Justin will be sorely missed

Justin Edinburgh celebrates promotion in April
Justin Edinburgh celebrates promotion in April (credit Simon O’Connor)

A tribute to late Orient manager Justin Edinburgh, by Jim Nichols

The passing of Justin Edinburgh is devastating to the Leyton Orient family at a time when it had never seemed so strong.

You only have to read the tributes posted by his staff to realise the impact he had, and the hundreds of visitors to the club over the last month who have travelled far and wide to pay their respects, emphasising the feeling of shock and sadness among the O’s community.

Tributes have flooded in not just from Orient circles but former clubs from both his playing and managerial career, all of which he served with distinction in a career of great success.

From an Orient fan’s perspective, we owe Justin so much. He will go down in history not only as the manager that delivered the club’s first league title in 49 years, but also the manager and leader that lifted the club from its lowest ebb and brought hope back to its long-suffering fanbase.

You really have to go back to when Edinburgh took the position of first team manager in November 2017 to understand the scale of his influence on the club. Orient were on the fringes of the relegation zone in the National League, having endured three months without a league win. An unthinkable relegation with a struggling squad that had been built from scratch was becoming a serious worry. That 18 months later what was almost entirely that same squad was able to lift the title is testament to his work. It was an achievement built on stability and continuity.

Edinburgh did it in style, too. Young talents such as Josh Koroma and Dan Happe blossomed under his tutelage while he clearly had a great impact in resurrecting the careers of the likes of Josh Coulson, Dean Brill and Jobi McAnuff. This blend of youth and experience came together with an evident team spirit, which filtered into the crowds. The club’s ‘family feel’ had returned and it was largely down to Edinburgh.

The club has recognised Justin’s impact by promoting his coaching staff (who Edinburgh always made a point of thanking, realising successful management is a collective effort) to lead the team into the upcoming season. The club is in a good place to cope but the architect of its revival will be sorely missed.