,000 fans be the primary tenant in a 60,000 seat Stadium never made sense.
Dagenham & Redbridge are a newer club, and were formed as a union of two amateur teams, Dagenham FC and Redbridge Forest, in 1992 and have only spent nine years in the Football League, gaining promotion for the first time in 2007. They even were promoted to League One in 2010, but were relegated in their first season. The Daggers managed to hold onto a League place for a few more seasons, but were relegated last season to the National League, formerly known as the Conference, the highest level below the professional ranks of the Football League. Dagenham & Redbridge are looking to rebound on the first try, as they currently sit in the playoff spots in the Football League with 70 points. Lincoln City, who recently were hosted by West Ham for their FA Cup match against Arsenal, currently lead the National League table with 75 points, but have three games in-hand from their promotion rivals Forest Green Rovers who also sit on 75 points.
The history of the two clubs couldn’t be any different. A club formed from various amateur sides in East London in 1992, Dagenham & Redbridge, is hoping to replace a team that has competed in the Football League since 1905, Leyton Orient, and are the second oldest team in London after Fulham, having been founded in 1881. As usual, dodgy ownership is a culprit behind the fall of Orient, but the real reason is the lack of money that flows to the lower levels of league football in England. Without the millions of pounds that fund the excesses of the Premier League, a couple bad years can doom any lower league team very quickly.
Leyton Orient may be the latest victim of poor results and face doom, but Dagenham & Redbridge shows the flip-side of the coin. With amateur and semi-professional clubs having increased standards and as players get better in the lower reaches of the footballing pyramid, it is possible for a neighborhood team to work its way up the ladder to the Football League. While one team in East London stare disaster in the face, another team is still living the dream, coming ever closer to a return to League Two. And while the Daggers are miles away from the Premier League, remember that Hull City, Swansea City, Southampton, and AFC Bournemouth were all in League One within the past ten years. Anything is possible, well, at least until the money runs out.