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Leyton Orient Craig Easton

 

I have many fond memories from the 18 years I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in professional football. One of the best games I’ve been a part of was played in the oldest domestic cup competition in the world - the FA Cup.

As a young boy, I recall watching the classified football results on a Saturday with my brother, my Mum in the kitchen and my Dad catching forty winks, as we waited patiently for our dinner having just got home from either playing a game ourselves or from watching our hometown team Airdrieonians. Tim Gudgin’s recognisable voice rose and fell as he read out the scores of what felt like every team playing competitive football that day, my brother and I listening out for that characteristic inflection of his that gave hints to the possible outcome of the match, and trying to predict it accordingly. I felt his voice seemed to become even more animated whenever it came to reading the results of cup fixtures, and more precisely, cup ‘shocks’. I suppose everyone likes a good cup upset, unless you’re on the receiving end of course. Airdrie had inflicted a few on superior opposition over the years and I always thought it would be incredible to be involved in an act of ‘giant killing‘. A few years later I got a chance to write my own underdog story in an historic competition south of the border.

I was fortunate enough to be part of a Leyton Orient side (then in League 2) who beat Premiership, Fulham at Craven Cottage in the third round of the FA Cup back in 2006. When we arrived at the ground, there was a nice atmosphere building and a healthy number of Orient fans were there to greet the team bus and wish us luck as we disembarked. The stadium, whilst impressive and a decent size, wasn’t too intimidating; it’s got that old fashioned feel to it. The dressing rooms were much cosier than I had imagined they would be, housed inside the quaint looking Cottage Pavilion in one corner, similar to the one at the long since demolished Broomfield, home of my beloved Airdrieonians.

The 6000 Orient fans that filled the massive stand behind goalkeeper Glyn Garner’s goal in the first half, roared us on as we took the game to our Premiership hosts straight from the kick-off. But it was more than just blood and snotters. We passed the ball crisply and when it bobbled loose to me on the edge of the 18 yard box and I smashed it with the aid of a slight deflection past Tony Warner in the Fulham goal to give us the lead, it was no less than we deserved. The stand at the opposite end erupted as the Orient fans went ballistic. Shane Tudor was the first to congratulate me followed by Justin Miller, our big South African right back, who hoisted me into the air. With my arms wide open I tried to fully take in the moment as the rest of the lads made their way over to join in the celebrations.

Then Joey Keith collected my pass following a nice move and drilled a first time shot which was also deflected past the helpless keeper. Unbelievably, but deservedly, we went in two nil at half-time. Fulham pulled a goal back not long after the break , but we regrouped and created chances of our own before our hosts were awarded a penalty. Time stopped as Collins John began his run up, and then restarted as Glyn Garner dived full stretch to his left to palm the ball to safety. We held on until the final whistle - cue the wild celebrations in front of our fans. As usual, my wife was in amongst them (she hardly misses a game, home or away), along with my Mum and Dad who had travelled down especially, and I can’t put it any other way apart from; they were going mental! As we came together as a team and performed what is now the obligatory cup shock celebration - the big run and slide head first - and then danced in a line, shoulder to shoulder in front of our fans, I realised then what it was like to be a ‘giant killer’. And it was the best feeling in the world, sharing it with teammates who had just given everything.

When I emerged from the dressing rooms and after emotional embraces with my family, we blended into the remnants of the Orient crowd as we made the short walk to Putney Bridge tube station. My Dad carried my kit bag, something he insists on doing after games and he doesn’t take no for an answer. I think it’s his way of showing me how proud he is. On the train, there was a good number of our supporters heading east. I’m not sure I’ve ever been as satisfied after a game as I was then, sitting on that tube with my wife and parents, not really talking, just taking in what was one of the best days of my life. When we changed trains and mingled with the crowds of shoppers from central London, everything almost seemed to go back to normal and what had just gone on, only a few miles away, didn’t register with the people outside our FA Cup bubble. We could just make out some Orient fans amongst them, and I exchanged some knowing glances in the crowded carriage as we stood, swaying, utterly contented.

I never thought of it at the time, but during that journey home, Tim Gudgin would’ve been declaring the bare facts of a third round cup shock that I had the pleasure of being part of. I wish I could’ve heard his delivery of those nine syllables - Fulham one...Leyton Orient,TWO!

Craig Easton

Follow Craig on Twitter @Craig8Easton

and Craig's East On blog is at: http://eastonblog.wordpress.com/


 

4 Comments (Add your voice)

I was there and that picture you described was in the orient reception until recently being replaced by the arsenal fa cup one Can I request an Oxford promotion blog... Or have I missed that one

– Nathan Blake 7, April 4 2013 at 20:24

Good read mate, keep it going

– Cooper, October 2 2013 at 08:16

I was there amongst Fulham fans (I hate watching football behind the goal). The eternal pleasure. Still remember John Mackie's back heel in our own half. The heart of that fabulous team.

– Cosmas Vlattas, January 4 2014 at 23:39

I was there and took my dad (an arsenal fan) to his first football game in 20 years. Craig is right. We went mental. All the O's fans singing 2-0 to the orient at halftime is something I'll never forget. My photos of the celebration dive after the game are on my wall and will stay there. The programmes in a frame too. Greatest day ever that. Thanks for the memories Craig.

– Lisa Harding., April 27 2014 at 17:46

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