SO It appears we need to talk about Justin.
I’m presented with an interesting challenge this week, addressing the criticisms of the County, of manager Justin Edinburgh and doing so in the absolute knowledge that I’m absolutely certain to get flak whatever is addressed.
Why is Pearlman writing about fans moaning on the Argus website? That’s just one or two voices out of 3000?
And if I didn’t; why is Pearlman ignoring the big issues and protecting Justin Edinburgh and the club, not scrutinising them, when fans are calling for his head online?
I am vociferously reminded on social media that it discredits me when I give too much credence to the keyboard experts, but by the same token, County have won one game in 14, some fans in the Bisley Stand (heard by our editor Kevin Ward) are extremely disgruntled and some online believe it is time to sack the manager. They deserve to have their views examined.
This is very much a damned if you do, damned if you don’t topic that is polarizing and in these instances – especially in a column, which is an opinion piece – my instinct is to merely write what I believe to be true and hope that whether you agree or not, you’ll give me a fair hearing.
I’ll be honest, I usually start thinking about what I’ll write in this column over the weekend and the Exiles are usually to the forefront of my mind. Had they of beaten Exeter, I would’ve almost certainly gone down the lines of blasting the scrutiny of Edinburgh as ridiculous. But they didn’t.
And as I sat in a pit of despair on the M25 on Sunday evening, my club’s season flushed totally down the toilet after chopping and changing with one manager too many, as I moaned about Nacer Chadli and Danny Rose and Andros Townsend’s inability to ever pick his head up and look at what he’s doing, for a good three hours, I realised I really have no moral high ground over County’s more kneejerk, reactionary supporters.
They might deal in a currency of hysteria and anger (as do most online, as it goes) but so do I at times with my own club so who am I to judge?
I’m often told I don’t understand what it’s like to be a County fan because I’m English and support Spurs. The opposite is true. I do understand. The ruined weekends, the delusions, the despair, the irrationality of how much a loss can hurt us, it is familiar ground.
But the fact is this.... Newport County AFC are going through a horrible, horrible run. It’s such a bad run, such wretched form, that if it wasn’t for the fact they were one of the most outstanding sides in the country in 2013, they’d be in real relegation trouble now. But they were that good in 2013.
I can’t believe it’s necessary to go over Edinburgh’s credentials as a manager again but there we go. He took over a side that looked destined for the drop back down to the Conference South, beat those odds, stayed up and also threw in a first appearance at Wembley as a little cherry on the cake.
He then had a full season, which saw County shock people and remain a promotion contender all season, eventually resulting in a play-off berth. The Exiles weren’t supposed to beat Grimsby, but Edinburgh produced victories in both legs of the semi-finals and then had the nous to finish the job with victory at Wembley over Wrexham. Few of us could believe young loanee Alex Gilbey started that game, but he was tremendous, Edinburgh had been right again.
And now here we are. We all said a consolidation season would be acceptable and County are about as mid-table as you can get in League Two. But because they’ve been on the slide, it skews the view. If Newport had started with no wins in 14 and then progressed to where they sit now, I guarantee you people would be talking about the play-offs and ‘momentum,’ and Edinburgh would be the toast of the town.
And for those calling for him to be sacked, I ask very simply, for who?
Are you incorrect in saying most managers would be sacked for winning one in 14? No. But most managers haven’t built the level of trust and goodwill that Edinburgh has. And unless you find a Tony Pulis, where is this magical replacement who can do a better job with Edinburgh’s players?
A total lack of stability has been a cancer for many, many clubs in English football in the last few years. However, I’m reminded of two recent examples, those being Owen Coyle at Bolton and Steve Clarke at West Brom.
Both bosses paid the price for similar runs to the ones County endured and I’d think you’d struggle to find a solitary supporter who believes that (with the benefit of hindsight) the right decision was made with either sacking.
Sometimes you have to merely stand as one and have some faith.
It angers me to read people write things like “your messiah Edinburgh,” or “your so-called great manager,” because it utterly denigrates the phenomenal success he’s already achieved.
That is when at times logical criticism spills over into antagonism and that’s why certain posters online also become a target for boo boys.
Ultimately though, all the sniping in the world online makes little difference, it’s on the terraces that it really counts.
And the fact is, despite a horrible run of form, the vast majority of County fans stand behind Edinburgh because they believe in him, for every one calling for his head, there are ten to say ‘don’t be so silly.’
I believe Edinburgh to be comfortably the best manager Newport have had since they were reformed and I’m confident he’ll improve the club again next season, as he did this.
One bad run in two-and-a-half years isn’t nearly enough to make me question if he’s still the right man for County.
But enough from me. What do you think? Have at it.