Tributes are being paid to former Billericay player and manager, Justin Edinburgh, 49, who has died after a cardiac arrest. Taken to hospital last Monday, his current club, Leyton Orient, made a short statement over the weekend, announcing that their manager had passed away on Saturday.
The untimely nature of the news has shaken all local football fans for whom Edinburgh was a universally liked and respected figure both as a person and as a manager. Described as a “leader, a fantastic manager, and a truly great man” by Orient skipper, Jobi McAnuff, praise across all quarters of the football world has flowed in for the former Tottenham Hotspur star.
After finishing playing, he did the hard graft and worked his way up the management ladder into the Football League via the lower echelons. He leaves a legacy as a Champion at his final club, Leyton Orient, where, as became the hallmark of his career, he transformed a struggling side with sensible management, good coaching, and his ability to connect with a wide range of people.
From a management perspective, it all started in the Isthmian Premier with Billericay Town. Cutting his managerial teeth in a two and a half season spell at Town from 2003-2006, the loss of Edinburgh is keenly felt in Essex. A local man, born in Basildon, Edinburgh remained in the area and was often seen in Billericay.
Reactions on twitter from those connected to the Essex club that knew him are a measure of how highly regarded he was and a selection are listed below:
Steve Kent, former Billericay Town Chairman:
“… He joined Billericay as manager, happy to start at the bottom, A top man and friend, Gutted for Kerri, Charlie and Cydney, RIP Justin.”
Former Blues striker, Glen Poole, who played under Edinburgh:
“Devastated to hear the tragic news about Justin. He was a great man that always has time for a chat, it was a privilege to play for him. Another good person taken too soon. Thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”
Former Billericay striker, Nathan Elder, leading scorer during Edinburgh’s time in charge in Essex:
“Utterly shocked rite now is an understatement. To the man that introduced me to football properly and believed in me at non league level. Got me trials at pro clubs when I was young and guided me constantly through it all. I’m completely stunned. RIP Justin Edinburgh.”
Ex-pro footballer and former BTFC player, Paul Konchesky:
“Absolutely gutted to hear the news about one of my old managers and a fantastic man!! Lost for words right now! Thoughts are with his lovely family, Charlie, Kerri and his daughter, Cydnie! RIP.
Former Billericay Town manager, Craig Edwards:
Justin, thank you for your help, chats, laughs and battles we had over the years RIP, mate. Losing my dad at the same age and way I know the unbearable pain the family are going through and my thoughts are with you.”
Blues fan, Mark Baker:
“Spent the best 2/3 years of my youth being kit boy during Justin’s spell at BTFC. Always made me feel part of the team. You knew you were in for a half time grilling when you heard “We’re … ambling boys”. JE quotes always stayed with me. Thank You for the memories. RIP Justin.”
Blues Fan and volunteer, Ben Mapp:
“Shocked and devastated by the news. Justin was such a great man and will be missed by the entire footballing world. A spurs legend and Orient hero whilst being the manager that was in charge of my first Billericay game. RIP Justin.”
As a player, Edinburgh was best known for his ten years at Premier League, Tottenham Hotspur. Joining Spurs in 1990 from Southend United for a fee of £150,000, he would make 215 appearances for the North London club, winning both the F.A. Cup in 1991 and League Cup in 1999. From 2000, he finished his League career at Portsmouth, where he made 38 appearances over three years.
In July 2003, the former left back, dropped down into Non-League at Billericay Town, then in the Isthmian Premier. As an experienced professional, with a talent for developing players, by the end of the year, he was entrusted by then-Chairman, Rod Moore, with the role of player-manager at the Essex club. He would remain in the Blues hot-seat until January 2006, achieving 12th and 2nd place finishes in 2003/04 and 2004/5, playing just 45 minutes for The Blues, at Ford United, before subbing himself off.
His achievements in Essex attracted the attention of rival clubs with a brief spell at Isthmian Premier, Fisher Athletic followed by time at Grays Athletic and Woking. After a period as assistant manager at Rushden Diamonds, he assumed the manager role from April 2009 in a total two and a half year stay in Northamptonshire, which included a place in the Conference play-off’s in 2009/10.
In October 2011, Conference side, Newport County, came calling with Edinburgh inheriting a team positioned 23rd in the League. He soon turned around their fortunes, taking the team to an F.A. Trophy final and back into the football League after promotion in 2012/13. In February 2015, he took over at League One, Gillingham, securing their status in his first season and a top ten finish in 2015/16. He parted company with the Kent club in January 2017.
After a short spell in charge at Northampton Town, he was appointed manager of Conference Premier side, Leyton Orient in November 2017. Having fallen on hard times, with a recent relegation out of the League, Edinburgh soon revitalised the East London outfit securing a swift return to League Two in May 2019 after a title winning season and a visit to Wembley for the FA Trophy final.
His passing comes many years too early and all supporters of Billericay Town offer their sincere condolences and best wishes to his family at this difficult time.
Words by Leigh Bailey (@Beakster99) written for Pheonix FM
Photo Credit Justin Edinburgh in his Billericay days. Courtesy: Martin Dalton @martindaltonpix