New start for Edinburgh’s Exiles
Exiles boss Justin Edinburgh has moved to bring in experienced faces as he seeks to guide County to an improved finish in 2012/13…
“He reminds me of a young Jose Mourinho.” Harry Redknapp was fulsome in his praise for new County boss Anthony Hudson when the former Spurs coach took the reins in April 2011. But five months and eight defeats later he was gone, having assembled an expensive but underachieving squad. Justin Edinburgh was recruited in October and like an impatient grandmother correcting her granddaughter’s well-intentioned but slapdash attempts at cross-stitch, he has spent a significant chunk of his time in charge righting Hudson’s wrongs.
Edinburgh’s progress has been admirable, guiding the Exiles to survival and the FA Trophy final but when May rolled around he was quick to reshape the squad in his own image, having papered over the cracks during the season. The dead wood has been cast aside, while favourite Sam Foley has joined Yeovil and the manager has been busy plugging those gaps with experience.
Former Stevenage stopper Alan Julian has arrived along with striker Jefferson Louis, a player about whom every synonym for journeyman has already been exhausted, while Wimbledon midfielder Lee Minshull made his loan move permanent.
There have been enough comings and goings to give County a fresh gloss, the challenge now is for Edinburgh to combine the emerging talents of last season with those new faces.
Off the pitch the club have decamped from the poky Spytty Park to move into Rodney Parade, the home of rugby union outfit Newport Gwent Dragons. It may sound more like the name of a character in a Martin Amis novel than a stadium but the improved facilities and 11,676 capacity could prove to be a useful bargaining tool in attracting players to South Wales.
Edinburgh deserves plenty of credit for knocking Hudson’s bunch into some sort of shape and the FA Trophy run did his reputation no harm. Although the competition ultimately ended in Wembley defeat at the hands of York, it gave the Exiles a much-needed focus for their energies during a trying league campaign.
After working with a largely-inherited squad last term the 42-year-old has now been handed the opportunity to do things his own way; and his achievements at the tail end of last season ought to afford him time to mould a new side. The former Rushden boss continues to mark himself out as a canny operator in the non-league game and he can add another feather to his cap this term, providing the demanding home support remain on side.
A section of those County fans were criticised by the club’s players last season as frustrations boiled over during their autumn slump but matters took a turn during the late-season Trophy run. A campaign which began in miserable fashion eventually ended amid managed positivity and that feeling ought to spill over into 2012/13.
The summer’s transfer business so far has been greeted with a gentle eyebrow raise and the faintest of smiles, with good-on-their-day arrivals Louis, Danny Crow and former loanee Ryan Charles dividing opinion. The feeling is that Edinburgh still has work to do to bolster his ranks but those acquisitions won’t have come cheap; it remains to be seen just how much there is left in the coffers.
This time last year many fancied the Welsh side to make a top-five dart but expectations have been significantly cooled this time around; the fan base may be content to accept something which vaguely resembles progress.
The signing of Louis, non-league football’s answer to the one-night stand, doesn’t tend to indicate a long-term view. However, local defender Andrew Hughes and 17-year-old midfielder Lee Evans have captured the imagination in recent months and they have plenty of experienced team-mates to learn from.
It is in Edinburgh’s interest to build a forward-thinking project. The former Tottenham defender may have half an eye on career progress and having spent the entirety of his managerial life with modest non-league outfits, he could be forgiven for charting the progress of Dean Holdsworth, who was poached by Aldershot after his success in South Wales.
County appear to be lacking the strength and depth to challenge for the top five but Edinburgh knows his way around the division and his capable but not exceptional squad should be able to secure a comfortable mid-table finish.
For more on the Blue Square Bet Premier, read our profiles of the other 23 sides during the coming days: Alfreton, Barrow, Braintree, Cambridge, Dartford, Ebbsfleet, Forest Green, Gateshead, Grimsby, Hereford, Hyde, Kidderminster, Lincoln, Luton, Macclesfield, Mansfield, Nuneaton, Southport, Stockport, Tamworth, Telford, Woking, Wrexham
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