Andy Edwards aims to assist Leyton Orient's promotion bid from League Two and make it highlight of his own long career
PUBLISHED: 11:00 13 August 2016
44-year-old has been at Brisbane Road for seven years and helped developed the likes of Moses Odubajo, but wants to now help O’s first-team achieve success
A lot has changed at Leyton Orient over the past few years, but Andy Edwards has been one constant and the man behind the club’s talented youth is determined to take his previous success into the first-team this season.
The 44-year-old has worked at Brisbane Road since 2009 and seen nine different people sit in the manager’s hotseat on a permanent or interim basis – eight in the last two years.
Although there hasn’t been too much continuity in the first team of late, Edwards has been involved with the east Londoners’ youth for a lengthy period of time and played a huge role in helping bring through various talented teenagers at E10.
Moses Odubajo, now of Hull City, is perhaps the most high-profile player to progress from the O’s academy to the first-team, but Harry Beautyman is another to make his mark on the Football League, albeit after leaving the club, and there are eight players in the current squad who have come through the youth ranks.
Edwards started off at Orient as youth team boss seven years ago, before his role evolved into Academy Director in 2011 and this summer he became Andy Hessenthaler’s assistant.
After being promoted to work with the first-team permanently, the ex-Southend United defender is looking to bring back the good times to Brisbane Road.
“The goal is promotion, I was fortunate enough as a player to have six, four of them from this division,” said Edwards.
“I think I know what it takes and we have a very strong squad and some good players that have had success. Spirit is important, camaraderie, commitment and work ethic are things we’re trying to instil so the aim is to get promoted.
“That would supercede anything I’ve done previously as a player or as a coach to be honest.”
After working with the youth at the club for so long, Edwards got his chance to be involved with the first team on a more regular basis when Kevin Nolan was made O’s player-manager in January.
The former West Ham United skipper promoted the Academy Director and Hessenthaler has made the step up a permanent one after he was appointed as manager in the summer.
Edwards admits he always felt he would step up to the first-team eventually, but explained how closely he has worked with the past managers in the O’s hotseat.
He added: “I did potentially see myself getting involved with the first team eventually. My mindset every day is do the best job I can. The rest will maybe take care of itself a little bit.
“With the previous managers that we’ve had here, it is a club where you are always working closely with people. You look at big teams and one like Chelsea, the youth and first team are working on different sites.
“But every day for the last seven years I’ve sat opposite whoever the manager has been and been part of discussions.
“I’ve been part of training so you are very closely linked to the first team and although it is an academy role, you’re very close to what is going on at senior level.
“I have worked with senior players consistently for seven years now, whether it is a reserve game, working alongside the previous manager on certain sessions or moving up full time like I did at the back end of last season.
“It is a little bit different here compared to the bigger clubs and I think we’re very fortunate, myself and the other academy coaches and academy players, that the first-team and youth work so closely together.”
While Edwards’ focus now is on success in League Two, when he first joined the club it wasn’t long before he had to oversee a whole change in the way players are developed in England as the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) scheme was initiated by the Premier League to improve the quality of home-grown players produced by top English clubs.
With the change, Edwards’ role went from being Orient’s youth team manager to Academy Director and he said: “The job title evolved because the structure of football changed in the country and the EPPP came into operation.
“The whole structure changed, so my role evolved from being just the under-18s coach to overseeing the whole programme from the 18s down to nines.
“Day-to-day I was still working with the youth team, but it was a much bigger role overseeing a structure put in place.
“I was overseeing a recruitment structure, the coaching syllabus and there was a lot of work that needed to be put into place.
“I believe it takes a number of years to see success and the fruition of that is starting to become evident. It should become more so in the next two or three years because we have a really good group of young players throughout the club.”
The eight former and current academy players in the current Orient squad have all worked with Edwards in recent years.
Sam Sargeant, Aron Pollock and Sandro Semedo caught the eye for O’s towards the end of last year, while goalkeeper Charlie Grainger is another player who has been discussed as a potential star for the future.
Josh Koroma, Freddy Moncur, Victor Adeboyejo and Myles Judd were four other players to feature for the first-team last year and Edwards take huge pride in seeing them progress.
“It’s a great feeling for everyone connected with the club when we see somebody do well,” added Orient’s assistant manager.
“For anyone that has worked with the players from whatever age they come in, from the scout that brought them in, the supporters like to see home-grown players on the pitch.
“That has never changed and it is a satisfying feeling when you see a young player you’ve brought in do well.”
Although last season for the O’s first team was a frustrating one in the end, the youth at Brisbane Road enjoyed great success.
Under the management of Danny Webb, the Orient under-18s won the Merit League One title during the 2015/16 campaign.
The previous season they triumphed in Merit League Two with Edwards as boss and Judd, Semedo, Moncur and Adeboyejo heavily involved.
Webb, like Edwards, has also been promoted from the youth set-up to the role of first-team coach and the pair are keen to help create more success.
“Danny came in about three or four years ago and I played for his dad David at Southend actually,” said Edwards.
“He is an excellent young coach and is great to work with. We are hoping we can take the success we’ve achieved at youth level into the first team and, along with the manager, put things in place.
“We’ve obviously got to win games. In development we’ve always set out to win matches because part of the culture in your club is to win games.
“A lot is spoken about development and how it isn’t about results, but you want to win matches and develop individuals that want to win. At first-team level it is paramount and the be-all and end-all really, but we want to play with a certain way and style.
“We’ve tried to implement that over pre-season and hopefully it’ll come to fruition because we’ve got some very good players. The recruitment has been good over the summer and the owner Francesco Becchetti, to his credit, has invested in the playing staff so it’s almost a new team and hopefully we can have a successful season.”
Admitting it was a “difficult decision” to take on the assistant role at Orient, Edwards felt he had to test himself. Having retired from playing at the age of 35 after suffering a broken leg, coaching has been his life for the past nine years and the ex-Arsenal academy coach is now hoping 2016/17 is the most memorable yet.