Orient legend is looking forward to his return
Smith is back at the Matchroom for the first time
Orient legend Dean Smith returns to Brisbane Road for the first time since parting company with the club three years ago when Walsall visit the Matchroom on Saturday.
Smith, who was appointed Walsall boss in January 2011, has never brought a team back to Orient before and he admits he is looking forward to it.
“It will be nice going back, as I had so many good times at Orient,” he said.
The 40-year-old former O’s skipper made 239 league appearances for Orient between 1997 and 2003 and was captain when the club reached the Play-off Finals in 1999 and 2001.
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He moved to Sheffield Wednesday and Port Vale before leaving Vale Park to rejoin the O’s as youth coach before Martin Ling promoted him to assistant manager towards the end of the 2004-05 season.
Orient have played Walsall twice since Smith has been in charge at the Banks’s Stadium, but Saturday’s game will be the first at the Matchroom since he and Martin Ling left Orient in January 2009 following a disappointing run.
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“It’s honours even at the moment,” said Smith.
“We played Orient at our place just after I had taken over and we lost 2-0. But then we beat them 1-0 on the opening day of the season when Adam Chambers scored a wonder goal.”
After spending 10 years at Orient in different capacities, it was a major disappointment when Smith’s time at Brisbane Road came to an abrupt end.
“When I left I hoped I might get a chance of the manager’s job, but it didn’t happen,” reflected Smith, who is certain of a good reception on his return.
However, the former defender, who played over 300 games in all competitions for the O’s, scoring 43 goals, will be keen to pile on the Matchroom misery for his former side.
Walsall are hovering close to the drop zone and only goal difference keeps them out of the bottom four.
So Smith is keen to boost his own club’s survival hopes and extend Orient’s dismal home record – and he won’t be the only ex-Os player looking to put one over his former club.
The Saddlers boss signed Orient duo Adam Chambers and Ryan Jarvis in the summer and they are also looking forward to a return.
Neither were in the Walsall side that drew 0-0 at Preston last weekend, but Smith believes that both could be back at the weekend.
Chambers played in the 1-0 victory at Scunthorpe nine days ago and Smith said: “Adam has a heel injury, but is hoping to be fit and after scoring in the first game of the season, he will relish the chance of going back to the Matchroom.
“While Ryan has been in an out of the side, but is likely to be in the squad at the weekend.”
Walsall are unbeaten in their last three games and have taken seven points in the process. “We are a hard side to beat, but our problem is we have drawn too many,” said Smith.
“We’ve only lost two of our last nine away games and there’s only been two occasions this season when we have lost a league game by more than one goal.
“But the problem is, like most clubs in this division, we don’t have a Jordan Rhodes or a Bradley Wright-Phillips.”
Smith hopes to cash in on Orient’s disappointing results at the Matchroom and said: “I have seen them play two or three times and their home form is their Achilles heel.
“They did so well at home last season, but this time it’s just not happened for them.”
When Smith took over at Walsall just over a year ago the Saddlers were nine points adrift at the foot of the table and he produced a minor miracle to keep them up.
“We were in a situation where we needed snookers, but we had a really good run and ended up a point clear of Dagenham & Redbridge,” he said.
“But this season is much tougher. There are the five clubs up there – the two Sheffield sides, Huddersfield, Charlton and the MK Dons – and there is not much between the rest, it’s all about consistency.”
For Smith it will be like old times at the weekend, as well as returning to the Matchroom, he also plans to meet up with former Orient boss Martin Ling, who is now in charge at League Two side Torquay.
The Gulls are in action at Crawley and Smith said: “We have arranged to meet up afterwards.
“We talk to each other every week and ‘Lingy’ is doing a fantastic job at Torquay.”
If Smith can keep Walsall up and Ling gets Torquay promoted then the pair of them could both be back at the Matchroom next season!