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‘He was the best. I absolutely idolised the man’ – Charlie Edinburgh on dad Justin’s tragic death and keeping his legacy alive

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Justin Edinburgh’s tragic death at the age of 49 rocked the football world.

For Leyton Orient fans, he was a hero, having guided the east London club back into the Football League after a turbulent few years off the pitch prior to his arrival in November 2017.

Justin Edinburgh suffered a cardiac arrest in June and tragically lost his life at the age of 49
Getty

For Tottenham Hotspur, a club he made 213 top-flight appearances for, he was a League and FA Cup final winner.

For football fans and supporters of other teams Edinburgh took charge of, he was a highly-regarded manager.

But for Charlie Edinburgh, most importantly, he was his dad and best friend.

It is still a traumatic time for the 26-year-old and he’s still coming to terms with the fact his dad will never be able to meet any future grandchildren.

“I think we as a family are taking each day as it comes,” Edinburgh said, speaking exclusively to talkSPORT.

“It is tragic and not something that we ever prepared ourselves for, especially off the high dad was on coming off the back end of last season.

Charlie Edinburgh spoke to talkSPORT about his dad and ‘best mate’

“It’s crazy really but at the same time, so cruel and unfair that we as a family do not have dad around. We’re having to adjust to everyday life without him being around and being there for support.”

Like any father and son relationship, Edinburgh and his dad had an unbreakable bond.

Justin would always look for his family in the Brisbane Road crowd prior to kick off and his relationship with Charlie was summed up when he allowed him to sit on the bench as Newport County reached the Conference Play Off Final in 2013.

That is a memory which Charlie will never forget.

On his dad, Edinburgh said: “He was the best. I absolutely idolised the man and I was never one to shy away from making that publicly known. On social media, I’m always tweeting about him and writing Instagram posts about him because there’s a lot to be proud of.

“He would do anything for us as a family but not just for us, anyone who needed his help or guidance. He would be more than happy to take time out from his day and give up his time to pass on lessons that he was taught in his career. He was very unselfish in that capacity.

Edinburgh guided Orient back to the Football League last season
Getty Images – Getty

“He just wanted to share those lessons and if he could make a difference to one person – whether that be in football or to a family friend that needed some guidance or advice – he would do that. He was just a top man.”

The 26-year-old continued: “One of the last memories I’ve got is him and Steve Sedgley ‘FaceTiming’ me from Madrid when he was out enjoying himself and having the time of his life at the Champions League final.

“I never played professionally but I was able to sit on the bench twice at Wembley as my dad led out Newport County in the FA Trophy and Conference play-off finals. Not being a player, I don’t think there are many sons of managers who can say they sat on the bench at Wembley. Dad was my best mate and he wanted me to enjoy all the highs with him.

“They are very special memories that I’ll be sure to treasure for the rest of my life.”

It was in his last managerial job at Leyton Orient, though, where Justin will forever be remembered as a legend, with the dugout where he used to walk the touchline now a celebration of his life with an array of tributes.

While owners Nigel Travis and Kent Teague, alongside Director of Football Martin Ling, deserve a lot of credit for the strives Orient have made off the pitch since their takeover in 2017, it was Edinburgh who takes a huge chunk of the credit for the O’s promotion to the Football League.

When Edinburgh took over at Orient, he inherited an under-performing squad and a club which sat in 20th place in the National League.

They were seemingly staring a second consecutive relegation in the face and were without a win in 14 league games.

But Edinburgh’s arrival changed everything, leading Orient away from the relegation zone and to a mid-table finish in his first six months in charge, before leading them to the National League title in May.

More impressively, the 49-year-old achieved that feat with the squad he inherited, barring a couple of new additions.

Edinburgh’s last game in charge proved to be the FA Trophy final at Wembley, which Orient lost 1-0 to AFC Fylde, but it didn’t take too much away from the East London side’s season, as the main aim had been accomplished.

Charlie was never too far away from Brisbane Road during that promotion-winning season and he said guiding Orient back to the Football League was Justin’s proudest achievement.

“That tells you something,” the 26-year-old explains.

“He’s won FA Cup medals at Wembley, he’s been part of some successful teams both as a player and manager but I know as a fact this was his standout by far.

Justin Edinburgh spent a decade at Tottenham
GETTY

“He would always get us involved in anything going on – through the highs and the lows we were always with him. It’s something I know I will always cherish for the rest of my life. Seeing that great big grin standing on the touchline, the first thing he’d look for is us in the crowd and he wanted us to be on the touchline with him.

“It was an amazing achievement as I don’t think people realise how tough that league is to get out of. A lot of people pay attention to the top divisions and don’t give non-league football the true respect it probably deserves because there are an awful lot of good players in that league and the teams in there make it very competitive.”

Justin’s assistant Ross Embleton has since stepped up to become interim head coach, with Danny Webb, who was also part of Edinburgh’s coaching staff, becoming interim assistant.

Jobi McAnuff will now combine playing with a coaching role as well and Charlie knows the club will be in safe hands with the trio.

“This was nothing we ever prepared ourselves for and I’m sure Ross, Danny and the football club were alike,” he says.

“When we sat down – myself, my mum and my sister – with Martin Ling, Ross, Alan Comfort the club chaplain to discuss the memorial plans, that’s when they made us aware of the direction the club was going to be moving in and the promotion for Ross, Danny and Jobi.

Ross Embleton has been promoted to interim head coach of the O’s
getty

“We were absolutely delighted. I think as a family, that’s exactly what we want and I know that’s what dad would want. He absolutely loved going into work every day and it’s the happiest I’ve ever seen him in management and that’s largely down to the staff and players he worked with on a day-to-day basis.

“I felt it would have been unfair for anyone coming in from the outside to fill dad’s shoes because fans would judge and people from inside the club would potentially judge the decisions that individual might have made.

“Ross has a wealth of experience prior to working with dad. I’ve spoken a lot with him recently and he’s been fantastic, as has the whole football club. Ross is definitely the right man to take the club forward with what has happened and I really hope that they go on to have a successful season.”

What should have been a celebratory summer for the Edinburgh family has since turned into a solemn one and the challenge now for Charlie is to continue his father’s legacy.

He speaks so eloquently at a time of such trauma, especially when you consider that the 26-year-old also lost his grandfather earlier this year as well.

But Charlie is trying to turn a negative situation into a positive and has since launched the Justin Edinburgh 3 Foundation, which aims to install defibrillators in all sports clubs and gyms.


He said: “For some reason, I don’t know why, I had at the forefront of my mind that if something did go wrong, how do I keep his name and his legacy going? A foundation just seemed the obvious move for us as a family.

“The Justin Edinburgh 3 Foundation is going to be focusing on a variety of different areas. Tom Keeble was the heart consultant and we want to thank him and the staff at Basildon Hospital who gave dad first class care during the time he was there. I’ve confided a lot in him and he’s given me a lot of good advice on areas where funding may, perhaps, be lax a little that we can look to raise money in dad’s name and help with.

“Education is definitely something that we’re going to look into in both CPR and the use of defibrillators. You look at countries like Norway who have a 25% survival rate from a cardiac arrest. Here in the UK, it’s just 9% and that’s all down to the amount of education and training that they’re giving to people in that country. If through dad’s name we can spread the message through the JE3 Foundation and can save one life, we have done a job.

“One of the main things we’re going to campaign to do is whether your sport is football, boxing or cycling, we want to make sure you’re safe and that all the tools are in place, should something tragic like this happen, to make sure they’ve got the best possible chance of survival.

McAnuff was Edinburgh’s captain and he will now be a player/coach for Leyton Orient
Getty Images – Getty

“We’ll be campaigning for a law change and we hope to get that called Justin’s law so that there are defibrillators in all sports facilities across the UK.”

The ‘Justin Edinburgh Trophy’ or a pre-season friendly between Leyton Orient and Tottenham has also been suggested by some supporters, with proceeds going to the foundation.

Charlie said: “I’m very close with Josh Wright who turned out to be dad’s last signing and his brother Mark and we’ve got some fantastic ideas and been speaking to the club’s and trying to see if we can get the wheels in motion to maybe get the go ahead with that.

“Maybe that will be next season now because Spurs are away on tour now and we would want it to be a recognisable team, as that’s what dad deserves. We’d want to target a good crowd and make sure it’s an enjoyable day for everyone.”

To donate to the Justin Edinburgh 3 foundation, click here.





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