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Interviews

E10: The Big Interview - Martin Ling

10 December 2017

Prior to yesterday's 4-1 victory over Sutton United, Director of Football Martin Ling gave an honest assesment when reflecting on the past few months for our E10 matchday magazine. Read the full interview below...

If anyone asks for my thoughts on the first half of the season my answer can be summed up in one word - disappointing.

When we first walked into the building we knew it would be a test for us, and maybe the first eight games of the season gave us a false perspective of where we were at and how the season was going to be. However, in saying that if anyone had said to me at that stage we would then go on a run of 15 games without winning I would have thought they had lost their marbles.

I didn’t ever foresee this being the case, but it is where we find ourselves. We have had a change of Head Coach as everybody knows and brought Justin into the Club, simply to make the second 23 games of the season better than the first. Like anything it takes time, and although we didn’t get the desired result last week I strongly believe he is the right person for the job.

There is a mirror for me to look into and take responsibility for both the signings and Head Coach appointment in the summer.

With that said, I do know we have extremely talented players in this squad but they are lacking a massive amount of confidence. They need some guidance to move into the right direction and that is what I feel Justin can do.

DIRECTOR OF FOOTBALL ROLE

The position came about at the start because our owners are based in America and they wanted someone this side of the water to oversee the footballing affairs at the Club. That does not mean they are unaware of what is going on day-to-day, but they are not here to run it in person.

They wanted people to come in who they can trust, and I am very fortunate to have been intrusted in this role.

The job does not relate only to the first team. My role is responsible for the youngest player on our books, all the way through to the oldest member of our first team squad, as well as all of the staffing components to go alongside.

We are building the Club and putting the pieces back together as we go, and we knew that this would not be a quick fix. I do not miss the involvement of being a football manager or coach, and when I go to the games I love doing the role I am in. It still hurts me just as much when we lose because I am a part of it, but it is a job that has got many facets which people do not see.

RECRUITMENT

Would I ever advise anyone to recruit a squad of players in the way we did over the summer? No, but we didn’t have a choice.

We had to move quickly to get bodies in the building, and once we made the summer signings I must be honest I thought it would see us through until January where we could then assess the first half of the season before deciding on which additions we could benefit from. I think you will always readjust every January in terms of both ins and outs but it is an ongoing process all the time.

Our situation changed totally due to injuries to key players. Most of the players who have come in have been to replace Charlie Lee, George Elokobi and Josh Coulson who have all been massive losses not only due to their footballing ability, but also their personalities in the dressing room too. They add so much to this team but we have been dealt that hand and had to react as a result.

Injuries are part and parcel of the game but we also brought in the likes of James Brophy who did an excellent job for us during his spell. He was a different type to what we had in the wide positions due to his pace, which gave us a bit of a mix.

FORM

As much as the first eight games of the season went well you never heard me get carried away or too excited, which is why I won’t get too despondent during the current situation because I believe in the infrastructure we have put in place and the good bits we have within the Club.

Admittedly, the good bits are never noticed when you are going through a poor run of form, but I believe at this moment in time everything is in place for this Football Club to flourish once again. The only way we can do that is by taking the first bounce of the ball so to speak in getting back into the Football League. We are not the first team to have dropped into the National League and struggled, and we most certainly will not be the last.

15 games without a victory is not good enough however and we all take collective responsibility for that from the Board right the way down.

Everyone knows that this Club is a part of my DNA and I would love nothing more than for it to return to where it used to be. I strongly feel that Leyton Orient is a League One Club floundering in the National League.

The hardest time to not have belief in what you are doing is when things are not going well and I have been very open in admitting my struggles over recent years. I have been in some very dark places, but I am not in one now. This is a Football Club where everything is in place to move forward, but we have got to get the results moving in that way as soon as possible for them not to be hollow words.

HEAD COACH POSITION

It was a painful decision to relieve Steve of his duties, because I was a big part of him coming to the Club in the summer and did believe he was the right person for the role. I had a very good working relationship with Steve and the easy decision could have simply been to let things carry on.

Justin has now come in and I feel he is exactly what we need. Once we received all the CVs we picked out the final six candidates to interview for the role. I went and met all six before whittling it down to the final three, and from the first minute I met with Justin he very quickly established himself as the man to beat.

He is a straight talker and collectively myself and the Board are extremely happy with this decision. He is hard-working, honest and will have a team out on that pitch which mirrors what he is about.

I do know Justin having played with him for three years at Southend, so our paths have crossed but that had no influence in any decision. He will be decisive in what he does and make it very clear what he wants. His track record is also very good, especially in this division, and I know people laugh when I refer to the tick boxes but it is very much a tick box exercise when going through an interview process. Ultimately, it is about whether he can tick the main box at the bottom which is winning games of football.

MOVING FORWARD

Justin has come in and will evaluate the squad with a new pair of eyes, and there may be different areas in which he feels we can improve. As Director of Football I know that the Board will try their very best within reason to provide the products required. That will be without going beyond our spend threshold, but we will try our very best and that is why I feel the Club is in just as good a position as when I was here as manager in League One.

I know the components are in place but we will only be judged by what happens on the pitch, and am fully aware of how football works.

I sat down with the squad recently and explained that a percentage of supporters wanted a change of management. Now that has happened questions are obviously being asked of myself and them as players. I am used to the criticism from my time as a manager, so know how to deal with it for this role as Director of Football.

I am not here for pats on the back for the work done in the build-up to the takeover or those first few months, I want to win games of football like everybody else. As previously mentioned, I know the run of form is unacceptably but I also know I am giving 100 per cent to this job.

It would be nice to put in that 100 per cent and get the end results because so much work is put in by everyone, but that has not been the case recently and I can assure you everyone is hurting like hell.

It has a daily effect on us as staff, and prior to me returning this summer someone said to me that the best way to lose a positive reputation somewhere was by going back to a Club. I don’t believe that.

I want to build that again and for people to believe we are moving in the right direction. I know we are behind the scenes but cannot prove that to anybody unless we win games of football, because we are ultimately paid to make that happen.

This is the longest run of games without a win that I have ever been involved in from all my years in football but I know it can be in one instance that it changes around. In any walk of life things are harder to do when you are not confident, but I believe we have got a Head Coach that will restore that confidence in the players and have high demands for us to improve.

I am not afraid to turn away from difficult decisions, and fetching Justin into this Football Club was not a difficult decision. Now we want some wins to make all our lives a lot happier.


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