Justin Edinburgh went from a fourth division footballer to the old First Division when he joined Tottenham Hotspur in 1990. He joined the club at a time that would see the likes of Gary Lineker, Paul Gascoigne, Nayim and Paul Stewart join Spurs.
The devastating news announced by the club he had just led back to the Football League, Leyton Orient, he had passed away aged 49, has robbed football of one of its unsung heroes.
Justin Edinburgh Was an Unsung Hero
To jump up four divisions in 1990 from Southend United to Tottenham Hotspur was some achievement. It was also the mark of a man who was never afraid to take on the hardest challenges. He played 213 times in his ten years at White Hart Lane and always gave everything to the cause. Former teammate David Ginola tweeted upon hearing the news of his passing
.@teamginola has been paying tribute to Justin Edinburgh. He told @StephenNolan that without Edinburgh playing alongside him, he wouldn’t have won the 1999 Players’ Player of the Year award. He said “Justin, it’s yours. This award is yours. It’s not mine anymore.” pic.twitter.com/u4F2n6ODgV
— BBC Radio 5 Live (@bbc5live) June 8, 2019
1991 saw Justin Edinburgh win the FA Cup in a 2-1 extra time win over Nottingham Forest at Wembley Stadium. In 1999 he added a League Cup winners medal when Tottenham beat Leicester City in the final. The combative left-back had been sent off for putting his hands in the face of Robbie Savage but footage showed the Leicester player had overreacted and Edinburgh got his medal.
Justin Edinburgh was keen to go into coaching and as was a mark of the man, he was going to work from the lower reaches to learn his trade. He went to Billericay Town in 2003 as player-manager before moving onto Fisher Athletic in the historic Isthmian League. By 2006, Edinburgh had taken Fisher into the Conference South. Stints at Rushden and Diamonds, Gillingham and Newport County would all follow but his greatest success was in 2019, leading Leyton Orient back into the Football League.
Edinburgh joined the O’s at a time when the club was trying to rebuild itself. Taking the job was a huge challenge but Justin Edinburgh never shied away from hard graft. His knowledge and commitment were being recognised in football and he was a rising star of young, English managers working his way forward.
Unsung Hero Who Will be Missed
“We are completely heartbroken by this tragedy,” said Chairman Nigel Travis.
“All our thoughts and love are with the Edinburgh family and we know from the messages that have flooded into the Club over the last week that the wider football world will share our sentiments.
“The success that Justin brought to Leyton Orient was incredible, but more importantly the impact he had on us all as a winner and a wonderful, inspirational human being will be his legacy and will stay with us forever.”
The fact that Edinburgh pipped Salford City to the National League title was remarkable. Salford have big money backers and one of those, former Manchester United and England star Gary Neville, said on hearing the tragic news: “My sincerest condolences to all your family Justin and to everyone at Leyton Orient. You’re a Champion that managed a team that played with your spirit.”
Justin Edinburgh had, only a week before his passing, been in Madrid supporting and being part of the Tottenham Hotspur Group at the Champions League Final. He was still part of the official Spurs match day experience when Leyton Orient were not playing.
Last Word On Football sends its condolences to the Edinburgh family at this sad time.
May he rest in peace.
— Leyton Orient (@leytonorientfc) June 9, 2019