Justin Edinburgh was hailed as “more than a manager” by Leyton Orient captain Jobi McAnuff as players and fans assembled at the club’s stadium to remember the late boss.
McAnuff and Orient goalkeeper Dean Brill were clearly emotional as they laid down team shirts in the home dugout bearing handwritten messages for the former Tottenham defender, whose death at the age of 49 following a cardiac arrest was announced on Saturday.
Speaking by the pitch where he and Edinburgh had celebrated promotion to the Football League just weeks before, McAnuff said: “Football aside, Justin was a hugely positive man, loved his family. Every day he came in he had that lust for life, a real zest about him, a real willingness to enjoy himself.
“I think he would want us to carry that on… I know for sure he would want us to approach this in the most positive way we can, that’s very much what he was about, being on the front foot.
“Together, using those lessons that he taught us, it can help us deal with such tragic circumstances.”
Brill’s message for the manager signalled the esteem in which he was held by his players, reading: “RIP Gaffer. Thank you for everything. You are a true hero and inspiration. You believed in us all. Rest well, Love ‘Goalie’.”
Tributes came in from around the world after news of the former left-back’s death following a cardiac arrest.
Many came from former colleagues at Southend, Portsmouth and Tottenham – he won the FA Cup and League Cup with the latter during a decade of service.
Days before his death he had been in Madrid to watch Spurs’ Champions League final defeat by Liverpool.
Former team-mate Gary Lineker tweeted: “Deeply saddened to hear that Justin Edinburgh has passed away. He was an excellent coach and a terrific fullback who was a delight to share a dressing room with and have as a teammate. Thoughts are with his family. #RipJustin.”
Ex-Spurs defender Ledley King added: “I can’t believe this saw Justin last week and he was in great shape and full of life. He was genuinely one of the nicest guys you could meet. Thoughts and prayers to his family. RIP mate.”
Flowers, football shirts and messages of support were left for Edinburgh outside the stadium and in the home dugout.
One message from a Spurs fan outside Orient’s stadium read: “Hugged you in Madrid at the CL (Champions League) final and saw you play many, many times. Thank you for the FA Cup in 1991 and the League Cup in ‘99.
“You’ll be truly missed by everyone at Spurs. You did a great job at all the clubs you’ve managed, most recently LOFC.
“The world is a smaller place without you.”
After his playing days, Edinburgh managed a host of lower and non-league clubs, leading both Newport and Orient to promotions from the National League.
Edinburgh had recently said he regarded Orient’s promotion after 18 months in charge as his greatest achievement in football.
Many fans were in tears as they stood inside the Breyer Group Stadium, which is also known as Brisbane Road, while others queued to sign a book of condolences.
One O’s fan left a note reading: “Dear Justin, thanks for putting Leyton Orient back on the map.”
Another read: “Thank you for making me an Orient fan. RIP. Jacob, 6 yrs.”