Wellens’ success built on solid foundations

The Yellow Advertiser’s Dave Bishop caught up with Leyton Orient manager Richie Wellens following the O’s pre-season friendly at Billericay Town on Friday and chatted to him, not only about the game but his hopes and plans for the season ahead…

There has barely been a dull moment for Richie Wellens since he arrived at Leyton Orient back in March 2022 on a two-and-a-half-year contract.

The Manchester-born boss has overseen the popular East London outfit’s rise back into League One and has subsequently raised hope and expectation among the E10 fanbase, who so often in the past left frustrated and disappointed as their side has flattered to deceive.

“I have been here for two seasons now. The first season I had to come in and keep us up and obviously last year, we exceeded a lot of people’s expectations in winning the league,” the 43-year-old explained.

“It has been so good to come into a club that when I first arrived was pretty disjointed and now, through joint efforts by the board, players, staff and supporters to see where we stand today – it has been a special relationship and that has been evident in our success.”

Orient got their pre-season preparations underway with a fairly lowkey goalless draw at Billericay Town. Wellens is aware that expectations are high, but insisted his side will stick to the blueprint; “I am not going to predict where we are going to finish but I want to see our team, committed, energetic and keep clean sheets – something that has been the bedrock of our performances. Despite losing Lawrence (Vigouroux) to Burnley, we have kept the same back four in place and with Dan Happe back too we will be strong defensively. We will be going out from the start to win every game this season and we will see where that eventually takes us.

“Today’s game was all about getting minutes in the player’s legs and not picking up injuries. It was a decent workout for both teams and I must give Billericay credit, they looked good and kept a good shape throughout. It wasn’t easy in the heat – nor on an astroturf pitch but in the context of what it was, I am happy with the way things went tonight. We rested Theo (Archibald) and as I say, have Dan Happe coming back but we will be training again over the weekend before flying to Spain to play Charlton Athletic, so we will look forward to that now.

“I thought all the new signings did well tonight. 

Max Sanders was the best player on the pitch by a mile. Dan Akeyi looked good and when he got into certain positions, you could see his sharpness and what he is going to bring to the side. Ethan Galbraith looked very good in the second half too. Sam Howes looked confident and showed good distribution – as I said in the press last week, we have signed another keeper but cannot announce him yet. Sam, the new keeper and Rhys Byrne will all therefore be in contention and we will see who comes forward out of the three of them to claim the number one spot.

Wellens continued: “I am delighted to bring Idris (El Mizouni) back to the club. He was great for us last year and he has a fantastic chance of being a top-class player. 

He had a few options on the table and seemed at one point he might be going to Charlton but I said to him, when you choose your next move, choose people over the size of the club, stadium, facilities etc. and I am so pleased he trusted me to want to come back and play here again.  

“League One is a strong league with some big clubs in there. Last year one team got 100 points and two were very close. That is very, very rare. Bolton Wanderers and Barnsley, with their points return last season would normally have seen them promoted via the automatics. That says to me that the bottom ten teams must be very weak because the points accumulation of the others was too much. 

“Of the relegated teams, Wigan Athletic start on minus eight points, there seems to be a lot of disarray at Reading, but Blackpool will be strong. So too will be Barnsley, even though they have just lost their manager. Bolton as well but apart from that? I think it will be two teams not expected to feature that will get themselves into the Play-Offs at the end of the season – so I hope it might just be us.”