Gilling­ham boss on Bri­tish gaf­fers’ chances of reach­ing the top

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Stu­art Ham­monds

WHEN Lee Tom­lin be­came a Premier League player hav­ing sealed a £3.5m move from Mid­dles­brough to Bournemouth in Au­gust, Justin Ed­in­burgh’s phone soon lit up.

“He sent me a text straight­away say­ing ‘You al­ways told me I’d get there Gaffer!’ – and I knew he would from the first train­ing ses­sion I worked with him,” says the Gilling­ham boss of the ex-Eng­land C in­ter­na­tional he sold from the nowde­funct Rush­den & Di­a­monds to Peterborough five years ago.

It’s Tues­day lunchtime and we are in the café area of Brent­wood’s Hol­i­day Inn. Even though Ed­in­burgh’s Gilling­ham side have a John­stone’s Paint Tro­phy tie with Lu­ton that evening, he has ar­ranged a game for the League One club’s de­vel­op­ment side in the af­ter­noon.

Af­ter an hour with The FLP, he is meet­ing the op­po­si­tion coach to lead them down to the Kent club’s train­ing ground.

It is a se­lect team from the Bar­net & South­gate Col­lege his as­sis­tant David Ker­slake worked with as part of the Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur Foun­da­tion Pro­gramme, and from which his latest “gam­ble” Em­manuel Osadebe came in the sum­mer.

The 18-year-old midfielder, who scored in­side seven min­utes of his open­ing day de­but against Sheffield United, joins a long list that started with Nathan El­der and Chris Whelp­dale at Bil­ler­icay, and has in­cluded the likes of Wolves’ Lee Evans, Peterborough’s Conor Washington and Manch­ester United’s Re­gan Poole at New­port County.

Ed­in­burgh doesn’t want to miss any po­ten­tial stars who could make the kind of jump Tom­lin has – and which the man­ager him­self wants to make.

“Tommo has the best first touch of any player I’ve worked with as a player or man­ager – and that in­cludes Paul Gas­coigne,” says the 45-year-old. “He was al­ready at Rush­den when I went there, but I knew straight away he’d make it.

“He re­mem­bered what I’d al­ways told him when his move from Mid­dles­brough went through. I was over the moon for him. Ev­ery­one wants to work in the Premier League.”

He speaks with ex­pe­ri­ence as a player who spent a decade at White Hart Lane af­ter Terry Ven­ables plucked him from the old Fourth Di­vi­sion in 1990, but who regularly doubted whether he would make it back to the League’s base­ment, let alone top-flight, as a man­ager.

Twelve years on from cut­ting his teeth with Bil­ler­icay, he has climbed four rungs of the lad­der via spells at Fisher Ath­letic, Grays Ath­letic, Rush­den and New­port to work at his cur­rent level.

For­mer Tot­ten­ham team-mate Tim Sher­wood has cho­sen a dif­fer­ent route, via the White Hart Lane club’s academy to boss the first team and now As­ton Villa, while another ‘name’ from Ed­in­burgh’s Spurs days, Teddy Sher­ing­ham, is learn­ing about man­age­ment the hard way at League Two Steve­nage.

Ed­in­burgh doesn’t be­grudge ei­ther, but it does ran­kle that, o Match of the Day last Sun­day, the book­mak­ers’ four lead­ing can­di­dates to re­place Bren­dan Rodgers as Liver­pool man­ager were all for­eign.

“I’m never en­vi­ous of any­one, whether it be Tim, Garry Monk at Swansea or who­ever,” says Ed­in­burgh, who re­cently com­pleted his UEFA Pro Li­cence qual­i­fi­ca­tion in south Wales along­side the Premier League pair.

“I don’t be­grudge those peo­ple, be­cause I would have taken that if it was of­fered.

“What frus­trates me more than any­thing is that young Bri­tish man­agers are be­ing over­looked for jobs in most cases.

“A prime ex­am­ple is how well Gary Rowett has done at Birm­ing­ham. He learnt his trade at Bur­ton and he’s trans­formed Birm­ing­ham. But there is no men­tion of man­agers who have come through the lower leagues.”

As well as ex­pe­ri­ence on match­day, where he’s won pro­mo­tions, been in­volved in play-offs and never been rel­e­gated or sacked, Ed­in­burgh has had to deal with things most man­agers won’t ever en­counter.

Rogue chair­men; wages be­ing late or not ar­riv­ing at all; hav­ing to stop the Rush­den coach en route to a game to tell his squad one of their team-mates, Dale Roberts, had com­mit­ted sui­cide; the club it­self be­ing ex­pelled from the Con­fer­ence and then liq­ui­dated.

“I’ve been a man­ager for a long time and been through a lot of emo­tions, a lot of sit­u­a­tions,” says Ed­in­burgh. “I was think­ing about Teddy the other day. He is learn­ing on his feet and it’s be­ing mag­ni­fied be­cause he’s a Football League man­ager. He isn’t go­ing to be al­lowed to make mis­takes.

“I went in at Ry­man Premier level and I was able to learn away from the spotlight. Peo­ple are still ex­pect­ing mir­a­cles be­cause you were a Premier League player and they’re ex­pect­ing a Premier League man­ager, but we know that doesn’t work.

“Ted and I have spo­ken about play­ers, but he knows that no mat­ter how good you were as a player, you are not a player any­more. You are a man­ager, so you are judged as a man­ager.

“At three o’clock on a Satur­day, the peo­ple at Bil­ler­icay weren’t in­ter­ested in what I’d done as a player. In the bar af­ter­wards they would be. All the boys would love to hear the sto­ries about cup fi­nals and who were the best play­ers.

“But they didn’t want me preach­ing about ‘When I played I did this, so you’ve got to do that’. It’s ir­rel­e­vant. They say ‘You’re a man­ager, so you lead us’. You have to deal with it when you’re in the dress­ing room and you’ve got 16-18 play­ers look­ing at you. I think Ted is prob­a­bly learn­ing about that now.

“It’s dif­fi­cult be­cause football is so scru­ti­nised and mag­ni­fied now, you can’t make mis­takes. I’ve gained a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence and I’ve man­aged a lot of games.

“When you’re a player you learn more from play­ing the games than you do on the train­ing ground. And that’s the same as a man­ager. You are judged on your de­ci­sions in chang­ing games, sub­sti­tu­tions, team se­lec­tion. But you have to be given time.”

Ed­in­burgh had taken New­port from near the foot of the Con­fer­ence in Oc­to­ber 2011 to chal­leng­ing at the top of League Two, as well as two Wem­b­ley fi­nals, when he left them last Fe­bru­ary to take up Paul Scally’s of­fer to suc­ceed Peter Tay­lor at Pri­est­field.

A de­sire to be back among his fam­ily ev­ery day in Es­sex was clearly a mo­ti­vat­ing fac­tor, but also the chance to man­age a club that he be­lieves can help him progress fur­ther up the lad­der.

He lifted a pre­vi­ously strug­gling side from 17th to 12th in 17 games last term, and this sea­son has also started well, with the Kent side fourth go­ing into yesterday’s trip to Ch­ester­field.

“I ful­filled my re­mit at New­port by tak­ing them into the Football League,” says Ed­in­burgh. “But I had a chance to get home to the south-east with a fi­nan­cially sta­ble club that had ac­tu­ally been in the Cham­pi­onship.

“The chair­man is a solid guy. He’s been

there 20 years and from my first meet­ing, I just knew it was the right job and he was a good guy to work for.

“I know all chair­men are good to work for when you’re win­ning games, but it was an op­por­tu­nity and I couldn’t turn it down.


“At the minute I think we are over­achiev­ing. I had three tar­gets from the chair­man. First, to stay in the di­vi­sion. Then he asked ‘Can you get in the play­offs?’ And ‘Can you gain pro­mo­tion?’

“If we can be in the top eight to ten by Christ­mas, it’ll be some­where the club hasn’t been for a long time and that gives you an op­por­tu­nity to re­struc­ture, re­think and maybe add to it.”

Get Gilling­ham up and his own stock will be even higher for a chance to re­turn to the top-flight he left 15 years ago to join Tony Pulis’ Portsmouth. The big pic­ture in Ed­in­burgh’s head, how­ever, does not only fea­ture him­self.

“Do­ing the Pro Li­cence was a great ex­pe­ri­ence,” he said. “Tony did a pre­sen­ta­tion and media peo­ple and psy­chol­o­gists came in. They say you’ve got to try and keep an even keel, but it’s im­pos­si­ble.

“Three or four re­sults ago, Garry Monk was be­ing talked about as the next Eng­land man­ager. Then Swansea have a lit­tle bad run and it’s like ‘Oh, is he ca­pa­ble?’ It’s crazy, isn’t it?

“You’ve got to en­joy the highs when they are there, be­cause you are not high for long enough, but I do feel there is an over­sight and man­agers are over­looked in Non-League and League Two.

“And it’s usu­ally Bri­tish man­agers who get pro­moted from the Cham­pi­onship, which they say is the hard­est pro­mo­tion, so why do they all of a sud­den be­come not ca­pa­ble of man­ag­ing in the Premier? It’s not trendy, is it?

“Sean Dy­che and Steve Bruce do great jobs. I’m re­ally pleased Paul Cle­ment has come back with his ex­pe­ri­ence of Paris St Ger­main and Real Madrid and last Satur­day I was up against David Dunn at Old­ham. They have great knowl­edge to pass on.

“Of course, you want to be suc­cess­ful your­self. But when you see Gary go in at Birm­ing­ham, you are will­ing him to be suc­cess­ful be­cause you want clubs to say, ‘Yeah, OK, that’s a good model and it works – let’s try it’. It’s so much bet­ter for all us young boys who are look­ing to con­tinue our de­vel­op­ment.”

NEW GEN­ER­A­TION: Teddy Sher­ing­ham, top, Gary Rowett and Tim Sher­wood CLASS TOUCH: Em­manuel Osadebe, right, and Lee Tom­lin, left, have been brought through by Ed­in­burgh

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

ON THE UP: Justin Ed­in­burgh has an eye on pro­mo­tion with Gilling­ham as he con­tin­ues to learn the trade

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