HISTORY: Orient hero remembers club's finest season
LEYTON Orient spent the 2011-12 season battling against the drop in League One, but 50 years ago the club were involved in a very different campaign.
The 1961-62 season was Orient’s most successful ever, with the team winning promotion to the top flight for the only time in their history.
They finished second in the old Second Division, behind a resurgent Liverpool team who were in the process of being transformed into a powerhouse of the game by legendary manager Bill Shankly.
Terry McDonald, 73, was a key member of the side which won promotion.
He still lives in Leyton and watches his beloved O’s play regularly.
He said: “I was the youngest in the team that went up.
“We had just avoided relegation the season before, and our chairman promised us a trip to Jersey if we beat the drop.
“That seemed to do the trick, so he then promised us a trip to Majorca if we were promoted.”
That certainly worked as Orient took the division by storm, securing second spot on the last day of the season in a nailbiting 2-0 win against Bury.
Mr McDonald recalled: “The atmosphere at that game was electric.
“We had to better Sunderland’s result against Swansea to go up and the crowd had their transistors pinned to their ears.
“We were winning 1-0 and so were Sunderland, but then Swansea equalised and this great roar went up.”
There were many memorable games in the O’s march to promotion, but one stands out to Mr McDonald.
He said: “We went up to Anfield and drew 3-3.
“I can still remember looking up at the Kop End.
“Every time Liverpool got the ball near the area, the crowd seemed to swarm down the terraces.
“You used to shut your eyes and hope for the best when you were defending that end.
“But they clapped us off the pitch and I’ll never forget that.”
The following season saw Orient relegated back to the second tier of English football, but there are still plenty of good memories of their season in the limelight.
Mr McDonald said: “In September we beat Everton, Manchester United and West Ham in the space of eight days without conceding a goal.
“I scored the winner against United at Brisbane Road and it is still clear as day in my mind.”
The team are still remembered fondly at Brisbane Road and many of them made a special appearance on the pitch ahead of the game against Yeovil last season.
Mr McDonald said: “That was a very emotional day for us all.
“Afterwards I had fans coming up to me telling me about goals I’d scored and games I’d played in.
“They remember ones I’ve forgotten.
“I still love the club, but it’s a different game these days.
“The pitches are like billiard tables compared to the ones we used to play on.
“I can remember playing in six inches of mud – they wouldn’t allow that now.”