Date: 10th September 2006 at 11:44am
Written by:

Orient`s very own historian Neilson Kaufman, gives his final interview on all things Orient and guess who has the exclusive? Yes, that’s right, we do!

Neilson And Orient

How did you manage to start supporting Orient? (Geoff, Ilford)

My Father was an O’s fan in the days of Clapton Orient and always told me about the older players he watched and of the time O’s beat First Division Newcastle United in the FA Cup back in the 1920s. My Father also knew Harry Zussman, the O’s chairman at the time, and so he took me down to Brisbane Road to watch the boys in Royal Blue from 1957-58.

Why did you become a Historian? (Andy, Walthamstow)

As the years went by I started collecting O’s programme and I built up a vast collection of more than 3000
home and away programmes, which I had bound in seasons.

It was the former commercial manager Brian Blower who asked me to write on the clubs history back in August 1973 and I had a column in the O’s programme, that lasted right up to 1981 when I was transferred to South Africa when with the Financial Times.

As a young boy I was always interested in the clubs history and I found it strange that the club did not know the time of its formation, 1881 or 1888, there was much confusion on how the club were actually formed and who by.

I spent many years visiting all the local Libraries and also Colindale Library to do research on the clubs early days and found that 1881 was the correct year and it was founded by members of Homerton College, a teacher training college for Puritan and Conformists who were playing cricket in 1881 but later turned to the game of football.

I met with Alan Ravenhill and we put out our first book on the club in October 1974 and it was launched for the home match against Norwich City, we lost 3-0, we sold nearly 9000 copies. In 1981 Brian Winston asked me to write a small booklet in celebration of its 100th anniversary.

It was in December 1999 that I had major surgery on my eyes and it was touch and go if I would see again, during my recovery I received an email from a Mr Coburn asking where is Neil


Any plans to update the “Orient: A Pictorial History” book that went up to and including 1973/74, with all seasons up to the present day? (Peter, Loughton)

Not sure about this question, Alan and I did produce the Complete Record in October 1990 in celebration of the clubs promotion, but if you asking about stats at the back of the book, showing the playing record against every club played, I did have plans for what is known as the Head to Head book with Tempus Publishing for 2005, however when my other publisher Breedon Publishing felt it was best to wait one year for the launch of the updated Complete Record, to coincide with the 125th anniversary in 2006, so that book was put on the back-burner, although I have everything and I might do something in the future, should the O’s do a Southend in 2007 and gain promotion two-seasons in a row. The new Complete Record 1881 – 2006 will due out towards the end of August 2006, the book cover had to be revamped with some new photos taken by my friend and excellent photographer David Winter and the details on the promotion season added.

The Archives

How do you manage to find so much information on the old players? (Steve, Southgate)

I must go back to the early 1970s to answer this one, I was one of the founder members of the Association of Football Statisticians – known as AFS, I built a large network of football club historians and also through my own research in the Libraries and would write to each one with the a list of players – no internet in those days, and would obtain biographical information and stats on their records and therefore was able to build up a vast data base of first players as well as the reserve players and trialists.

Favourite Players

Having seen so many players wear the Orient shirt; can you give us your all time favourite players? (Mike, Bethnal Green)

This has always been a difficult question, the O’s have had more than 950 first team players since 1904, when O’s first entered the FA Cup and there have many great players over the years. My favourite players would be

Arthur Wood, the Tonner brothers, Richard McFadden, Fred Parker, Owen Williams, John Townrow, Tommy Mills, David Halliday, Stan Aldous, Sid Bishop, Mal Lucas, Cyril Lea, Eddie Brown, Tommy Johnston, Phil White, Cliff Holton,
Barrie Fairbrother, Mickey Bullock, Tom Walley, Glenn Roeder, John Jackson, Peter Allen, then you come to the modern era Carl Griffiths, and present players such as Matt Lockwood and Gary Alexander who have entered the top players lists for appearances and goals, there are many more great players so where do you start to pick an all-time top team ands also congratulations to Lockwood on becoming the penalty king of the O’s, taking over from Ken Facey who held the record for more than 40-years.

Favourite Book

You`ve written numerous books all of which have been successful, but which book are you most proud of? (Ian, Stoke Newington)

The Men Who Made LOFC was enjoyable, I have always wanted to do an A to Z of the players, of course that was published back in 2002 and there have been many more players since them.

I have enjoyed working on the biographies on Tommy Johnston and Peter Kitchen (Peter’s biography will be out
during early September 2006) and also on the updated Complete Record Book 1881 – 2006. Although a little upset with the publisher who decided to hold back one-year for the clubs 125th anniversary, in the end I was happy they did, it allowed us to include the promotion season and to use some of the great shots of photographer David Winter.

Orient Songs

Which Orient song sold most copies? Kings of the Orient or FantasticO┬┤s ? (Rich, Clapton)

I have no idea on the sales of these records, I would think someone like David Dodd a Director of the club and chairman of the Supporters Club maybe able to advise, what I can say that according to Peter Kitchen the team recorded a song just before the semi final of the FA Cup back in 1978, but when they lost in the Semi’s it was never released.

This Season

How will the O’s fare this season (Nikki, Edmonton)

I am quietly confident, I think it will take a few games to settle down and get John Mackie back, but if the style of play is maintained from last season and I see no reason why a play-off place can not be achieved or at worst finishing in the top-ten.

We do need to strengthen the central defence after the record transfer of Zakuani to Fulham and I would like to see another quality midfielder. For the first time this year we have a number of quality strikers on the books and surely one of them should get to the 20 League goals landmark, not achieved since Peter Kitchen back in 1977-78.

Having watched the DVD from the Oxford game (more than once if truth be known), I was most impressed the attacking passing style of the team and on the performances of Wayne Corden and Shane Tudor, nice to see O’s players who can beat players, can cross and shoot for goal.
Having spoken to a number of historians from clubs like Doncaster Rovers, Hull City and Southend United, they feel there is not much of a difference between Leagues 1 and 2. However, they did say there is a big gap between teams in the Championship, who run themselves like premiership clubs.

The Future

What does the future hold for Neil Kaufman (Rob, Gants Hill)

Well, for next year I shall working on a book in celebration of the Football League’s 120th anniversary, it will profile every club to have played in the FL since 1888 and on profile all the record holders by club and career and career and I’m working on this will Michael Joyce one of the most respected football historians.

There are also plans to do a book for the South African market. I have lived in South Africa since August 1991 and have seen just 3 O’s League games, the last being in October 2005 when I met up with Peter Kitchen, I was in London to organise the funeral of my older brother Alan, who died from Cancer.

I have no more plans to do any more books on the O’s, but as they say never say never.

Well this interview will be the last thing I will be doing in terms of Leyton Orient FC, and after more than 30-years as the Honorary Historian I will be standing down and pass the title onto someone else, I have enjoyed writing about the history and players of this grand old club and will continue to look up the results of the O’s.

Thank You Neil

Vital Football would like to thank Neilson for giving us this exclusive interview. The latest releases which include ‘The Goal Gourmet: The Peter Kitchen Story` and ‘Leyton Orient FC?The Complete Record 1881 to 2006`, are both available at the Orient superstore.

We would like to wish Neilson the very best of luck with his new ventures and wish him every possible success.