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Mar 1, 2011

Orient chief 'dreaming of penalties'

Leyton Orient chairman Barry Hearn cannot wait for his club's FA Cup replay against Arsenal on Wednesday, but admits he is praying for penalties.

• Preview: Arsenal v Leyton Orient

Orient stunned the Gunners nine days ago when Jonathan Tehoue's late goal handed the League One side a draw at Brisbane Road and a second bite at Arsene Wenger's side.

Now, O's manager Russell Slade is attempting to mastermind one of the biggest giantkillings in FA Cup history, though Hearn says just having the opportunity to play at the Emirates is the stuff of dreams for the club.

"I'm so excited about the Emirates. I can hardly believe it," Hearn told The Guardian "I'm already dreaming of penalties.

"Listen, why don't we go straight to penalties? We'll have more chance that way. Our annual wages budget is £1.7 million. There isn't one Arsenal player who doesn't earn that himself.

"But the boys are on fire. We've had one loss in 22 games and suddenly we're talking about the play-offs. Every year I promise I'll take them to Vegas if we make the playoffs.

"I then said: 'Beat Arsenal and we'll go to Vegas anyway.' My goalie, Jamie Jones, is a Scouser, and they're quick off the mark. Jamie said: 'What about a draw?' I said: 'Jamie, get me the draw and we'll go to Vegas.'"

Jones and his team-mates didn't quite achieve the unthinkable and beat the Gunners, but they did hold a side who were on the crest of a wave having rolled over Barcelona just four days earlier - leading Hearn to offer his players the opportunity to go to Vegas anyway.

Hearn revealed that Virgin have since offered to pay for the players' flights, and while in the States they will be staying at Planet Hollywood.

Robert Earl, owner of the successful chain and also a major shareholder in Everton, invited Orient's players to stay at his hotel and casino after their performance against Arsenal captured his imagination and the team will be wearing Planet Hollywood Vegas shirts in their warm-up at the Emirates.

Orient's FA Cup run will ensure they are one of the only football clubs in England turning a profit but, while Hearn takes an obvious interest in the financial benefits of the cup success, he will be as focused on the action on the pitch as the thousands of travelling O's fans.

"We've had £800,000 out of the FA Cup so far this year," Hearn said. "We should get another £700,000 or £800,000 from the gate at the Emirates. For a replay you only get half the TV money, but that's still £125,000.

"So I'm going to be running the most profitable club in the Football League this year. That's not saying a lot because all 72 clubs in the Football League lost money last year. The industry is fundamentally flawed.

"...I'm going to enjoy every single moment at the Emirates. It's huge for Orient, and it makes me want to say a word I very rarely use: 'Proud.' That's what I feel right now. I'm very proud."

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