London Lions start their Spartan South Midlands League season against London Colney this weekend.
Ahead of the match, we spoke to manager Tony Gold to get his thoughts on how the squad is shaping up.
What are your expectations of the team in the second season in the South Midlands League?
My expectation would be to build on last year and try to improve on our final league position of eighth,” he said. “However, in order to achieve this, we will need a greater commitment from the players and greater consistency throughout the long season, something which is much easier said than done.
As each new season unfolds, it seems players become less and less committed and seem to find more excuses not to play.
One important lesson I have learnt over the years is not to expect too much from anyone, because all that ends up happening is that you find yourself in a position of frustration and despondency.
This season, I would quite simply settle for a squad of lads who just want to play football twice a week consistently, look forward to training once a week and enjoy playing competitive football at a decent level. “Repeating our cup success of last year would also be nice. It’s a very achievable goal, if we apply ourselves in the right manner.
Have you signed/released any players?
Due to the extremely small pool of players I can select from due to the fact that players must be Jewish to play for the club, I as a manager am not in a position to release anyone.
Several influential players from last season have decided that they would like to challenge themselves at a higher level of football and I wish them well.
James has joined Potters Bar Town while Craig has returned to Wingate & Finchley but in all honesty, he rarely played last season due to injury and other commitments.
Guy Morris is on a sabbatical but I hope he will return before the end of September.”
One new face who has come in is Dean Nyman, a player Gold describes as “a major signing”. He said: “Dean is a true professional in everything he does. He has played at a consistently good level for many years and is a fantastic character to have around the club and squad.
Losing Gershfield is obviously a blow due to the goals he scored last year but Dean is more then capable of matching and even bettering that.
Ben Sollosi has also been training regularly and looks like a good prospect so we hope to have him signed before the season starts.”
Will London Lions continue to play football the right way and challenge for the league this year?
Over the last few seasons, we have shown that he have the technical quality to win this league. Unfortunately we just don’t have the 100 per cent commitment and consistency from all the players that is required to have a real serious go at it. Losing your better players to other clubs also doesn’t help.
The biggest test I face this season is keeping the players motivated because motivation is the most decisive rule in football. In order to achieve that it means the players who train regularly will play over those who don’t. Good organisation and strong leadership are also important but maintaining that motivation to play the game the right way will always remain.
My philosophy has been and always will be that football is about enjoyment, creativity, organisation and effectiveness. It all starts at training and our training process is done correctly because when the essence of training is the game it makes winning and competing easier.
We have some excellent attacking and creative footballers so we will always adapt an attacking approach to the game and play football by passing the ball. A decisive part of our recent success is based on an ambition and hunger to succeed and push ourselves as far as we can. Steve (Grenfell) and I try and exploit our player’s talent by convincing them to work harder to fulfill their full potential but the word ‘try’ is the operative word. To continue moving forward in the right direction we need to absorb many things, respect our winning past and try to focus on 2011/12 as a year where we can continue to progress however difficult that may be. The challenge is to keep winning more games then we lose and ensure all the players committed to the team continue to play outside there comfort zones and continue to improve technically and mentally.
Hoddesdon Town, Kings Langley and London Colney will be there or there abouts. Cranfield United will be strong this year as they are club with strong foundations and have moved to bring in some quality players. I would also imagine Langford and Kentish Town, who where relegated last year, to be looking to get straight back up.
How excited are you and the squad about entering the FA Vase, and thoughts on the draw?
The FA Vase is a highly prestigious tournament rich in history. For London Lions to have the opportunity of competing in this competition for the first time is a fantastic honour It’s a deserved reward following a hugely successful period in the club’s history and for all the hard work that goes on both on and off the pitch. The excitement amongst the players will intensify nearer our first round tie against London ASPA but I am sure if the lads get on a good roll and start winning through each round the confidence will grow and determination to go as far as possible will escalate. It goes without saying we have a tough first round match against London ASPA but it is one I am sure we will relish. We will do our best to focus on winning this game and then see what journey it takes us on from there.
Did you give the Vienna boys extra time to recover, and do you think their success will help the team in the long run?
Vienna was fantastic for those involved,” he said. “Ultimately, it featured 90 per cent of my squad which has proved highly disruptive for our overall preparations for the new season. It has been far from ideal.
Every single team in our league, bar none, would have or will be close to completing what I would consider to be a proper pre-season programme. I would estimate our squad is probably between five or six weeks behind everyone else in relation to fitness, team understanding, set-piece work and overall game play.
Ideally I would have liked the lads who went to Vienna to get straight back into it but I left it to the individuals to decide when they felt they would be ready to return. The fact is even before Vienna and the rigorous schedule my players faced prior to the tournament most of the lads had played an awful lot of hard physical football and desperately needed a rest. So it is vital the players who went to Vienna get the time they need to recharge the batteries and are ready for what will be another taxing season both mentally and physically. I feel what they have learnt collectively over the last few years from Steve (Grenfell) and myself and the way they have developed their individual and collective games actually contributed to them doing so well in Vienna.
For the last three years we have instilled a winning mentality, a way of playing football the right way, mental strength and a real team ethic which you need in abundance at the level of football we play and that would most certainly benefit any other football environment they went into collectively.
The Spartan South Midlands League is a completely different type and style of football compared to what the lads played and prepared for in Vienna. They will need to revert back quickly.
Winning and knowing how to win becomes a good habit, so hopefully that side of things will rub off more frequently as the season unfolds. The vast majority of the Vienna lads trained for a European-style football.
Fitness levels are nowhere near the levels I would expect for this time of year, especially for the physical and fast paced football we will be playing week in, week out in the Spartan League.
What would you say to any players who believe they could make the step up into the team from the MSFL?
If you believe you have the ability and can make a real commitment to it, then do it. At least give yourself the opportunity and experience of tasting it.
The key word here though is commitment. Today’s generation of kids are very different to my generation. It seems that fewer players, and especially Jewish footballers, lack that desire to test themselves at the highest levels available to them. A lot of players today with ability would rather stay in their comfort zones for reasons best known to them. I guess that is the choice they have, and one that works best for themselves.
One thing is for sure. It’s anyone’s guess where the next potential Guy Morris, Paul Hakim, Craig Ellis or Daniel Stanton is coming from …
Home ground: Broxbourne Borough FC
Manager: Tony Gold
Assistant-manager: Steve Grenfell
Coach: Darren Yarlett