Chigwell Athletic begin the season boasting a clutch of players proven at Premier Division level. Whoever finishes above them is likely to be crowned champions.
Founded in 2001 by Richard Slater, Daniel Castle, Glenn Davis, Darren Morris, Russell Yershon and Steve Summers, the Chigs still hold the record of reaching the top-flight in only four seasons, winning three league titles along the way.
Keeper Neil Lawson is aiming for the most shutouts and with the rock-solid pairing of Jon Raven and Jon Swead in front of him, opposition strikeforces will have their work cut out.
Renowned for his bone-crunching tackles, left-back Saul Fagelson is the Stuart Pearce of Division Two. But he looks lightweight compared to midfield bruisers Darren Morris and Simon Felstein.
The team is not short of options up front with Glenn Michaels, the pacy Mark Conway, Doron Weinstein and Russell Yershon on the goal trail.
Player-manager Richard Slater said: “The new-look team hopes to be the life and soul of Division Two — and champions in May.”
The ever-ambitious FC Team have two teams in the division. Jonny Pearl has taken charge of the A team, following a successful season under Adam Newsome. Adam Rosenfeld and Darren Freed will assist him. Pearl is targeting promotion in what he believes “will be a tough division”.
New faces include former East London Knights duo James Ryan and Steve Clements. Defender Dave Grossman is expected to add stability while Pearl describes newcomers Danny Moss and Josh Laurier as “exciting prospects”.
The gaffer predicts great things from Lorian Madanes and Simon Buchler. After an injury-ravaged spell, Madanes “is back to his best and will be a divisional star for us”. Buchler will ensure that the team has a “competitive midfielder with lots of energy”.
Entertainment will be the name of the game for FC Team A while Pearl promises “pace going forward. We will be looking to score lots of goals due to the electric speed of Lorian and James.”
FC Team B surprised everyone when they landed the Division Three crown last term. Looking ahead to the campaign, manager Ben Simon said: “We’re looking for mid-table security, consolidating our place in division after a fantastic season last year. Anything higher than mid-table would be beyond my expectations.”
Daniel Franklin is the only new signing. Simon said: “Daniel can play anywhere along the backline or as a defensive midfielder. He is not afraid to put his weight around.”
Midfielder Dom Berko, 17, is the one to watch. Simon commented: “He has the football maturity of someone 10 years his senior and can do everything you would want your midfielder to do.”
Rapid Banta welcome back co-founder Paul Arad, who returns from a two-year sabbatical. Having survived relegation on the final day of the programme last season, they are targeting a mid-table finish.
But joint-manager Ben Nathan believes: “If we can get off to a good start, I see no reason why we cannot push for promotion. Last year we were able to match most teams in our league, and if we can avoid the bad luck and injuries, anything is possible.”
With Arad looking to add “a touch of class to the squad,” the Banta boys also welcome back Jeremy Newton following a three-year absence. Newton worked with Nathan at Under 16 level at title-winning SPZ nine years ago. Adam Kaldor is another summer signing.
Daniel ‘Sven’ Ejdelman, Benjy Mannheim and Mark George have been tagged as the ones to watch.
Temple Fortune are looking forward to their 34th consecutive season in the MSFL. Under player-manager Andrew Souber and assistant Lee Fegan, the club was “disappointed to finish 7th in a tight division last season”.
Chairman Nigel Kyte said: “We have a good squad and hope to hold our own in what looks like a very tough second division.”
The team took four points from eventual champions Southgate Harmen A last term. They fared well against the top teams but frustrated their supporters against lesser opposition.
Kyte commented: “Some excellent performances were mixed with some poor ones, making the 2008/09 season one of frustrating inconsistency.”
Kitted out in red and yellow, Fortune have “had a season to gel and the atmosphere and morale is fantastic”. Ben Isaacs and Rob Benson are two excellent strikers capable of scoring plenty of goals, supported by talented attacking players such as Jon Fisher and Paul Walker.
North London Raiders B welcome strikers Daniel Hildebrand and Dave Rudnick, together with Richard Angel and Gilad Kestenbaum. Steve Silver and Dan Miller have returned to Australia.
Raiders boss Rob Richman hopes that the addition of Rudnick and Hildebrand “will help ease the burden of goal-scoring that has sat on Nicky Woolf’s shoulders over the past few seasons”. Captain Rik Sherman is out until December after having an operation to cure a chronic foot complaint that plagued him for much of last season.
Big things are expected from Elliot Espinoza in his first full season while Michael Israel celebrates his 10th season at the club. Richman said: “The squad is as strong as it has ever been and that has been shown in some excellent pre-season results. We are all looking forward to the season to start. September 6 can’t come quickly enough for us.”
The new management team of Dan Sasto and Mark Engel have high hopes for this season at Southgate Harmen B. Sasto said: “In addition to keeping all of our core players from previous years, we have brought in eight new players. This includes six members of the all-conquering MJSL Leeds J-Uni team and a former captain and player of the year of a rival club.
“We have the largest and strongest squad in the B team’s history and will be utilising every single member throughout the season. Competition for places is fierce, with at least two or three players for every position, ensuring that no-one rests on their laurels.”
Having made a terrific start last season, London Maccabi Lions C tailed off in disappointing fashion. But such is the strength in depth at the squad that it would be foolish to write them off. Having lost Benji Dymant, Mark Simons and Adam ‘Shaggy’ Levison, North West Neasden C were in the hunt for new players.
There was talk of club stalwart Ben Lewis taking over from Rob Shuman as manager of Faithfold B. Given the number of players they have lost, he faces a thankless task getting them team back into Division One at the first time of asking.
FC Heath will be managed by Ray Bloom. Having flirted with relegation last year, the team hopes for an improved showing this term. Holy Mount Zion complete the line-up.