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Justin Edinburgh gave back what Leyton Orient lost – his legacy should have been the start

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Justin Edinburgh gave back what Leyton Orient lost - his legacy should have been the start

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Who could have believed we would remember it as Justin Edinburgh’s last match?

It was non-League finals day and we were ready to do the double.

We being… Leyton Orient. Justin Edinburgh’s Leyton Orient.

Crowned National League champions a few weeks earlier, now was our final game as a non-League side (for a long while we hoped) as we faced AFC Fylde in the FA Trophy final.

And here-in lies the rub.

We lost 1-0 and, on the way home, we actually realised the result did not matter.

How can a football fan say that?

Easy, because thanks to Justin Edinburgh, we already had our respectability back on the pitch. He had won us promotion and now he had given us a great day out at the national stadium knowing the real success had already been achieved.

After the toil and pain Orient had been through since we were last at Wembley for a League One play-off final five years earlier – a one-way ticket out of the Football League as the club changed hands following the match – we were there thanks to solid ownership and the appointment of the former Spurs defender as manager who was at the end of his second season in charge.

During that time he had been linked with other jobs.

But no, he stayed, he had created a team that defended so well, that won the important games, that earned the key points away from home and who sent the fans crazy on the day promotion was sealed to provide supporters young and old with something they had never seen before.

Orient had actually won a title for the first time in 49 years!

It was our first since being champions of the old Third Division in 1970 and this fan did not start going to Brisbane Road until seven years after that.

After losing on penalties to Rotherham in that League One play-off in 2014, we had more managers than it was possible to remember as we slid down.

And then in 2017, Edinburgh arrived and everything changed.

We had belief, we had stability and we had a young manager who was building something special.

Everything you read was about the relationship he had with his players, the inspiration he would give them, you realised how that showed on the pitch.

Crowds were up, and season-tickets for next season were reaching record levels.

And then this…

It is beyond comprehension to imagine what his family are going through today and forever. We are just mere supporters of a football team and it is almost an insult to think we can grieve too.

But Justin Edinburgh gave us back something we had lost.

The tragedy being that that will be his legacy, when it should have been just the start.

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