Justin Edinburgh, the London born can count Pompey and Spurs as two of his clubs.
Walsh, Sherwood, Anderton, Sheringham and latterly Mendes all spring instantly to mind as those that have graced the turf at White hart Lane or had the Pompey faithful on their feet at Fratton.
In fact I’d bet a tenner that there’s not a reader of this article that hasn’t thought of a moment of brilliance from at least one (if not all) of those mentioned already.
Yet, as we all know there is more than one aspect to our beautiful game and for every player that generates excitement there are probably four or five that just do their job without having the silky skills, without scoring the 30 yard screamer and without providing us with a memory that will last for a lifetime. One such player is Justin Edinburgh.
Edinburgh started his career as a trainee at Southend in 1988 and two years later having played nearly 50 games and helped the Shrimpers in a successful promotion campaign he left Roots Hall for the bright lights of London and joined Spurs for £150,000.
‘Musselburgh’ as he became known, came off the bench to make his Spurs debut during a 4-2 victory against Wimbledon in November 1990 and although he struggled to hold down a regular league place that season he did experience four rounds of the FA Cup, including a Gascoigne inspired victory at Fratton Park and a victorious Wembley semi-final appearance against Spurs’ nearest & dearest, Arsenal.
So, having started only 12 league games since joining the club ‘Just’ lined up for Spurs against Nottingham Forest in the 1991 Final. The game itself is remembered more for Gazza’s scything down of Gary Charles than for the resulting goal from the free-kick, Paul Stewart’s equaliser or Des Walkers extra-time deflection into his own net, but nonetheless Tottenham notched up their (then) record eighth FA Cup Final Victory and Edinburgh at the age of 21 had an FA Cup winners medal to boot.
As I’m sure every Spurs fan will testify, the fall-out from the ensuing Venables/Sugar spat resulted in the break-up of the cup winning team. A team that could have really gone places, but as it was the dream never materialised. Throughout it all however, ‘Musselburgh’ just kept plugging away and despite having a penchant for conceding the odd penalty played to his best. Even on occasions when some of the Spurs fans would question how good his best actually was, he always gave his all for the team.
Edinburgh averaged twenty two games for an average Spurs side in each of his ten average seasons at the Lane, and despite parading some well above average players in their line up they never really delivered anything other than an average league standing. In fact a look at Edinburgh’s time at White Hart Lane shows that Spurs finished no higher than 7th and no lower than 15th in the Premiership.
There was however another Cup Final to come. In March 1999 mid-table Spurs managed by former Arsenal man George Graham, took their (now) pedestrian style to Wembley once again. This time, to face mid-table Leicester City, in the final of the Worthington Cup, but the game itself would have faded from memory long ago had it not been for an incident involving Edinburgh and Leicester’s Robbie Savage.
Edinburgh the only survivor from the 1991 FA Cup winning side, got caught up in a game of ‘handbags’ and disturbed a few strands of ‘Taffy’s’ hair. Savage responded as if he’d been punched in the head by an angry Mike Tyson and an over zealous referee brandished a straight red. Edinburgh walked.
Spurs went on to lift the trophy thanks to a last minute diving header from midfielder Allan Nielsen and in spite of his sending off Edinburgh was given his medal and some form of vindication when the post-match analysis concluded that Savage had overreacted to what was ‘minimal contact’ and that the red card (the last to be delivered at the old Wembley) was unjustly awarded.
One year and only a handful of games on from that final the left-back although somewhat revitalised, was finding opportunities limited under George Grahams new regime and following the news of the signing of Mauricio Taricco decided it was time to move on and agreed to join Pompey on loan. The loan only lasted one game as it was soon realised that Edinburgh had something to offer relegation threatened Pompey. His services were duly secured with a permanent move and the promise of a testimonial for a sum somewhere between £150,000 & £200,000.
‘Musselburgh’ made his Portsmouth debut against Birmingham at St. Andrews on March 7th 2000 and although his first game ended in defeat (0-1) he settled in relatively quickly turning in some good performances as a poor Pompey side just about managed to drag themselves away from the relegation zone.
Eventually, safety was secured and everybody looked forward to a better 2000/01, but no sooner had it started when the first instance of what was to be a recurring injury cropped up and by the November, Justin Edinburgh’s campaign was over.
Pompey fans had to wait ten months for his return but when it came it was memorable. Memorable not necessarily for Edinburgh’s return but memorable as the 4-1 win away to Barnsley was Pompey’s first ever victory in front of a live TV audience.
For ‘Musselburgh’ though his persistent Achilles injury came back to haunt him and despite breaking his Pompey scoring duck in a league match against Sheffield United in the October he played just another six games for Pompey before he was forced to retire. Fortunately (for him) he remained on the clubs payroll while he considered his next move.
So in July 2003, with his playing career in tatters Edinburgh hung up his professional boots, returned to his native Essex and joined non-league Billericay Town of the Ryman League as player-manager. Subsequent managerial posts at Fisher Athletic & Grays Athletic followed, the latter of which he left only last month when his contract was terminated by mutual consent.
As I mentioned at the start of the article Edinburgh was not a player that stood out, so there was never going to be any fairy tale endings during his time with Pompey or Spurs, but I’m sure once ‘nudged’ both set’s of supporters will remember him, if not with affection or fondness, but at least with a “Yeah, he was alright.”
Finally, if your wondering were his nickname ‘Musselburgh’ came from, have a look on a map?
Written by Chix.
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