Some of the Maccabi GB (Southern) Football League's new boys are in action as season 2013/14 gets under way on Sunday. Danny Caro looks ahead to all the action and gets the latest word from each camp.
YOUR WEEKEND PREVIEW STARTS HERE:
FAITHFOLD A vs HENDON UNITED SPORTS CLUB A
On Monday we had the first blockbuster of the season as Manchester United played Chelsea. Here’s the second … that game disappointed, but rest assured that this one won’t.
Defending champions Faithfold go into their opening match with just one new signing confirmed in Ben Ellis, but his involvement isn’t guaranteed as the Team GB star has been heavily involved in London Lions’ start to life in the Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division.
Ellis apart, Faithfold will go with a pretty similar squad to the one that lifted the title in May. Skipper Alex Levack, manager Zuriel Solomon and assistant-manager Daryl Phillips have their players ready to go again. Paul Savitz is the only player to have left the squad.
Ahead of Sunday's opener, Faithfold boss Zuriel Solomon told JC Sport: "It doesn’t get any harder than playing Hendon.
"I have a lot of respect for Hendon as they are always challenging and have some quality players so Sunday will be a tough start.
"We have a few injuries but that’s football and we hope to put out a decent squad and show the form that won us the league last year."
It's clear Hendon mean business this season, especially after a trophyless season last year. Manager David Garbacz has re-signed Paul Bentley, which is massive news. I can’t see them conceding many goals with him and captain Josh Lipman at the heart of defence, with keeper Russ Corin behind them.
Indeed this match pits together two of the league’s finest stoppers, with Ben Law at the other end. He conceded just 14 league goals last term.
Looking ahead to the game, Hendon boss David Garbacz told JC Sport: "I'm not sure whether it is a good or bad thing to have such a massive game first up in the season.
"We are notoriously slow starters, with most of the squad needing at least three weeks to work off all the holiday shwarmas, but we have been training as hard as we can, albeit with limited resources and surprise, surprise nearly all the squad are now back and available for Sunday.
"Early season sluggishness can be the same for everyone of course and we can equally catch Faithfold cold as well. We have tried out some interesting new formations in pre-season but probably won't risk them against last year's champions.
"The two players have really shone in pre-season were Yoav Kestenbaum and Dovid Korman and both of them will be key men on Sunday morning. Although this is game one, the importance of this match cannot be under-stated – win and we create massive self- belief that we can go some way towards emulating our achievements of a couple of years ago – lose and self-doubt creeps in and we are immediately playing catch up.
"We could not have hoped for a tougher opener but I truly believe that if we go in with a good positive attitude then Sunday’s game could actually turn out to be brilliant timing."
Midfield will be the key area for me on Sunday and I can see it being a tight and tense affair, a real tactical battle and it wouldn’t surprise me if it finished honours even.
JC team news: Faithfold have some big players missing, with Sam Reeves (suspended), Paul Babai (injured), and Yoni Raeburn, Benjy Dymant and Johnny Haik all away. Alex Kaye faces a late fitness.
Danny Kon and Paul Bentley are away for Hendon. The rest of the squad are available including Avi Korman Yehuda Korman and Yishai Last.
Venue – Chase Lodge, Ref – Warwick Blake
JC star man: Dovid Korman (Hendon)
DC Prediction: Faithfold 1 Hendon 1
NORTH LONDON RAIDERS A vs LONDON MACCABI LIONS WHITE
The newly-merged NLR team have a chance to make a big statement of intent when they welcome Anekstein Cup holders Lions to Brunel.
There's a mouth-watering contest in store as Phil Peters pits his wits against the old master – Eilon Kennet. No doubt Kennet will have made some astute signings as he takes charge of the Rowley Lane club for a third time, but it’s clear he doesn’t like playing on 3G. Whether or not that plays into NLR’s hands only time will tell.
NLR have great pace and technical players in their ranks, with David Rhodes keen to live up to his reputation as captain marvel. His head-to-head with Yoav Lebens in the middle of the park will be key.
Raiders boss Phil Peters told JC Sport: "We're looking forward to Sunday’s game a lot – no one’s got a clue who Lions will be sending out in their A team this year, but we know they will be strong and Eilon will have them very well-drilled.
"That said, I'm very excited about this season. We’ve made a lot of progress since merging the clubs at the start of July and pre-season has been good fun, with all the boys working incredibly hard. We can’t wait to get going.
"A few of the boys are on holiday but with such a good squad I hope we don’t miss them too much.
"I'd also like to take this opportunity, on behalf of everyone at Norstar London Raiders, to wish Gersh a speedy recovery; there’s no consolation in him not appearing against us and we hope he’s fit and healthy and terrorising defences soon."
Fans are advised to arrive early for a match I guarantee will not finish goalless.
Venue – Brunel Uni, Ref – Andy Myerson
JC star man: Yoav Lebens (LML)
DC Prediction: NLR 2 LML 2
NORTH WEST NEASDEN vs BRIXTON OLD BOYS
With both Neasden and Brixton under new management, this is definitely one to keep an eye on.
As a former NWN player, I was mightily relieved to hear about the 11th hour rescue package by Steve Murad, Joshua Tiano and Andrew Goldman and wish the trio all the best for the season. I also enjoyed a season with Brixton too, so good luck to Scott Smith and the boys too.
Ahead of the game, Brixton chairman Robert Silverman told JC Sport: "Following Scott Smith’s appointment as our new manager, we have managed to recruit several new players to refresh the squad.
"Although it may a while to re-adjust, we are confident that the team will develop and we are looking forward to an enjoyable season."
NWN have made some exciting signings this season, with Dan Orgel, Kane Gilbery and Shai Davidi joining from Temple Fortune. On their day they are all potential match-winners and they will be looking to make an impression early doors.
Ahead of kick-off, Steve Murad told JC Sport: "We are raring to go for this Sunday's opener against Brixton Old Boys.
"After taking over the club, we have a squad of new signings and they all cannot wait to make their debuts.
“We have a fairly strong squad on Sunday with talent and experience all over the park, starting from the back with our club captain Jimmy Lee leading the team, with Josh Tiano and Craig Edwards in defence. In midfield, the two Gilbery brothers (Kane and Josh) will be hoping to make their debuts whilst up top we have what could be the finest pairing in the league with the explosive power of Daniel Orgel and the creative and skilful Michael Field.
"Pre-season has been encouraging, with us playing some very attractive, free-flowing football and I'm very excited for the season ahead. Brixton are a good side who will be eager to bounce straight back to the Prem, but we are confident that if we play our football the way we know we can then Sunday will be the start of our own challenge for promotion."
I can see home advantage giving NWN the edge in what should be a real humdinger.
JC team news: Michael Goldberg and Jack Schofield are unavailable for NWN, and Shai Davidi is also a doubt.
Venue – Hadley FC, Ref – Laurie Benson
JC star man: Michael Field (NWN)
DC Prediction: NWN 2 Brixton 1
SHIRLEY PARK vs HENDON UNITED SPORTS CLUB B
Shirley Park finished as the league’s second top-scorers last season and manager Dave Lusman hopes his front man can give the Park life faithful a repeat performance this season.
A curtain-raiser against the Hornets promises to be a high-scoring affair, with Jamie Kent, Saul Conway, Gideon Gold and Jason Lindsay’s on the goal trail looking to turn Lusman’s Premier Division dream into reality.
Looking ahead to the game, Park boss Dave Lusman told JC Sport: "we start are campaign against a good Hendon B side - we're expecting a real battle, but hope to start the season off with a bang.
"Our pre-season has been encouraging and in we've put away 25-plus goals in four matches so were expecting big things.
"Park will be unveiling our new signings, as well as Beni Nassim, who will be linking up with many of his old mates again from the Red Sea Barnet days.
"The big news straight from the Park is that Saul Conway will be giving me a hand and steps in as Park's joint-player-manager. Saul's been with the club for three seasons and has made a real difference to the team on and off the field. He brings a wealth of footballing knowledge from his travels in the Jewish game, and will be helping me organise these lads."
While Shirley have made one key new signing in Josh Franklin, there are a number of new faces on board at Hendon, with Yisroel Lewis, Shloime Friedman, Parys Hammond and Len Bloom recently unveiled by Chaim Gothold and new joint-manager Aryeh Goldring.
I expect Bloom to be the busier of the two keepers in a match that will produce five-star entertainment.
Venue – Norseman FC, Ref – Neil Cooper
JC star man: Josh Franklin (Shirley)
DC Prediction: Shirley 3 Hendon 2
SPEC FC vs LOS BLANCOS
League chairman David Wolff has tipped SPEC FC to win the Division One title at the first time of asking. On Sunday we’ll find out a whole lot more about Laurence Conway’s men who take on fellow new boys Blancos in what promises to be an entertaining affair.
Expectations are always high in the SPEC FC camp, and I’m sure the home fans will give a warm welcome to summer signing Simon Bagel.
SPEC FC’s Ricky Lawrence told JC Sport: "We go into Sunday's season opener with a mixed set of pre season results along with a squad not quite at full strength.
“Saying that, we have a squad who are capable of picking up the three points and we are determined to do so.
“Poacher James Segal is still yet to agree terms ahead of the season, but SPEC fans across the world will be hoping a deal is struck before Sunday."
Blancos go into the season in great shape. Chairman Joel Minsky and player-manager Adam Hersh have set the bar high for the team’s first-ever season in Division One.
Keeper Nick Grosse has big boots to fill after taking over from Josh Cohen between the sticks and I can see SPEC FC testing him at set-pieces.
A point would be a decent start for Blancos, but it’s clear to me that gaffer Hersh wants more. He told JC Sport: “We have a few boys missing on Sunday but will be looking to make a very strong start and get our campaign off with a win.”
I can see Blancos getting numbers behind the ball and look to hit SPEC on the counter. Don’t be surprised if this one finishes in a stalemate.
Venue – The Ark, Ref – Richard Jaye
JC star man: Nick Grosse (Blancos)
DC Prediction: SPEC FC 1 Blancos 1
ATHLETIC BILBAUM vs LONDON HAROLDEANS
Watch out for Haroldeans. That’s the message from new boss Jon Abrams ahead of Sunday’s trip to Bilbaum.
“We’ve got a full squad and are raring to go,” Abrams told JC Sport. Their squad is packed with a combination of talent and experience, with Bobby Abrams, Paul Harris, James Abrams, Jamie Isenwater, Ali Marks and Ben Kfir the ones to watch. Keeper Darren Witcoop will look to carry his good form from pre-season into a game where two top stoppers will be on show, with Simon ‘Safe Hands’ Roth at the other end.
It’s clear Abrams has his squad exactly where he wants. “Pre-season training has been going well and the team are generally fitter than at the start of the summer,” he said.
“I don't know too much about the opposition, but as I recall last year they were a decent outfit.
There will probably be a few game one jitters, but I'm confident that on our day, we can defend well with our experienced back five and we've got enough talent going forward get a positive result.”
A disappointing second half of the season accounted for Bilbaum’s promotion hopes last year. Manager Mark Pasha and Edward Green have reminded their troops that it’s a marathon not a sprint and I expect them to be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.
I’m predicting a top-quality contest, with both sets of fans going home content.
Venue –Hertswood Centre, Ref – Gary Silver
JC star man: Darren Witcoop (Haroldeans)
DC Prediction: Bilbaum 1 Haroldeans 1
FAITHFOLD B vs BLIZZARD STORM
I’ve heard next to nothing from Faithfold B all summer, but quite the opposite can be said of the Blizzard boys who will stop at nothing less than the title.
Ambitious boss Simon Linden has made splashed the cash Daniel Levy style this summer, with former double winner Adam Levene his marquee signing. Sadly Blizzard fans will have to wait another week or two to see their star man in action.
Faithfold welcome new signings Jonny Gahan, Richard Jaffe, Olivier 'Hurricane' Telvi and Robert Mindell, but they will need to execute their game-plan to perfection against the big-hitters from Blizzard.
Linden was deadlocked in talks with a top football expert this week, working out whether he should start all his new boys - Louis Taylor, Simon Levene, Alex Rubin and Dan Vandermolen or hold one or two back on the bench.
The Blizzard boss told JC Sport: “We had David Pleat in the Fonehouse shop this week. He mentioned that in Jewish football you need to be prepared with a big squad throughout the season.
“Pleat, using his iphone 5 with a Fonehouse screen protector (2 for £5 and a exclusive executive flip case at £12.95) enjoyed his visit to Fonehouse, 110 Shenley Road, Borehamwood - T-Mobile experts).
Asked about the match, he added: “We want to start with a win, but I'm expecting a tough game from Faithfold.”
JC team news: Blizzard will be without four or five players this weekend, including new signing Adam Levene. However, manager Simon Linden remains confident, with a decent size squad still available for selection.
BREAKING: Alex Gold has signed last minute.com and is included in Sunday's squad. The former FC Marylbone and Essex Wanderers centre forward is another great bit of business by Linden.
Venue – Chase Lodge, Ref – John Feenstra
JC star man: Dan Vandermolen (Blizzard)
DC Prediction: Faithfold 1 Blizzard 3
JEWDINESE vs FAITHFOLD C
New boys Jewdinese are in for a tough test in their first outing in the Maccabi GB (Southern) Football League when they host title hopefuls Faithfold C.
Manager Darren Lawrence has his first-choice defence to choose from, with centre-backs Harry Brian and captain Brad Dryer having the unenviable task of trying to keep Ben Simons, Dave Sherman and Dan Gordon quiet for 90 minutes.
Club chairman Jake Erlich has drafted in some top talent and is looking forward to the big kick-off. He told JC Sport: “Our hope is obviously that we get a good result out of our first competitive match as a club, but as this will be only the third time the team has played together.
“We are mainly looking for positive attitude and a mature approach to men’s football.”
Midfield will be a key area and although the home side are without two first-choice players, Erlich remains “confident this is where we will dominate on the pitch”.
He went on to say: “With players including Joe Perl and James Ross, who have previous experience of playing together, we are confident that we can put a challenge up against Faithfold.”
Superhoops boss David Garson has a nice glow following a trip to Miami, but he knows the challenge of the newcomers poses a potential banana skin.
“Playing a new team is always tough as one has no idea what to expect,” Garson told JC Sport. “However, as ever we will be well prepared and only have a couple of absentees.”
“My main issue is fitting everyone in and keeping people happy as we have more options than last season.”
JC team news: Jewdinese are missing midfielders Barney Rhodes and Joe Meisel.
For Faithfold, James Stanton is missing after getting engaged, Nic Viola is otherwise engaged and Lewis Maleh and Justin Simons are topping up their tans. Yves Florentin-Lee faces a late fitness test while Ben ‘Boris’ Simons will once again help Garson manage.
Venue – Morris Playing Fields, Ref – Neal Cohen
JC star man: Dan Gordon (Faithfold)
DC Prediction: Jewdinese 1 Faithfold C 3
HENDON UNITED SPORTS CLUB SC C vs NORTH LONDON RAIDERS C
Hendon C will be barely recognisable from last season as they begin life under the stewardship of Scotland's next superstar manager, Adam Glekin.
Seven players are in contention to make their debuts - Jaimie Grossman, Glen Turner, Ezekiel Jacob, Jono Nesbitt, Ezra Dulberg, Saul Cohen and Daniel Marks. With those names being added to a stellar line up already containing the likes of Yaacov Goldin, Alex Elf, Ben Glekin and Ben David, Hendon are hopeful of a vastly improved season to last year.
Glekin told JC Sport: “We have had a decent pre-season, improving with every game. I feel we are peaking just as the season is upon us, and I am hopeful that there are some very special things to come from this team.”
Norstar London Raiders will be looking to kick off their season with a strong performance against Hendon.
Boss Zack Gothelf told JC Sport: “Having spent a season finding our feet in the league, the addition of good players, coupled with an existing squad means that we have a very impressive squad.
“We’ve had an extremely productive pre-season, scoring plenty of goals and we'll be looking to take this momentum into the first game of the season.
“We want to send a message to the league that we're a serious contender this season and we'll let our football do the talking on Sunday. We had a horror start to life in the MSFL last season and want to ensure we start this season strongly, and hopefully that'll be the case this coming Sunday."
It should be a cracker.
JC team news: NLR's Will Ufland has been ruled out with an ankle injury.
Venue – West Hendon, Ref – John Nitka
JC star man: Ezra Dulberg (Hendon)
DC Prediction: Hendon 3 Raiders 3
LOUGHTON ORIENT vs CATFORD & BROMLEY MACCABI
It’s 50 up for the Cats and a hearty congratulations to Lester Jacobs and the boys for such a wonderful achievement. There will be a real party mood in Walthamstow, with brothers Gabriel John and Reuben John making an emotional return to their spiritual home.
However, there’s a chance that Loughton have not read the script and I can see them pooping on Catford’s party.
“Confidence is sky high after beating Neasden from Division One and Blizzard Storm from Division Two in last week’s mini pre-season tournament,” Loughton boss Dan Curtis told JC Sport.
“We are missing one or two players for this weekend, however our squad is stronger than ever and it gives an opportunity for others to stake their claim for a place.
“Our form is good going into the season, but we must be professional and get the job done. We will be looking for all three points.”
James Lester, Josh Hambling and captain Elliot Kissin will be key men for the east Londoners who hope to give debuts to their summer signings.
I think the Loughton boys will look to make a fast start and a couple of early goals could pave the way to victory.
Venue – Peter May, Ref – Robert Benardout
JC star man: Josh Hambling (Loughton)
DC Prediction: Loughton 3 Catford 1
KING CROWN vs L’EQUIPE
Are you ready for the latest episode of Schnitzelman? Yes, that’s right, Richard Fogelman is coming to a screen near you very soon.
The former Jewventus, South Mancs and, no doubt, numerous other clubs, is back in business after signing terms with L’Equipe.
I spotted him having his barnet cut in Brent Cross last week, getting himself ready for the JC cameras no doubt (but not this week!)
L’Equipe were solid last season, but the one area they were lacking was up top. Scoring goals was problematic. It won’t be now. Fogelman averages 20 goals a season and, like joint-manager Dan Cordell, I think he’ll score for fun this term.
Looking ahead to the King Crown game, Cordell told JC Sport: “We have pretty much a full squad to chose from - for the first time since pre-season started - with a number of our new signings in the running for their first competitive starts for the club.
“We are up against a team who we played last week with an under-strength squad so we now know what we have to do to beat them. We have hopefully given King Crown a false sense of hope having lost to them last week.
“September is critical for us as we need a good start to keep the motivation up and it is great to come up against one of the new boys. We’re already through to the second round of the Anekstein Cup our confidence is up.
"We have our traditional pre season drink at the Bavarian beer house on Thursday, so hopefully there will not be too many hangovers or lederhosen on show on Sunday!"
Indeed Josh Lewis and Cordell have done well in the window. Brixton old boys Dan Gray and Craig Draper add depth and quality, while Gavin Rhodes is a player that has influenced every team in which he has played in. It’s clear L’Equipe mean business this year and I can see them doing well.
Jacob Kadoch recently told me that Kings Crown are all about playing football the right way. Captained by Daniel Navisesh, they couldn’t have asked for a tougher start but they will learn a lot about themselves over the next 90 minutes.
He told JC Sport: "Having beaten L'Equipe 2-1 in a friendly last week, we expect to win this Sunday playing great football, looking to outplay the opposition and set a benchmark for the season.
"David Wolff called me today and said he is attending the game which is great news."
JC team news: L’Equipe are without a recognised keeper for the first game so Dan Cordell may be dusting off the gloves again. Andy Burke, their main man from last season, is unavailable due to on baby duties, but Fogelman is in line for first competitive start since leaving Jewventus.
Probable King Crown squad: Nicky Green, Sam Phillips, Ben Retter, Josh Karpf, Danny Navazesh, Felix Shaw, Marc Posner, Jeremy Kaminsky, Daniel Cohen, Benji Greenblatt, Josh Lester, Ben Garfield, Daniel Elghanian, Richard Sarsby
Venue - King George VI Playing Fields, Ref – Steve Russell
JC star man: Richard Fogelman (L’Equipe)
DC Prediction: King Crown 1 L’Equipe 3