Martin Ling would be disappointed if Leyton Orient didn't reach National League play-offs next season
PUBLISHED: 13:00 11 June 2018
Simon O'Connor Photography
The O's director of football reflected on the 2017/18 campaign and praised Justin Edinburgh's record heading into the new term
Martin Ling knows Leyton Orient’s board are expecting progression in the 2018/19 season and that will only come in the form of a top-seven finish in the National League, but he expects the team to achieve the aforementioned goal.
Justin Edinburgh has yet to add to his squad this summer with O’s biding their time after failing to land loanee Ebou Adams with the one-time Norwich City under-23 midfielder signing for divisional rivals Ebbsfleet United instead.
Ling, speaking on May 17, reflected on the improvement Orient enjoyed once they had appointed the former Newport County manager.
Edinburgh helped turn around the fortunes of the Brisbane Road club as they went from 20th to 13th under his stewardship.
When discussing the decision to sack Steve Davis on November 14, Ling said: “We got to a stage where Steve had to go because it wasn’t working and we weren’t coming up with a solution.
“We made the decision to get rid of Steve and Justin came in and he has a return of 1.62 points per game and if you look at that over a season it gives you 74 points and that would have given you seventh this season.
“So for all the good, bad and indifferent, the first seven games superseded where we thought we would be and the next 15 we certainly underachieved, but since Justin has come in we have levelled out.
“We were 20th and he took us to 13th and it is an easy thing to say, but the board want progression and where do they see progression from 13th?
“Well, I would be disappointed if we didn’t finish next season in the top-seven and if Justin was asked the same question his answer would be the same.”
As many have pointed out, there will be no excuses for Orient in the new campaign with a settled summer behind them ahead of the 2018/19 term.
While O’s will not want to hide behind outside factors, the past season was always set to be tough for a number of reasons.
Nigel Travis and Kent Teague only completed their takeover on June 22 and a day later Ling officially began working at E10 again.
At the time Orient had 10 players signed up to professional contracts with the oldest goalkeeper Charlie Grainger, then aged only 20.
O’s also had four players on third-year scholar terms, so there was a lot of work to do and by hook or by crook they managed to build a squad.
Ling and Steve Davis made 15 permanent additions and so with this in mind, Orient’s director of football would have taken a mid-table finish when he arrived on June 22.
What made it tough for him and everyone associated with the club was the up and down nature of the first few months were O’s were second after seven games and then went 16 without a win in the National League.
A couple of the absentees during the poor run were Josh Coulson and George Elokobi and Ling admitted things may have been different had they stayed fit with the pair winning 10 of the 19 games they started in the division.
He added: “I’ve got a date on my board and it is June 22, the day we walked in here, and if someone had said to me on that day we will end up in 13th considering where we were with nine players all under 20, I would have taken it.
“There’s no doubt I would have taken mid-table, but I suppose we went through a period of false hope in the opening seven games.
“I thought for a second ‘we could actually do something in this league’ and did I see us being as good as we looked in the first seven games? No.
“But did I see us being as bad as the next 16? No. That is where it was really difficult because there were some circumstances which happened for example in game eight (Boreham Wood) where we lost Coulson and Elokobi and that was massive.
“I don’t know the exact stats, but if you look at the games them two played together I think we were in the top three with the return we got, but we were without them for a while and we got to a stage where Steve had to go.”
Ling and the board did make a change with Davis sacked four months into the season and they will hope it continues to pay off during the upcoming campaign.