Everton will begin their Cup campaigns in the 2012-13 season at home, hosting Leyton Orient of League One in a second round fixture of the League Cup. We conducted a Q&A with James who runs the excellent blog at Total Orient and spoke to us about the team, what they've been through and how the current season has been going for them. Read on after the jump for more.
RBM - After a 7th place finish and just missing the playoffs in 2010/11, last season did not end well with Orient narrowly avoiding the drop. The fans must be frustrated, is management feeling any pressure?
TO - It is frustrating that our best squad for a few seasons has been dismantled so quickly. Only five players from the 2010/2011 squad remain after losing key players Alex Revell, Stephen Dawson, Charlie Daniels and Scott McGleish over the course of last season. We started the 2011/2012 campaign by going ten games without a win so Orient manager Russell Slade is under pressure to avoid that kind of start this season. The chairman Barry Hearn is under pressure too with the decision over the future of the Olympic Stadium looming and in these uncertain times, the last thing the club needs is relegation to League Two. Hearn won’t take the decision to sack Slade lightly, he has shown loyalty to his managers in the past and he handed Slade a new contract last season, so it would cost him to part-company with the O’s boss. Even if we struggle again, Hearn’s options will be limited.
RBM - Speaking of management, Russell Slade is revered as a hero after saving the club from relegation in 2009/10. Is he still viewed the same way or have relationships soured?
TO - Russell did very well to keep us up at the end of the 2009/10 season and his positivity and enthusiasm rubbed off on everyone involved with club. The squad he assembled for the following season was impressive, we played good football and we were relatively successful, coming close to a playoff place as well as progressing to the fifth round of the FA Cup, where we took Arsenal to a replay before being knocked out at the Emirates.
However, last summer things changed. Barry Hearn rejected an approach by Barnsley for the manager, but Russell had made it clear that he wanted the opportunity to speak to the Championship club. Last season was a struggle; we lost important players and we were very unlucky with injuries, so the manager gained some sympathy. However, the results and performances were poor and players were played out of position. These trends have continued so far this season with negative tactics and an unattractive style of football and most fans are now questioning the manager and his relationship with the supporters is at its lowest point of his tenure.
RBM - Were there any big changes made to the squad during the offseason? How do you feel about the players let go, and those brought in?
TO - There were big changes made over the summer, with ‘big’ being the operative word. We have signed nine players over the close-season, seven of which are at least 6ft tall. Russell Slade has chosen to copy Stoke City’s style of ‘football’ for this season, we have a long throw specialist in Nathan Clarke and we have even narrowed the pitch at Brisbane Road.
New defenders Mathieu Baudry and Nathan Clarke have impressed so far and we finally have a proper left back in Gary Sawyer. Lee Cook joined the club on Friday after being released by QPR and fans are excited about this signing as he impressed during a loan spell with us last season. There have also been nine departures since the end of last season, but the majority of those will not be missed.
RBM - What were your expectations of this season? It has been a rocky start to the year with two defeats, can the team turn things around?
TO - I, like most fans, was hoping for a safe finish this season anywhere between mid-table and the lower half of the league, but the uninspiring start is unsurprising as we haven’t had a good start to a season yet under Russell Slade. Currently we look set for a relegation fight this term too and few fans have faith in the manager to get things right. Slade needs to adopt a different approach and help some of our players to rediscover the form they showed in 2010/2011. It is too early to panic just yet as there are plenty of games left, but we need to win a league game sooner rather than later.
RBM - Score predictions for Wednesday's game? Who should we be watching out for?
TO - We have been known to raise our game against better sides and we only suffered a 3-2 defeat away at Blackburn in last year’s League Cup. However, given the form Everton have been in we will do well to keep the score down so I’ll go with 4-1 to Everton.
Providing he is fit, last season’s top scorer Kevin Lisbie will be our main goal threat. Dean Cox and Lee Cook are the players we rely on to create chances and both can make a difference to our team on their day, but it is unlikely that the two will play together. The game is particularly special for Jamie Jones and Michael Symes as they are both fans of the club and they started out at Everton but failed to make an appearance for the first team.