As an Orient fan, losing comes with the territory, and there’s no doubt that things are a lot better than earlier in the season, but lately performances at home have been woefully inept. Saturday’s bizarre team selection performance and home defeat to Colchester United was several in a line of bad days at home and Leyton Orient’s seventh home defeat in the league this season.
Bizarrely, recent times have also been punctuated by some great results (winning at Stevenage, Preston and at home against Charlton an exception), which makes this Orient team one of the most schizophrenic around! The inconsistency in performances can partly be attributed to the absence of key players, one of whom is Stephen Dawson (or Awesome Dawson as I believe he was known at Bury), who was injured early in the game at Carlisle on 7th January,which Orient subsequently lost 4-1.
Central to the attacking success of the team have been the performances of Dean Cox and Stephen Dawson. When both players have been missing, the team has struggled to break teams down and score goals. While Cox has signed a new three-and-a-half-year deal with the Os, news on Dawson is less clear.
Slade snapped up Dawson from Bury, where he was player of the year and made the 2009–10 Football League Two PFA Team of the Year. Since joining the Os, Dawson has become captain, thanks to tireless performances and ball-winning, that have been central to the O’s climbing out of the bottom four, and who has been notably absent in the last two shabby home performances against Colchester and Chesterfield. He was also voted player of the year in his first season for Orient.
With his contract due to expire in the summer, Barnsley, the club that tried to steal Russell Slade away in the summer, before settling for Keith Hill, have already made a derisory offer for Dawson. The recent signing of Solomon Taiwo on loan from Cardiff has heightened speculation that his arrival may be more than temporary cover and that Irishman Dawson could be heading back up north.
Many Orient fans feel that losing Dawson would be a critical for Orient, who have already been weakened by the loss of Charlie Daniels to Bournemouth earlier in the season. He forms part of a critical spine to the team, along with Scott Cuthbert at the back and Kevin Lisbie up front and his absence has been very evident in recent games. While Orient didn’t risk losing Cox, by offering him a three-and-a-half year contract, the challenge, as with Daniels, is that if a club makes a serious offer, especially a division higher, like Barnsley, then it will be hard to keep him at the club. Most professionals want to test themselves at the highest level possible, and a competitive player like Dawson would be no different. It’s also not yet clear whether sharing a flat on a corner of the ground next to Russell Slade is a blessing or curse either… I suppose we will find out by Tuesday!
Speculation about our best players is not new, however. Shortly before Christmas, Dawson was also linked with moves to Crystal Palace, Charlton and Millwall, and the player himself is quoted as saying:
“It’s all about the team and not me and I was annoyed with the way this has all come out. I haven’t had any contact with any people and I think it has all been blown way out of proportion. Everyone knows I am out of contract but then so are lots of players here. As far as I am concerned it is all rubbish and paper talk which does happen in London”
Positive signs it would appear, but no doubt we’ll all be sitting a little bit uneasy until the transfer window closes. If Dawson re-signs, and Slade can desist from strange tactical and personnel decisions every home game, then I for one am hopeful of maybe more than mid-table obscurity this season.
Written by Andy Brown, We Are Going Up’s Leyton Orient Blogger