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Gillingham chairman Paul Scally pays tribute to Justin Edinburgh, following his death

Football has lost a great guy, said Gillingham chairman Paul Scally.

Mr Scally paid his own personal tribute to Justin Edinburgh, following the former Gillingham manager's death on Saturday.

At the age of 49, Edinburgh passed away following a heart attack.

Chairman Paul Scally and then Gills manager Justin Edinburgh share a joke Picture: Barry Goodwin
Chairman Paul Scally and then Gills manager Justin Edinburgh share a joke Picture: Barry Goodwin

"Every day he was here at Gillingham it was fun," said the chairman, who negotiated hard back in February 2015 to get him away from Newport County.

"I feel for the family, I knew Kerri (Justin's wife), I knew Charlie (his son) and I knew his daughter (Cydnie), not so well, but I saw Kerri and Charlie a lot and I can't even imagine what they are going through, they must be past devastated.

"My heart goes out to them because at 49, you don't expect to lose your dad, your husband, not at that age, especially so suddenly and I can't get my head around it really."

Recalling his time at the club, Mr Scally remembers Edinburgh fondly.

"He was always laughing, had a great smile, was great fun, inspirational, a great conversationalist, just a great guy to be around really."

The Gills were even challenging at the top of League 1 for half a season.

Justin Edinburgh is introduced as the new manager of Gillingham in February 2015 Picture: Barry Goodwin
Justin Edinburgh is introduced as the new manager of Gillingham in February 2015 Picture: Barry Goodwin

Mr Scally said: "It was a fantastic moment on a professional basis and there was so much fun going on around the place, so much life and activity and that is what he was, he was a guy who lifted everyone.

"Everyone loved Justin because he was that kind of guy, he came in with a smile and went home with a smile. He was just a fun guy to be around."

Edinburgh's time at the Gills ended in January 2017, with the club sitting 17th in the table and struggling to replicate their previous form. The Gills had finished ninth the season before – their highest position in the Football League since dropping out of the Championship a decade earlier.

Mr Scally, who had major heart surgery himself back in 2016 during Edinburgh's time at the club, admits things didn't end well, but had nothing but kind words to say about the former Tottenham defender.

"In many ways it is a shame that football came between us," he said.

"Inevitably when you end up not continuing the relationship it is difficult because that is the business we are in but if we take that aside, the times he was here, other than at the end, he was a great guy to be around, both in the club and socially outside.

Manager Justin Edinburgh during his time with the Gills Picture: Andy Payton
Manager Justin Edinburgh during his time with the Gills Picture: Andy Payton

"He always had a smile for everyone, always had time for everyone, a good fun guy, one of the great guys in life and it's an absolute tragedy that he has died so young in such tragic circumstances."

Edinburgh rebuilt his management reputation at Leyton Orient, taking over the troubled club and leading them to the National League title this season.

Mr Scally said: "I am so pleased for him and I was going to get hold of him this summer and congratulate him on what he had done at Leyton Orient. I never got that opportunity, I never got to do that.

Justin Edinburgh shakes hands with Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino back in 2016 when the Gills took on Tottenham Hotspur in the EFL Cup at White Hart Lane Picture: Barry Goodwin
Justin Edinburgh shakes hands with Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino back in 2016 when the Gills took on Tottenham Hotspur in the EFL Cup at White Hart Lane Picture: Barry Goodwin

"It is just a massive loss, a massive loss for his family, a massive loss for his friends and a massive loss for football."

Gillingham fans and club staff, including former manager Steve Lovell, have been paying their own respects to Edinburgh and laying flowers in the home dugout at Priestfield.

The club has opened up a book of condolence for their former manager and fans can visit throughout this week.

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