Football League fixture release day 'tinged with sadness' for Leyton Orient

By Simon StoneBBC Sport
Nigel Travis lifts the 2018-19 National League trophy with Justin Edinburgh
Chairman Nigel Travis lifts the 2018-19 National League trophy with Justin Edinburgh

Director of football Martin Ling says Thursday was "tinged with sadness" as Leyton Orient learned their Football League fixtures while still mourning the death of manager Justin Edinburgh.

Edinburgh died on 8 June, aged 49, after suffering a cardiac arrest during a gym visit.

Leyton Orient begin their campaign against Cheltenham, after Edinburgh led the club back into League Two.

"The fixtures don't have the excitement they should," Ling told BBC Sport.

"Because the man who took us back into the Football League is not going to lead us when we are there."

Edinburgh's assistant Ross Embleton has been named as interim boss, but tributes that remain laid out in the main stand at Brisbane Road are evidence of a club not yet able to think about the start of their league season on 3 August.

"The day is tinged with sadness," added Ling. "It's the little things, like the kit man coming to me on Wednesday with the EFL badges that go on the sleeves of the shirts."

Ling has been hit particularly hard because he goes back a long way with Edinburgh.

When the pair were young professionals together at Southend, Edinburgh, younger by three years, had the dubious honour of cleaning Ling's boots.

Edinburgh will always be with me, says Martin Ling

"Justin was much the same back then as he was as a manager. He was hard-working, meticulous in his preparation and always gave 100%. My boots were the cleanest boots. He used to tell me I never tipped him, although I am sure I did," said Ling.

Team-mates for three years, the pair were reunited in November 2017 when Ling needed someone to help guide Leyton Orient back into the Football League after the club's 112-year stay in the competition came to an end seven months earlier when they were relegated to the National League.

Edinburgh not only met the challenge, he took Leyton Orient to Wembley, where they were beaten by AFC Fylde in the FA Trophy final in May.

"Justin was more than a work colleague," said Ling. "He was a mate. And he is going to be a colossal loss to this football club."

Ling has twice stood down from managerial appointments due to mental health issues. But he feels he is in a good place to deal with the understandable trauma felt across the club at the events of the last few weeks.

"Because of my previous illness, I work in 24-hour blocks. The way I get through the days at the moment is to make sure there are certain parts of every day when I think 'what would Justin expect of me in this situation?'.

"It would be easy for me to lay in bed and not get up. Justin wouldn't want that. I have to do what is right for this football club. I also have to think 'what would Justin say in this instance to make me go forward to do it?'."

Ling says the decision to appoint Embleton made sense because "it would have been impossible for anyone to come into this situation from the outside".

No-one can know for certain how much impact Edinburgh's death will have on Leyton Orient's players, but Ling is determined to ensure Edinburgh's legacy is a positive one.

He said: "He will go down in history as the man who won the first title at this club in 49 years. He will go down as the manager who took the club back into the Football League. His memory will be there for all of us.

"Everything is still so fresh but there is normality too. We have to look at the first game; the secretary is asking me where we are going to stay when we are away. My CEO wants to know when we can pencil the golf day in for next April. We have to deal with that as well.

"My days are filled 60/40 towards Justin at the moment but I have to make sure I get the 40% right otherwise we lose everything he has done for us."

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