Book Review: Orientation
Orientation by Adam Michie
Published by Chequered Flag Publishing
Our second book review of the week see Leyton Orient supporter Chris Roberts, a recent contributor to our Great Teams series, run the rule over Adam Michie’s Orientation. Adam can be followed on Twitter at @flicksandtricks
Adam Michie describes himself as a Tottenham Hotspur fan who has found room in his heart for Leyton Orient. While not exactly questioning the meaning of life, in recent years Michie has fallen out of love with football, ruminating on what it means to follow a team in the Premier League. The hugely inflated ticket prices, inability to attend with friends and a fixture list dictated by TV schedules, have combined to contribute to this sense of distance from the game. His response was to spend the 2010-11 season watching League One football with a group of friends, choosing Leyton Orient, a team not a million miles away from his east London home. Could this experiment, spending a year following a small, community oriented club with limited success over the years, rekindle his interest in the game?
In answering that question, a familiar diary approach is taken; the outcome a detailed month by month account of the season as it unfolds. It’s an easy read and Michie writes with warmth and humour on his experiences at Brisbane Road over the nine month period. Whether by luck or by judgement, his chosen season was one of Orient’s most eventful in recent memory, surpassing even the automatic promotion from League Two in 2005-06. The season is described in some detail, including the characteristically slow start to the campaign, the club record unbeaten league run that took the team to within a point of the play-offs come May and an Orient side playing arguably the most attractive football for years. In addition, Michie is able to reflect on an FA Cup journey that took his newly adopted team to the 5th round for the first time since 1981-82. Highlights of the cup run include an 8-2 replay win against Droylsden, despite being 2-0 down approaching the end of normal time, victories at (eventually promoted) Norwich and Swansea, Jonathan Téhoué’s late equaliser at home to Arsenal and defeat in the replay at a close to capacity Emirates Stadium.
A picture emerges of someone who while still retaining an interest in the Premier League, is genuinely captivated by his experience of watching lower league football. In short, he does indeed find that passion for the game that seemed to have disappeared. Whether the experience would have been quite so enjoyable had the Os ended the season in mid table or fighting relegation, as is typically the case, we’ll never know.
Orient fans with an eagle eye will note an error for the November 2010 entry, with the win at Bristol Rovers actually representing the first away victory since January 2010 (at Charlton, 1-0 through a Scott McGleish header, incidentally), rather than January 2009. If this is understandable, less so is the description of David Luiz, playing for Benfica at the time, as a ‘composed presence in their back four’. Presumably he has a doppelganger that turns out for Chelsea on a regular basis.
Moving beyond events on the pitch, Michie also offers some broader reflections on his experience of watching football outside of the top flight. While not breaking new ground, perhaps the key theme to emerge is that while it is possible to enjoy football in both the Premier League and Football League, the two experiences are now poles apart. While renewing his Orient season ticket beyond the experimental year, Michie is clear that he still considers himself a Spurs fan. However, there is something missing in the relationship he has with the club, watching games largely at a distance via television or internet streams, with no sense of social occasion. In contrast, while the standard of football is inevitably lower in League One, travelling to games, sitting (or occasionally standing) with friends and meeting players and club representatives is an accepted part of the package.
While the book will inevitably be of interest primarily to Orient fans, it should also appeal to supporters of teams elsewhere in the lower echelons of football, who will recognise many of the author’s observations. At the same time, the enthusiasm with which Michie writes may encourage others that there is still much enjoyment to be had spending a few hours in the company of friends and family watching a match on a Saturday afternoon. For many supporters of top flight clubs, this is simply no longer a possibility.