Justin Edinburgh reflects on two glorious years at Newport County
10:32am Friday 4th October 2013 in Newport County
JUSTIN Edinburgh reflects on his two year tenure as Newport County boss by reflecting on key moments from his reign.
We were 3-0 down at half time at home in my first game in charge and in front of about 700 fans.
At half time I was thinking "get me back to Essex as quickly as possible", it was horrendous.
I will sound weak, but I missed home, felt out of my element and it was a disaster of a first week and I realised the size of the task to stay in the Conference was bigger than I thought.
What it made me realise is squads are sometimes better on paper and in my next game we went behind after 38 seconds, if I was Dr Who I’d have got back in the Tardis. What have I got myself into?
We had to get the players to realise they were in a real fight to stay up, contrasting the promotion push they’d been tipped for. The state of the pitch didn’t help, but January changed things as we were able to bring in some fresh faces. We were a mentally weak group who needed toughening up.
The darkest day was losing 3-2 to Bath, we were horrendous, but things like that make you stronger and more resolute. The supporters raised the fund and guys like Lee Minshull, Andy Sandell and Max Porter, they made a tremendous difference to us.
I think he has to be the best signing we made, he won us games 1-0 almost single-handedly, and I take a lot of pride in seeing him as Nottingham Forest’s number one.
I think he’ll go on to play for England; I have no doubts about that. I remember his first training session vividly as the lads were trying to score past him for hours without any success.
Would I still be County manager if we were at Spytty Park? Would we be in the Football League? Two different questions with the same answer, no, definitely not.
It was impossible to see success if we stayed at Spytty, the budget wouldn’t have been competitive; it’s the most important move the club will make in the next 50 years.
It was the main reason for us having our success last season.
He signs who he wants
I know I’ve got a reputation for signing players other clubs don’t want, even with a criminal past or a bad reputation in the game.
But I’m a great believer in giving people second chances in life; some may need three or four. It’s my best asset as a manager, my man management skills and it’s what allows me to do what I do, because the game has changed at all levels. I don’t worry about reputations and I stand proud of my record with signings, I feel they’ve all contributed. I will always meet the player before I sign them as I am interested in them, as people, not just on the pitch. What’s the family situation? I’ve watched a lot of non-league games in eight years and that’s helped, I know a player when I see one. Sometimes other managers don’t know how to treat players.
We had a two year plan to get promoted, but privately we were targeting the play-offs from the first game of last season.
I think when we got to Christmas we knew what we had was enough to get to the play-offs, though for a long-time I felt we’d win the division.
Jolley good push
The signing of Christian Jolley was key for the club, not just what he’d done on the pitch (on loan) and what we knew he could do for us (score 15 goals) but the way we signed him.
We sent him back to Wimbledon, wouldn’t get involved in a bidding war and stuck to our valuation even though some fans were criticising us. The chairman backed me and we eventually got Christian for the right reasons and at the right price. It sent out a message and was a catalyst signing.
Not doing a Deano (and jumping ship)
I think my experiences at Rushden and other clubs in the non-league have given me a perspective. I have had other offers, but none that turned my head because of my past experience of working for a club who no longer exist.
If I hadn’t have gone through all that I’d have probably jumped at the first chance to go nearer to home or to a higher league club, but it isn’t right for me. Friendships with the board have played a key role as well and the fans. They all make it easy to work here; I never feel like I’m fighting anyone and every time I’ve signed a new deal it’s been an easy decision to make.
The bookies didn’t give us a chance in the play-offs but I was sure we’d get to Wembley and virtually sure we’d get promoted.
There was a lot of bitterness in our group at the way our fixture congestion was handled by the Conference; it took us out of the title race and through no fault of our own.
We felt the world was against us and once the title was gone the focus was all on the play-offs and I just knew they were ready, I had an unbelievable belief we’d win it, it was our year.
It was important the message got across that it was a life changing opportunity, not like the year before (FA Trophy final) when we went there for a good experience and a nice day out. We learned so many lessons from the year before, we knew how to prepare.
It’s difficult for me not to be emotional about what we’ve achieved here and the difference it makes, when I drive to the games now its little kids in Newport County shirts where once it was Liverpool or Man United.
That makes you proud and I know I’m creating a legacy here that eclipses what I did as a player.
I take tremendous pride in what we’ve achieved here, it drives me on, I’ve had some words with fans over the years but they’ve been great with us and played a big part.
What it means to the people of Newport, to the whole city, it’s incredible. I was loyal as a player and it’s stood me in good stead as a manager, but I believe there’s an awful lot more to do at this club.
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