If Arsene Wenger could turn back the clock, I’m confident he’d have fielded stronger, more experienced teams in recent cup matches. After all, hindsight is a wonderful thing in football.
So you can understand why London Maccabi Lions manager Andy Landesberg did not want to make the same mistake ahead of his team’s Anekstein Cup semi-final against Faithfold. With seven regulars missing, he faced a big selection dilemma and drafted in some top-quality replacements. All the players he brought in were registered, but questions have been asked about the spirit of his selections as these were boys who play a significantly higher standard of football than the MSFL.
The fact that Faithfold were also missing key personnel didn’t help matters, but that was not Landesberg’s problem. Neither was the fact Faithfold missed an open goal that could have taken the tie to extra-time. “We want to win the competition,” Andy told me.
The inclusion of several big names upset a number people, which is understandable, and not only those in the Faithfold camp, but I can see both sides of it.
The Lions have been going through a period of transition since Eilon Kennet left Rowley Lane. Director of football Landesberg stepped up to take over the role of A-team manager after Malcolm Newman and Josh Newman departed and he has done well results-wise and in terms of giving youth a chance. However, for a one-off cup game against a team chasing the treble, Landesberg opted to draft in several players who have played at semi-professional standard.
Now Eilon Kennet’s comments have lit the touch-paper ahead of the cup final and, for some, have hit the nail on the head in terms of Landesberg’s team selection.
Landesberg was caught in a catch-22 situation and believes he shouldn’t be criticised for taking the competition seriously. You can make your own judgements when his line-up for the final is unveiled.
The final itself will be a nostalgic occasion for Landesberg for another reason though. After hearing that Jack Van Gelder scored twice in Redbridge’s semi-final win, he said that the progress of both Jack, and his son, Nick, will bring back some great memories.
"It will be an emotional time to see both boys on the park together at Wingate for the final," Landesberg said. "Paul Van Gelder and I played for many years together at Wingate, where we had a fantastic time winning many cups, championships and medals, and, most importantly, forging an everlasting friendship.
"We can take the boys into the Wingate clubhouse and see us both up there on the honours board, just to prove we could both play the game properly. It will be great to have our boys out there, ironically at Wingate."
* London Lions boss Tony Gold says his players will face the ultimate test of their mental and physical strength ahead of the South Midlands League Division One title run-in.
Gold’s troops face a crazy schedule of 15 matches in 33 days, including nine matches in 19 days, with their season set to finish on April 27. Defeat in the Challenge Trophy this week means they can focus on giving the title their best shot.