Martin Ling joined Exeter City as an apprentice in 1982 and played over a hundred league games before joining Swindon in 1986. Primarily playing for Southend, Swindon (again) and Leyton Orient he made over 550 Football League appearances before entering management with Leyton Orient, Cambridge United, Torquay United and Swindon Town ahead of a later return to Orient as director of football.
Signed as an apprentice by Exeter City, Martin Ling progressed to a full contract in January 1984. However, he had made his League debut as a 16-year-old in February 1983, being introduced as a substitute in a 1-0 defeat at Wigan Athletic. He established himself as a first team regular in 1984-85 and started to attract the attention of other clubs.
He was transferred for a fee of £25,000 to Swindon Town in July 1986, but his stay there was a short one, making just two league outings. Martin then joined Southend United in October 1986 for £15,000 where he played in two Fourth Division promotion sides in 1987 and 1990. After 30 goals in 136 league appearances, He returned to Swindon for a fee of £15,000 in March 1991, but not before he had a short loan spell with Mansfield Town two months earlier. Once again he was in a promotion winning side, this time to the Premier League in 1993. He played 150 league matches for Swindon, scoring 10 goals. Moving back to his home area of East London, Martin signed for Leyton Orient in July 1996, and once more he was a regular in their side totalling 148 league appearances and scoring five goals. His final league club was Brighton and Hove Albion, signing for them in March 2000, but he only made 8 league appearances, scoring one goal.
Martin rejoined Orient as a coach in 2000 and initially continued to play for Purfleet before his eventual appointment as manager of Leyton Orient in December 2003. Guiding the club to promotion from League Two in 2005/06 he remained in charge until January 2009. Then, after scouting for Hibernian, Martin became manager of Cambridge United only to step down after nine days following a disagreement with the club’s chairman. With a change of chair, Martin returned until being dismissed in February 2011.
Following Paul Buckle’s move to Bristol Rovers, Martin was back in Devon after many years when he was appointed manager of Torquay United in June 2011. Leading the club to a play-off semi-final during his first campaign, and continuing into the 2012/13 season, Martin was affected by mental health issues in January 2013. With former Exeter defender Shuan Taylor briefly taking charge of the team, Martin was granted leave of absence with Alan Knill coming to the club to cover his duties.
Martin subsequently left Torquay at the club’s request in April 2013 and, following a lengthy break, returned to management for the briefest of spells with Swindon Town at the end of 2015.
By this time Martin’s son Sam had become a professional footballer at Leyton Orient (and later with Dagenham & Redbridge) and it was to Brisbane Road that Martin returned in June 2017 when he assumed the role of Leyton Orient’s director of football. With Orient winning promotion to the Football League in 2018, and striding to the League Two title in 2023, Martin was to oversee a resurgence in the East London club’s fortunes.
Appearances as Substitute
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