'Justin Edinburgh would be proud of how Leyton Orient have moved forward'
"If he came down that road now, pulled his car in and walked into the building I think he would be proud"
By Greg Grimes
Last Updated: 09/10/19 3:18pm
Leyton Orient director of football Martin Ling says he has used his own experiences of depression to try and help others at the club recover from Justin Edinburgh's death.
Edinburgh, aged just 49, died weeks after leading the east London club back into the Football League.
The former Tottenham defender, husband and father to two children, suffered a cardiac arrest on June 3 and died five days later.
The club was left heartbroken and experienced months of mourning rather than the excitement of returning to League Two after a two-year absence.
Ling, a former Swindon and Torquay manager, was one of the first in football to talk about his depression and says it's allowed him to help others mourn.
He said: "Nothing can prepare you for it. I knew in my gut and in my head how I could cope with it. I had coped with depression and mental health illness, and that was look forward and [focus on] who can I help today.
"In 2010, I had the problem. If someone had brought the problem to me then I would have seen them as weak. I think there's people out there that still think that.
"The players [after Edinburgh's death] were scared to laugh. I remember going out there and I walked around and pulled them as a group and said, 'It's okay to laugh, it's okay to be happy. We are sad but it's okay to express happiness as well.'"
World Mental Health Day is on Thursday October 10 and O's captain Jobi McAnuff says football is changing with their approach to mental health.
The 37-year-old says he has taken on the responsibility as a senior player in the dressing room to help others around him following Edinburgh's passing.
McAnuff said: "It's just making sure everyone is okay as they can be in the sense that if they feel they need to talk. If you feel like you need to cry, have a cry. If you feel like you want to have a chat, have a chat.
"[Talking about your mental health] is changing for the better, certainly when I started out. There was nowhere near as much awareness of mental health issues and the mental wellbeing of players.
"I miss him every day. It might be a magazine, it might be a programme or it might be a bit on the TV that you see but you can't help but miss him as he was such a big character."
The start of this season would have been one which Edinburgh was preparing for as soon as his team had sealed promotion on April 27 after a goalless draw with Braintree at Brisbane Road.
With his passing, the season would have been the last thing on the minds of the staff at the club but with each day that passed was a day closer to realising Edinburgh's dream.
Ling said the process of moving on was difficult and that few coaches wanted to replace Edinburgh. His assistant Ross Embleton has taken charge on an interim basis.
Ling added: "I think we had less people apply for the job because of that. If someone gets the sack you don't talk about how good they used to be. When someone dies after taking the club up people will always remember him.
"The day that we stop saying that's how Justin [Edinburgh] used to do it is the day we are recovering without realising.
"He is in my thinking when I make decisions. I can't get of out my head that he is just going to knock on that door and walk in. It all of a sudden comes back to you like that.
"If he came down that road now, pulled his car in and walked into the building I think he would be proud."