Justin Edinburgh built something special and showed the way for Chesterfield, who have been following the Leyton Orient path
Chesterfield hope John Sheridan can create something special to win the National League next season, the way Justin Edinburgh did.
Just days after the Leyton Orient boss passed away, it’s still so hard to take in, even for those far removed from Brisbane Road.
Under Edinburgh’s charismatic leadership, the O’s came out on top in a thrilling 2018/19 National League title race, achieving the highest of highs.
And sadly, tragically, the celebrations were cut short when Edinburgh passed away at the age of 49 on Saturday.
As human beings, our hearts ache for his wife and kids.
They ache for the players and staff who, on the evidence of this week’s outpouring of emotion, fell in love with their gaffer, bought into his vision and were infected by his passion.
‘More than just a manager,’ is a phrase that sums up what he meant to players like former Spireite Craig Clay.
And when you look back at the videos of dressing room celebrations and read the first person accounts of life inside that room last season, it’s clear the team spirit Edinburgh inspired was a huge part of their title success.
Our hearts ache for fans who have lost the man who gave them back their cherished Football League status.
It goes without saying that Orient supporters will firstly mourn the man he was, but they’ll also mourn what could have been for their club in his capable hands.
Results and on-field success come a distant second when a life is lost but it’s a real shame they won’t get to experience life in the League with Edinburgh at the helm.
It was something he earned and it was snatched away.
But the entire club, particularly his squad, will want to pay tribute to his memory in the way he would wish, by making a success of next season.
Orient are, like the Spireites, an old, old club with a long Football League history.
Their paths haven’t crossed too many times, though, with just 25 meetings over the years.
In recent times Chesterfield have followed the path walked first by Orient.
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In 2015 the O’s were relegated from League One, a fate suffered two years later by Chesterfield.
Orient, with just 36 points to their name, finished bottom of League Two in 2017 and a year later Chesterfield did the same, having accrued 38 points.
A first season in the National League brought early struggles and a winless streak stretching into double figures, before a resurgence under the November 2017 appointed Edinburgh and a 13th place finish on 60 points.
Chesterfield’s National League debut was almost a mirror image.
They too failed to adjust to life in non-league, going on a 19-game winless run before Sheridan came to the rescue, midseason, and led them to 14th place and 59 points.
If the pattern is to continue, Chesterfield have a big job on their hands.
Edinburgh’s Orient managed to outlast Salford City, Wrexham, Solihull and Fylde in a ding-dong battle for the title.
They started the season like a house on fire, going 13 games without defeat, beating Chesterfield, Solihull and Harrogate along the way.
The O’s didn’t lose two league games in a row all season, bouncing back after each of their seven defeats to take points from the next game.
When the season entered its crunch period, they fought their way through it, beating three play-off contenders on the spin.
They were all rounders, with an impressive division-best defensive record and the second highest goals for tally in the league.
In Macauley Bonne that had that all-important prolific striker, with the supporting cast adding goals from midfield and defence.
Edinburgh could field a settled side, eight players ending the season with 35 or more league starts, but it wasn’t a huge squad - 22 players started league games, compared with the 34 who were named in the starting XI for Chesterfield.
And he had them playing good stuff, the O’s passed the ball well, although they had an organisation and steel to them that is so important in the rough and tumble of non-league football.
It must have been a joy to watch.
It’s what every fan wants to see from their own side and it’s why Orient fans will forever remember Justin Edinburgh.