Leyton Orient chairman Barry Hearn never thought for one minute that his pledge to send the entire League One squad to Las Vegas, should they nick a draw or better against the mighty Arsenal, would have to be honoured.

Indeed, for eighty-nine minutes he was sitting pretty and was even over-heard acting the big-man to nearby O’s supporters, claiming that, should their team equalise, he would ‘buy each of the players a talking labradoodle too’

Seconds later however substitute Jonathan Tahoue powered through to force a shock replay at the Emirates on Wednesday week and the millionaire sports promoter suddenly looked to be seriously out of pocket.

Since his recent attempts to revolutionise snooker with a new kind of game (Power Snooker) failed miserably, confounding the public with a plethora of strange rules, the 62-year-old Hearn’s fortunes have dwindled significantly, and that was even before his doomed idea to merge boxing with fishing which left sports fans equally perplexed.

So taking eighteen footballers across the Atlantic was not something he particularly wished to finance, despite assurances that he would keep to his word.

Instead the oily Cockney, with a characteristic bit of ducking and diving, has organised a much more affordable trip to Margate….only the Cutter has exclusively discovered that the players are still being hoodwinked into believing they are in fact holidaying in Nevada’s Sin City!

On boarding the coach – supposedly for Heathrow – the team were each handed an alcoholic drink that contained a powerful sedative. They were then moved one by one on to an American style Greyhound bus that Hearn had hired for the day.

They awoke en masse in a non-descript car park and were informed that they’d just arrived in the gambling capital of the world and had slept throughout the entire plane journey.

Hearn confided to a close friend, ‘They were all cream-crackered after the Arse game so it’s quite logical that they’d conk out for so long. Everyone looked a bit dazed and confused but the excitement of being in Vegas baby soon kicked in. Lets be honest, I wouldn’t attempt this ruse with anyone other than footballers. It’s a wonder they can chew and walk some of them’

Collective doubts however did arise when the squad first ventured off the bus and strolled along the ‘strip’, which was of course a freezing cold Kent seaside promenade in winter.

The sight of old ladies struggling along the front, their umbrellas buffering against the blustery winds, contrasted somewhat with the palm trees and open shirts the players were expecting.

Viva Margate

Hearn claimed it was a Ye Olde English themed walk, in a similar vein to the extravagant Venetian canals that a Vegas hotel constructed to replicate the Italian cities waterways. With a whopper of a fib that even he believed was pushing it he then mentioned a huge machine, hidden from view, that blew in huge quantities of wind and rain to fully get the authentic, depressing English seaside feel.

‘They even play Morrissey’s Everyday is Like Sunday usually too,’ he told them. ‘But the speakers mustnt be on today’.

Our source informs us there were audible mumblings of discontent from some of the group at hearing this. A few however fell for it completely. Centre-back Terrill Forbes even commented that they’d somehow managed to get that ‘chippy vinegar smell in the air. It must have cost them a fortune to do all this!’

To further allay their suspicions Hearn quickly sheparded the Orient squad into a nearby penny arcade. There he pointed towards a stocky man who was busy wiping down the glass on the 50p ‘prize every time’ crane machine and asked loudly ‘Isn’t that Tyson?’ before swiftly ushering everyone away before it could be confirmed or denied.

Last night he treated his squad of players to a show, supposedly at the Mirage but in actual fact was the Margate Pavilion Theatre. The act wasn’t Cher as he promised either but was a rather camp performer who a baffled Orient player pointed out ‘went to school with me’.

They are due to ‘fly’ back home tomorrow to ready themselves for the visit of Huddersfield at the weekend. Our source told us ‘When they find out they’ve been duped there will be mutiny afoot and team morale will plummet to an all-time low. Hearn has jeopardised Orient’s whole season just to save a few bob.’

Hearn meanwhile remains unrepentant and even admits to have pulled the same trick before.

‘During the eighties I convinced Kirk Stevens that he was playing in the Melbourne Open when he was really playing locals in a Chiswick billiard hall. Then again, he was coked off his tits at the time’.