Ross Embleton Exclusive: Justin Edinburgh’s influence, Carl Fletcher’s short tenure and working with Harry Kane and Todd Cantwell

by Charlie Zazzera / 14 May 2020, 10:06

Next to take the #ManagersAtHome hot seat is young Leyton Orient gaffer Ross Embleton who reflects on a ‘crazy’ first season in management.

In June last year, Justin Edinburgh tragically died after suffering a cardiac arrest, just six weeks after he led Orient to the National League title and promotion to the Football League. His assistant manager back then, Ross Embleton, reflects on an emotional time and gives an unbelievable tribute to his friend..

“When I came into contact with Just (Justin Edinburgh), I had this real image of him being this 90s footballer that he was. Big personality, big aura, big presence when he came into a room. 

“But underneath it there was a-lot more sympathy towards people, there was a-lot more feeling and what he showed me was that you don't have to be this big, strong personality, all the time. 

“Then of course he had that definition of when you needed to step over the line, and needed to be authoritative, show some discipline and strength, he had that in an abundance.” 

And then I think the way he was with the players everyday, again it comes back to those people skills. I think these days we can think and dress it up, and they'd be some fancy word or theme which tells you he studied to understand how people think, he didn't, he was just a really good bloke. 

“Since the sad loss that his family, and obviously secondary we all suffered, that's always been the thing that's reassured me is what a great geezer he was, he was a proper man”. 

“A massive family man, and I think all of those things really came together which allowed us to get the success, but I think bigger than that it gave us all that massive feeling that we had towards him but also as a group together.”

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Embleton worked as Justin Edinburgh's assistant prior to his tragic passing in 2019

Embleton steadied the ship and became interim manager at the start of the 2019/20 season before former Plymouth manager Carl Fletcher was appointed. The O’s only won one game in ten under Fletcher, though, which saw him sacked after just 29 days. 

“Carl’s a really nice guy, he came into the club off the back of us having a very tough time in terms of the loss of Justin, so that was always going to be difficult. When he came in, he had some fantastic ideas in terms of how he wanted the team to play and the development of players, and if you asked him we both got on fine.”    

“It’s always tough when you come into a new environment with existing staff and Carl was very keen to get his ideas over very very quickly, it was about us trying to get up to speed as quickly as we could or as quickly as he wanted us to. But it just became very difficult, results weren't great and across the club the feeling around the training ground was that it just wasn't the right match.” 

“Some people will say it was a very short period of time and it was, for Carl I think he’ll feel hard done by, but the flip side is if the people that pay your wages and make the big decisions don’t feel somethings right, we have to acknowledge that they have to be brave enough to make a decision. It’s sad he lost his job, he was a good man and had good intentions but for whatever reasons it wasn't the right match.” 

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Embleton took over as Orient's permanent manager following Carl Fletcher's dismissal

The now-permanent Leyton Orient manager made his name in youth team football after working at Tottenham, Bournemouth and Norwich and told us the best players he’s worked with. 

“Harry Kane was there at the time and you could tell he had the drive to be the very best that he could be. Harry Winks always had something about him, a really nice kid and had really high standards even as a young lad. The other one that really jumped out that hasn't gone on to hit the levels we expected was Marcus Edwards. He was a winger, number 10, Messi-like in terms of the way he carried the ball.”

“While I was at Bournemouth we had a lad called Sam Matthews, some of the things the boy could do; the way he carried the ball, manipulated the ball, moved his body, went passed people really got you off your seat. Sam suffered a few injuries but he’s been at Bristol Rovers this year and had some loan spells in the National League so probably didn't hit the heights we expected. 

At Norwich, the one that always stood out even though he didn't always have glowing references from the club was Todd Cantwell. The coach at the time constantly used to say how clever he was, how bright he was, but physically he wasn't there yet. We were excited the way he took positive positions and how creative he could be. Obviously for him he’s made a good start to what could be a fantastic career.” 

In our latest #ManagersAtHome episode we also spoke to Ross about the reported cancellation of League’s One and Two, the three managers he’d isolate with in lockdown, and his missus cutting his hair. Watch the full length video on our YouTube channel from six on Sunday, and watch out for our other content with Ross on our Twitter page @TheSackRace

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