What has happened to Tal Ben Haim? He looked more Maccabi League than Premier League on Rosh Hashanah, when Gabriel Agbonlahor outfoxed him to score the all-important second goal in Aston Villa’s win against Portsmouth.
It was all a far cry from the Ben Haim who made a name for himself when he arrived on British shores, playing for Sam Allardyce at Bolton Wanderers in the summer of 2004.
Defensive errors have become part and parcel of his game since he moved to Chelsea. Fernando Torres roasted the Israeli at Anfield a couple of seasons ago and a goal cost him his place under Jose Mourinho and spelt the beginning of the end at Chelsea. He made just 13 appearances in a year at Stamford Bridge.
After moving to Manchester City, he was soon on loan to Sunderland. Moving to Portsmouth during the summer, it was clear that, like David James, he would get much practice in a team that look doomed. Watching him in action for Israel in the friendly against Northern Ireland, he has certainly lost his aura.
Maccabi League teams return to action with managers hoping that their players did not overdo New Year’s celebrations. Eilon Kennet takes his London Maccabi Lions to Baldon Sports in the preliminary round of the Sunday FA Cup. The Eltham team beat North West Neasden A in the semi-finals last season.
Redbridge A travel to Turkish outfit Turmenkoy Aydin Spor Kulubu in the first round of the London FA Sunday Intermediate Cup. The East Londoners will be missing Adam Shafron and Sam McCarthy but Danny Hakimi and David Berg are in contention.
Chigwell Athletic travel to Boston Celtics in the second round of the London FA Sunday Junior Cup. The East Londoners are missing several regulars with Richard Slater, Daniel Barbanel, Lee Sennett and Glenn Michaels. Saul Fagelson is out as his wife is expecting. Doron Weinstein returns from suspension and new signing Neil Tilley is set for a debut.
In the JC MSFL Premier Division, Faithfold A’s walking wounded travel to Hadley FC where they take on defending champions Neasden A.
Neasden go into the game on the back of a dramatic comeback against title rivals Redbridge Jewish Care A. Goals from Scott Shindler and Lee Cash saw them come from 0-2 down to draw.
Joint-manager David Fox said: “Our performance proved that we never give up, but we have to move on. Faithfold will be another big test for us this weekend and it will be up to our guys to stand up and be counted.” Zuriel Solomon’s Faithfold have been nursing damaged limbs following a bruising London FA Sunday Intermediate Cup clash a fortnight ago.
Adam Phillips suffered badly bruised ribs and kidneys following a 50-50 challenge that left him needing an ambulance as he was unable to move. Keeper Ben Law, who disclocated his shoulder, joins him on the sidelines along with Benji Dymant, who is out for a month with a broken foot. Daryl Phillips also suffered a gashed head following an aerial clash.
“It was a horrible day,” explained Solomon. “I believe that if we did not suffer any injuries, we’d have had a more favourable outcome.”
Faithfold C player-manager David Garson has started his 20th season. He is the last of the co-founders still playing for the Superhoops.
There’s a big grudge match in store in Division One where Neasden B take on Brady Maccabi for whom Marc Meltzer, Adam Harvey, Yoni Sidy, Adam Velleman and Rob Lerner will be lining up against their former club.
Ahead of the game at Lions C, Harmen B’s Dan Sasto and Mark Engel are looking for maximum commitment from their players, hoping that “no-one will have to repent on Sunday night for poor performances in the morning”.
Blizzard Storm will be looking to maintain their perfect start when they travel to Real Life. Manager Simon Linden will unveil Spencer Silver and Alex Stolerman to the fans before kick off. Linden describes them as “two fantastic additions to the set-up”. Skipper Alex Speck returns from a week in Stoke.
There was a special guest at the GB Maccabiah Over 45s party, hosted by football agent Barry Silkman, who was part of the gold medal winning squad. The team adopted Amarillo as their tour song in Israel and while most of the boys were queuing up for kosher viennas, singer Tony Christie popped in to give a special rendition of No. 1 hit.