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Thank you, Justin – you will forever be a champion

PUBLISHED: 23:00 08 June 2019 | UPDATED: 23:05 08 June 2019

Justin Edinburgh and Leyton Orient players celebrate after becoming National League champions (pic: Simon O'Connor).

Justin Edinburgh and Leyton Orient players celebrate after becoming National League champions (pic: Simon O'Connor).

Simon O'Connor Photography

Justin Edinburgh was one of the good guys in this sport and a humble, gentleman who helped create so many memories for thousands of people

Justin Edinburgh is congratulated by his Leyton Orient players after winning the National League title (pic: Simon O'Connor).Justin Edinburgh is congratulated by his Leyton Orient players after winning the National League title (pic: Simon O'Connor).

It is hard to find the appropriate words right now. Firstly, my thoughts go out to Justin Edinburgh's wife Kerri and children Charlie and Cydnie as well as all his family. This news has left everyone shocked, numb and above all else heartbroken.

The messages of support for Justin since Leyton Orient confirmed he had fallen ill on Monday speak volumes of the man - a class act.

Everyone was wishing for him to get well and it is truly devastating to know he has passed away at the age of 49.

Justin played for Southend United, Tottenham Hotspur, Portsmouth and Billericay Town and went on to manage Billericay, Fisher Athletic, Grays Athletic, Rushden & Diamonds, Newport County, Gillingham and Northampton Town before arriving at Orient.

All those clubs and their supporters are in mourning now, but his impact spread much wider than merely those aforementioned teams.

He was not simply an excellent football manager and someone who enjoyed a terrific playing career, but he was a thoroughly decent man; the kind you don't often meet.

My own dealings with Justin date back to his first match in charge of the O's away to Solihull Moors on December 2, 2017.

Orient lost 1-0 and took another step towards back-to-back relegations with their loyal supporters badly in need of a saviour.

Post-match, myself and BBC London's Dave Victor waited to speak with Justin and I can still say to this very day I have never been filled with as much confidence by a manager as I was by him during that interview.

Justin Edinburgh celebrates with Leyton Orient defender Josh Coulson after promotion to the Football League is secured (pic: Simon O'Connor).Justin Edinburgh celebrates with Leyton Orient defender Josh Coulson after promotion to the Football League is secured (pic: Simon O'Connor).

At the time O's were 15 games without a National League win, but Justin's self belief and assured manner made me optimistic for the future again.

He stated then he wanted to "make sure this club doesn't continue to suffer" and also insisted "we will get there, there is no doubt about it" and boy did he stay true to his word.

From then on he set about making his mark at Leyton Orient and he did it his way and with style.

Togetherness and hard work were key and one of his greatest managerial traits was an ability to get the best out of the people he worked with. This isn't restricted to just his players, but his staff too.

Under Justin, everyone stepped up and the end result was promotion and in glorious fashion at Brisbane Road with over eight thousand Orient supporters in attendance.

He was determined to win promotion for the fans and really got what being an O was all about.

Supporting Orient means expecting the worst, but hoping for the best and Justin made sure they finally got the best.

It wasn't just down to him though, and he was the first to share the praise and never ever wanted the plaudits.

At every given opportunity he would turn the focus to his players and staff and the affection he had for them was clear to see.

Justin Edinburgh (back row, third from the left) celebrates with his Tottenham Hotspur team-mates after winning the 1991 FA Cup (pic: David Giles/PA).Justin Edinburgh (back row, third from the left) celebrates with his Tottenham Hotspur team-mates after winning the 1991 FA Cup (pic: David Giles/PA).

But Justin had an impact on so many people - many who will never have the chance to meet him. If you did, he was always so generous with his time and a humble, funny man with so much dignity and respect.

He answered difficult questions with a smile, always spoke from the heart and loved to chat about Tottenham.

Last weekend Justin was in Madrid to watch Spurs play in the Champions League final. He was immensely proud to have the career he had at White Hart Lane and he would have been felt a lot of pride inside Wanda Metropolitano watching his team.

Hours before kick-off I was at the fanpark in Colon where Tottenham supporters were and Justin was there too with other club legends.

I was tempted to go and find him and say a quick hello, but decided not to. I didn't want to bother him, but I know if I had, he would have talked to me for as long as I wanted. That is the type of bloke he was. One of the good guys.

Orient are back in the Football League thanks to him and I cannot think of anyone who has had such a big and positive impact on the club like him in a short space of time. He came, he saw, he conquered at Brisbane Road.

After the National League title had been secured, Justin faced the press, despite the pandemonium going on around him, and got emotional.

Winning promotion meant so much to him, but his voice wavered when he tried to put into words what it would be like to watch his son Charlie run the London Marathon the following day.

Justin was a proper family man and would have been so proud of his boy. Everything he did was to make them proud.

Orient has regularly been described as a family club and the Edinburgh family will always be special to everyone connected with the Brisbane Road outfit.

This gut-wrenching pain will last a long time, but what stays forever are the memories and he made so many.

Justin Edinburgh will forever be a champion in every sense of the word. Rest in peace Justin, and thank you for everything.


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