How Orient are emulating Tuchel and Conte as Tom James shines

Tom James flying for Kenny Jackett’s wing-back wonders as Leyton Orient target promotion with the League Two club emulating the styles of Antonio Conte and Thomas Tuchel across town

  • Leyton Orient are up into the League Two Play-off places after win over Sutton
  • Right wing-back Tom James scored their final goal in a 4-1 home victory
  • James, 25, is in excellent form following his move from Hibernian in the summer
  • Welshman favours Kenny Jackett’s wing-back style and the goals are flowing
  • He won October’s PFA Vertu Motors Player of the Month award for October 

If you thought flying wing-backs were exclusively the preserve of top-level managers like Antonio Conte and Thomas Tuchel, then think again.

Just a few miles away from Tottenham and Chelsea, another London club are hoping football’s most fashionable tactical trend will also deliver them success.

Kenny Jackett’s Leyton Orient might not quite have the same glamour but the League Two outfit are slowly building themselves up to a promotion challenge.

Tom James celebrates after firing home Leyton Orient’s fourth goal against Sutton on Saturday

Wing-back James rounded off a win that lifted the O’s into the League Two Play-off places

Key to their progress this season has been Welsh right-back Tom James, identified by incoming manager Jackett back in the summer as someone with the skill set to excel in the wing-back role.

And the 25-year-old must be doing something right. He as voted PFA Vertu Motors League Two Player of the Month for October following a supporter poll.

Wing-backs aren’t generally known for their scoring abilities but James netted in a 3-2 defeat at fellow promotion hopefuls Port Vale and again in a 5-0 thrashing of Hartlepool United during October.

Another goal in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Sutton United, which lifted Orient to sixth in the table, made it four goals and four assists for James since his summer move from Hibernian.

‘I’m a big fan of it because it gives me a lot of licence to get forward. All the fun is at the top of the pitch,’ James tells Sportsmail.

‘I’ve grown up pretty much playing as a right-back who likes to get forward and get involved with the attacking.

Kenny Jackett came in as Orient manager back in the summer and is targeting promotion

James won October’s PFA Vertu Motors Player of the Month award and his achievement was marked with this artwork by David Roman

‘Me playing wing-back gives me a starting position that is 15-20 yards higher and even more chance to get involved with the forwards.

‘In the modern game, you have to be flexible and be able to play in different formations and positions.

‘You’re probably looking at a high percentage of players who have come out of academy football playing in the League now.

‘From my experience in the academies, you would play a lot of different formations based on the first team manager’s choices.

‘I think if you went back 10 years ago, it might have been a massive change to ask a right-back to go and be a right wing-back but now most players in most leagues would be comfortable doing that.’

Arguably the best right wing-back in the country is Reece James and his Orient namesake has been studying how the Chelsea and England star goes about his game with the aid of Jackett and his coaching team.

Thomas Tuchel deploys wing-backs such as England’s Reece James in his Chelsea side 

New Tottenham manager Antonio Conte is a well known advocate of a wing-back system 

‘It’s probably quite a common thing for manager to watch games from all types of leagues and different players,’ he said.

‘He has gone through different clips with me and the other wing-backs, like Connor Wood and Theo Archibald. Players in different leagues and how they have different traits and starting positions.

‘It was a big help seeing the different styles other players have because you can take little snippets of it and introduce it into your game.’

Jackett, 59, has promotions with Swansea, Millwall and Wolves on his CV and his appointment in May was quite a coup for Orient, a club seeking stability and progress after some turbulent years.

In 2014, the O’s were 35 minutes away from winning promotion into the Championship only to throw away a two-goal lead then lose on penalties against Rotherham in the Play-off final.

Disaster struck when the Italian businessman Francesco Becchetti bought the club from Barry Hearn and 12 months after that Wembley final they suffered relegation to League Two.

Orient celebrate as James scores in their 5-0 win over Hartlepool in League Two last month

Things went from bad to worse two years later when their 112-year stay in the Football League ended amid financial turmoil.

Lifelong Orient fan Nigel Travis, the chief executive of Dunkin’ Donuts, rescued the club in 2017 and they won the National League in 2019.

Even that triumph was tinged by tragedy when manager Justin Edinburgh, 49, died following a cardiac arrest a few weeks after promotion was sealed.

But after a couple of pandemic-disrupted seasons of consolidation, Orient now feel ready and able to push for promotion, with the win over Sutton lifting them into the Play-off spots again.

‘From the time I came in, there was talk about promotion,’ said James.

Orient feel they can achieve promotion back into League One after a turbulent few years

‘The gaffer coming in, he is a very well known manager from higher divisions and it was quite a big turnaround in terms of players.

‘He brought in players he was looking at not just for this season but also next season if we did get promoted. He was bringing in players who could handle that league as well.

‘So for me personally, the players and the whole club, the aim is promotion. I’m an ambitious person, I want to play at the higher levels and, first and foremost, help Orient get there.

‘It’s in a great part of London with a good fanbase. Every week we have a good turnout and I’ve been impressed by the passion of the fans.

‘They deserve to be in a higher league and I want to help with that.’

Salah makes it two in a row 

Liverpool star Mohamed Salah scooped the PFA Vertu Motors Premier League Player of the Month award for the second time in a row.

Having won September’s inaugural prize, the Egyptian was also voted October’s best player in the top-flight by supporters after goals against Man City and Watford then a hat-trick in Liverpool’s sensational 5-0 win over Man United.

Fulham’s prolific forward Aleksandar Mitrovic once again triumphed in the Championship vote while Rotherham’s Michael Smith won in League One and Orient’s James in League Two.

Manchester United’s Ella Toone took the accolade for the Women’s Super League in October, beating September’s winner Fran Kirby.

David Roman created this artwork to mark Mohamed Salah’s latest PFA award win

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