Martin Ling’s enjoying his director of football role and is positive about Leyton Orient’s future under Nigel Travis and Kent Teague
PUBLISHED: 15:00 23 May 2018
Simon O'Connor Photography
The 51-year-old former O’s manager reflected on the past year at Brisbane Road and explained why the signs point towards a promising 2018/19 season
What a different a year can make. This time last year Martin Ling was waiting patiently for Nigel Travis and Kent Teague to take over the ownership of Leyton Orient from Francesco Becchetti.
In the end, he had to wait a little while longer as the protracted takeover wasn’t completed until June 22, but a day later he was officially appointed O’s director of football and it has been a crazy ride since.
Ling has seen and experienced a lot in football, from playing in the Premier League to winning promotion as a manager from League Two in 2006 with Orient.
He has had other battles off the field too when it comes to mental health, which are now well documented, but life is good for O’s current director of football despite a challenging first year in his new role.
It has been a rollercoaster ride of a season for the east Londoners – their first in non-league football – as they started strongly, despite having no senior players contracted to the club on June 22, and were second in September before they went on a 15-game winless streak.
Justin Edinburgh steadied the ship following his November 29 arrival and led Orient to 13th place and there is now optimism in the air again at Brisbane Road.
Ling said: “I think I am a quick learner and I have really enjoyed this role. People say to me ‘do you not miss being on the training ground?’ It’s the first question I am asked, but I don’t miss it.
“I guess it was a bit easier for me because I wasn’t obsessed by coaching. I was more obsessed by results and getting people to pull together, so my man-management was my biggest strength.
“Dean Smith did the coaching in the early part of the week (during 2005-2009) and everyone knows that. Any assistant I had always did the coaching and I would come into play on a Thursday or Friday when it was more game day type tactics.
“People might think I stand at the training ground in a big coat, but if you talk to Justin and Ross (Embleton) they’ll tell you I only come out when the sun is out! Even then I am forced to go out there.
“But this job as director of football actually plays to my strengths when it comes to my man management.”
While many on the outside look at the role as someone who mainly deals with transfers, there is so much more for Ling to do at Brisbane Road and he’s doing well.
The atmosphere at the training ground and stadium is now one of positivity and happy faces, which is in complete contrast to the old regime’s time in charge.
You no longer get the sense a big dark cloud is hanging over the club and Ling has played a big role in helping establish camaraderie amongst the coaching staff and office staff.
It isn’t just about making sure Edinburgh’s backroom staff are all pulling in the same direction either, it is everyone associated with the club and his involvement doesn’t stop there.
Ling is involved with behind the scenes plans for the academy and first-team and his priority is not only people like O’s forward Macauley Bonne, it is also the kids at the Score Centre.
He added: “I don’t know how different this role is compared to other jobs, but because my owners live in America and they have full trust in me, I suppose there is probably a little bit more to do.
“I can’t just turn to an owner all the time even though Kent’s over a lot. I see the role as similar to my management in terms of getting a togetherness of the office and a togetherness of all the coaching staff, whether it is the bloke who coaches the under-nines or Justin, so we are all pulling in the same direction.”
The last time Orient had that for a sustained period of time was during the 2013/14 season and it saw the east Londoners almost go up to the Championship.
Ling wasn’t at the O’s during the aforementioned period, but he did take the club up to League One in 2006 and can see a lot of similarities between how Travis and Teague run the club now and the atmosphere at E10 under the ownership of Barry Hearn – the long-serving chairman before Becchetti.
“I want to get this football club back to where it was and I saw that as a well-run Leyton Orient who were competing comfortably with clubs in League One under Barry,” added Ling.
“I can see the same traits in the people who are in charge now, but we have obviously gone further down than we have ever done in our history.
“Importantly, I do believe there is real good leadership now in terms of owners and we have a real good set of people trying to pull in the same way.”
Off the pitch everything is in hand again, with Ling taking care of football matters like transfers, contracts, the academy and now it is making things tick on the pitch.
Edinburgh has made a strong start since replacing Steve Davis and the hope will be that he can kick on again in the 2018/19 season.
Ling said: “To be successful in the National League you need to have good people pulling in the same direction because it is Gateshead away on a Tuesday night which will be the judge of us as a club.
“There is also added pressure when clubs come here because they are visiting the best ground in the division.
“Some people might have said Tranmere Rovers, but I think here is the best stadium in the league, so clubs will come here and sit back and we have to break them down and that is something we must improve at.
“But I do see an awful lot of traits at the club again now that I saw during my time with Barry and you can’t want to be the same, but obviously there was something good at the club then, so you want to use it and take it forward.
“I think with Justin we have someone who understands what we need and the big advantage with Justin over Steve is understanding the league.
“He’s been in the National League, he’s got out of it and understands the difficulty of it, so it has been a whirlwind 12 months, but very enjoyable and I can’t wait for next season.”