FEATURE: New Town boss Edinburgh on potential, the squad, Kelvin Thomas, club spirit... and turning down the Cobblers in 2014
As he settles into the manager's chair and makes himself at home at Sixfields, Justin Edinburgh admits he is excited by the potential of the Cobblers - and has also explained his reasons for turning down an approach from the club to take over from Aidy Boothroyd back in 2014.
The Town boss is preparing for his first game in charge at Milton Keynes Dons this Saturday, and admits he still has to ‘giggle at times’ as he gets his head round the fact he is in charge at Sixfields.
It has been a speedy and welcome turnaround for the 47-year-old, who was only sacked from his job as manager by Gillingham on January 3, with the Kent club a place below the Cobblers in the Sky Bet League One table.
Following Gills chairman Paul Scally’s decision to let him go following a run of patchy form, Edinburgh took the chance to get on his travels for a bit of winter sun as he tried to dissect exactly what had gone wrong at the Priestfied Stadium.
But there wasn’t too much time for introspection, as following Rob Page’s sacking as Cobblers boss on January 9, it quickly became clear that Edinburgh could be in the frame for the top job at Sixfields.
Plenty of phone calls, meetings and interviews later, the former Tottenham Hotspur defender found himself signing on the dotted line to become the new manager at Sixfields last Friday - just 10 days after being sacked by another club!
And the former Newport County and Rushden & Diamonds boss admits he still has to pinch himself after what has happened in the first three weeks of 2017.
“I was a bit taken aback to get such a good opportunity, and it has been a whirlwind,” said Edinburgh.
“I was nervous when I went in on Monday morning, I am still looking around, still taking it in, and have tried not to giggle at times!
“I spoke to my family and friends, and they said ‘what an opportunity’, and I feel lucky, I feel excited that I am here and delighted to be managing this football club.
“It’s a fantastic place to come and manage.
“It is in a really good central place to be able to attract players, to use contacts.”
Edinburgh has spent his first week at Sixfields getting to know his new players, as well as all of the backroom and office staff.
He is keen on the ‘in it together’ mantra that worked so well for Chris Wilder last season, and feels it is crucial to take the ‘one for all, all for one’ approach if a club wants success.
“You have to try and improve every day, personally, collectively, as a club and we all need to support each other,” said Edinburgh.
“I am very conscious of getting to know everyone, and I think as a football club we win and lose together.
“I know that has been said before but I think it’s very important because everybody plays their part, and the more people that are supportive the better it is.
“The more people that feel a part of it will have that will to go that little bit extra, and do that little bit that is perhaps not in their job description, and that is what we need and is what I will encourage.”
As is more often than not the case when a new manager joins a club, he has been hired off the back of somebody else’s misfortune, in this case Page.
The Welshman was dismissed having spent just eight months in charge at Sixfields.
He left with the Cobblers 16th in Sky Bet League One, but in a desperate run of form that has seen the team lose 10 of their past 12 games, and sliding towards the relegation zone.
Edinburgh - who has joined the club along with assistant David Kerslake, of whom he says ‘we are very lucky to have him’ - is well aware that it is not going to be easy turning around such a run form, but he is ready to take it on.
“It is a huge challenge, and one that I wouldn’t shy away from, but one that I am optimistic about,” he said.
“I feel I will get the reaction that will see us climb the table, and I think you have to be optimistic because I believe the squad is capable, they showed that in the early part of the season.
“Not many managers get jobs because somebody has been successful, and we know the industry, we understand why we are coming into clubs, and we know why new managers are appointed
“I understand that we have to be cautious of the form, and the length of time it has been going on, but we have to try to make the magic wand appear
“You have to try to get the players to embrace what you are asking of them, and there will be a change.”
As a player, Edinburgh was a talented left back who spent 10 seasons in the top flight with Spurs, and claimed winners medals in the FA Cup (1991) and also the League Cup (1999), although he was sent off in the latter final against Leicester City after tangling with Leicester City’s Robbie Savage. The card was later rescinded.
But he is well aware of life in the lower divisions, having cut his teeth with Southend United, when he remembers vividly playing against the Cobblers at the old County Ground.
He also knows a bit about Northampton Town as a club, having done some scouting for Colin Calderwood when he was the Cobblers manager between 2004 and 2006.
Then a non-League manager just starting out at Billericary, Edinburgh also recommended players to the club, and he admits he spoke to Calderwood ahead of taking the job last week.
The vibe he got from the Scot about the club was all positive, and Edinburgh revealed that it wasn’t just Calderwood that told him he would be on to a good thing if he took the Cobblers job on.
“I spoke to Colin Calderwood and he wished us all the best and spoke very highly of the club, as have everybody I have spoken to, which is not always the case,” he said.
“The people that I trust and know in football, have all given pretty much the same description of Northampton as a club, and it’s not a wishy-washy one
“They say it is a club that is professional, is ambitious, realistic, but has a really good appetite and desire to do well.”
That may not have been a description that has always entierly fitted the bill when talking about the Cobblers, and Edinburgh admitted it was ‘uncertainty’ surrounding the club back in January, 2014, that led to him rejecting an approach to manage Northampton.
Then in charge at Newport County, who were flying high in the upper reaches of league two, Edinburgh was contacted by Andy King to see if he would be interested in taking the top job at Sixfields following the sacking of Aidy Boothroyd.
The Cobblers were at that time rock-bottom of the Football League and looking in serious danger of relegation.
But with Edinburgh having only just guided Newport to promotion into the fourth tier of English football, and with his experiences of being in charge of Rushden & Diamonds when they went into liquidation fresh in his memory, he decided it was better for his career to stay where he was.
“I knew Andy King well, and he had spoken about new people coming in (at Northampton), some new investors, and I have to be honest it really excited me,” said Edinburgh.
“But only 18 months or two years previously I had the uncertainty at Rushden & Diamonds.
“I had that last season there where Rushden lost their existence due to a position they were in, that a lot of clubs at this level can see themselves getting into. From what I have heard, they are now demolishing the Nene Park site, and that is sad to see.
“I think it was more the uncertainty that made up my mind. The club (Newport) accepted the approach (from Northampton), but after speaking to friends and family and Newport, I decided to stay there.
“I think it was all the uncertainty that I had just come from, and thought at the time it was best for me to just sit where I was. But I have got here in the end, with a bit more stability as well!”
Edinburgh’s rebuttal of the Cobblers approach of course opened the door for Chris Wilder to take over at Sixfields instead, and the rest is history.
Wilder rescued the club from relegation, and then guided the them to last season’s Sky Bet League Two title triumph.
Kelvin Thomas has also taken over as chairman from David Cardoza, and the club is on a very even keel financially, with the focus now on stabilising in league one.
That is the job Edinburgh has been tasked with and is confident he will achieve, and he says is looking forward to working with Thomas.
“Kelvin is a good football person,” said the Town boss. “I know Chris (Wilder) well, and the way he spoke about Kelvin is what you would want from a chairman
“He is someone that is supportive and keen for everybody to do well, but not there to be taken advantage of
“The relationship is a working one, I think it is a supportive one, and one that you know he is pushing you all the way, and I think that is a healthy relationship rather than one of fear
“I have been impressed. I have had a couple of days with Kelvin, and with the board and James (Whiting, chief executive) and I am getting to know the people here
“They work diligently to make sure this club keeps progressing, and that is what I liked about it
“The success the club had last year you want to continue that momentum, but be realistic with it.”
Edinburgh has already stated he believes a top-half finish is a realistic finish this season, and that was something he achieved at Gillingham last season, where they finished ninth.
His first job is to assess the squad he has at his disposal, and to find the best formation for them to be successful in.
The Basildon-born manager says he has an advantage in that he feels he knows most of the players already, having watched them lose to Scunthorpe United on Saturday and also steered Gillingham to a 2-1 win over Town back in November, and he is confident he can get the team firing again.
“You have a group of players who are here and you have to work with them, so you have to study what is best for them, other than what I would like right now,” said Edinburgh, who has already made one addition to the squad with the signing of Crystal Palace striker Keshi Anderson on loan.
“That will come later, in the summer, when we can look at recruitment and whatever, but I think we can implement a new style that will represent me.
“I want the team to be off the front foot, to be quite aggressive, to go and get in people’s faces and then take things from there.
“I think the players can then have a clear vision of the style of play we are playing, and then we can implement formations as we go along.
“We have to make ourselves a hard team to play against, and a team the fans want to come and watch and embrace.
“There are a lot of things that need to be done in a short space of time, but I think we have the time to do that. I think we have the players and squad here to do that.”