Published on Wednesday 03 October 2018 in Vanarama National League News
Had Leyton Orient lost at home to Sutton United on December 9, 2017, then it would have been a disaster. At the time, the O's had gone 15 National League games without a win and they were three points above the bottom four.
After losing his first match in charge away to basement club and then-relegation rivals Solihull Moors, Justin Edinburgh needed a result in his opening fixture in front of the club's expectant supporters at Brisbane Road.
Thankfully it arrived as Orient thrashed Sutton 4-1, and nearly ten months down the line so much has changed in E10.
In a strange twist of fate, the east Londoners played Paul Doswell's U's again at the weekend and this time they did suffer a defeat – going down 1-0.
While it was a hugely disappointing result, the transformation Edinburgh has overseen at Orient means despite losing last Saturday, they still sit second in the table.
The 48-year-old, who guided Newport County out of the National League five years ago, knows what he is doing at this level.
It has been proven over the past ten months, but how did he turn things around so quickly after he was appointed O's head coach on November 29, 2017?
Orient had just lost 3-0 at Torquay United, who would go on to suffer relegation, and were looking a likely candidate to follow in York City's footsteps by going down two years in a row.
Edinburgh, quite typically, credits his players for the turnaround, he said: "I think we needed to simplify things for the players, but it is very difficult to answer the question in terms of talking about what happened previously.
"All I could do was implement what I thought was a style which was best for this group of players.
"But it isn't about me, it is about them players carrying out what we have asked them to do and it is all about them and what they have done and what they have changed.
"People underestimate not winning for 15 games and to then go and turn that around as quickly as the players did and for long periods, I think it is testament to this group."
While Edinburgh won't indulge in self-praise, one of his many top skills is his man-management.
The confidence of this Orient squad was absolutely shattered as we approached the final month of 2017, yet by January, the team were flying.
Wins over Sutton, Maidstone United and Dagenham & Redbridge lifted spirits of not only the players, but the long-suffering supporters too.
A real key change which Edinburgh made and perhaps isn't highlighted enough is the big and brave decision he made regarding the goalkeeper position.
O's academy graduate Charlie Grainger had been first choice under Steve Davis, and when he was dismissed, interim head coach Ross Embleton gave an opportunity to Sam Sargeant.
While both have undeniable talent, the situation was an unforgiving one, especially for two young inexperienced stoppers.
Edinburgh's answer was to bring in goalkeeper coach Dean Brill, who hadn't played a competitive game since April 2015.
Despite this, the former Luton Town custodian was made number one and went on to keep nine clean sheets from 24 league appearances in the second half of the 2017/18 campaign.
Brill helped Orient go from 20th position to a more than respectable 13th-place finish come the end of the season, with plenty of help from Macauley Bonne, Jobi McAnuff, Josh Coulson plus several others.
Given how bad things were when Edinburgh took over, he had achieved a great deal during his first few months in charge.
Yet in typical fashion, the O's boss was already looking ahead and plotting what he and the club could achieve in this current season.
A quiet summer seemed to split fans with some wanting a raft of signings and others happy to just support the boss, director of football Martin Ling and passionate owners Kent Teague and Nigel Travis.
The squad Edinburgh is working with now is largely the same set of players who had failed to win in 15 games, but there is a difference and that is the competitiveness in all areas.
In almost every single position there is a debate to be had about who should start, and recently the likes of Sam Ling, Alex Lawless and Matt Harrold have failed to make the bench while the popular George Elokobi remains out injured.
Myles Judd and Josh Koroma couldn't get a look in under former boss Davis and now they are regulars and thriving.
Edinburgh said: "Every person has a desire to get in the team and even outside of the 16 you look at the people who haven't been involved recently and yet are fit – Ling, Lawless, Harrold and Levi Lumeka [on loan from Crystal Palace].
"Those boys have not even been getting on the bench, so competition is strong and the players in the team know they need to be at their best to keep their spot."
For the first time in a long while, Orient were below-par on Saturday and suffered a 1-0 loss at home to Sutton as a result.
As stated, ten months ago this would have been a crisis, but this defeat has only served to show everyone connected with the club what fantastic strides have been made since Edinburgh's arrival.
Before losing to Sutton, O's had started this season with a 13-match unbeaten run and the culmination was a 5-1 thrashing over Braintree Town on September 25.
Macauley Bonne, who signed a new two-year deal in August despite interest from lots of Football League sides, grabbed a hat-trick and he is one of many to have kicked on under Edinburgh.
The victory at Cressing Road saw Orient break a club record by beating their previous longest unbeaten start to a league campaign.
In the 2013/14 season, O's started with a run of 12 League One matches without defeat, but this team went past that number and hit the magic 13 last week.
Unfortunately, Orient could not extend their streak by seeing off Sutton, but you have to wonder when this club record will ever be matched, let alone beaten.
Knowing Edinburgh's drive and determination, he will hope to see his players try and go better than 13 at the start of next season.
And if things continue to go to plan, O's could be a Football League club this time next year, but it will not be easy.
Everyone at the club is well aware of how much hard work is required to achieve that and that is mainly down to Edinburgh, who from the minute he arrived made sure the minimum requirement his players delivered was maximum effort.
It has brought success and so has clear direction when it comes to formations, styles of play and tactics.
While Edinburgh deserves a lot of the credit, so do his coaching staff, with people like Ross Embleton and Danny Webb playing an integral role in recent success.
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Speaking in July when Embleton and Webb, along with director of football Ling, chief scout Steve Foster and physio Ketan Patel, signed two-year contract extensions, Edinburgh said: "As a group, you want continuity and a settled squad and settled staff.
"I felt if we have a vision, and I know the board have, and they believe in what we are trying to produce and the staff are the same and if we are all working with one another then it shows good camaraderie for everyone connected with the club.
"I am absolutely delighted the board made the decision and I am pleased for the staff because I believe their work ethic and quality of work deserves it."
Things have only got better since the end of July, but now Orient are facing a test, and it is not their first this season.
After drawing their opening three games, two of them at home, there were some grumblings of discontent from a small section of supporters, but what's followed has been a remarkable run.
Now it is over, O's must bounce back and they will look to do so on Saturday away to Maidenhead United.
One thing you can guarantee is Edinburgh will not panic, after losing to Sutton he said: "We break the fixtures down into groups of ten.
"We are four games into our second group of ten and we are still well on track for what we want to do this season."
There are another 32 fixtures left to play in the 2018/19 National League campaign and O's look well placed to be a front-runner this term.
"I think it is a good time to be a Leyton Orient fan," Edinburgh said last week, and if he has his own way, he will do everything he can to make sure this is just the start of what could be a truly memorable campaign for one of London's oldest clubs.
By George Sessions, Football Whispers