It would be foolish to label Team GB favourites to win the Open football competition at the 19th Maccabiah Games at this stage, but I’m genuinely excited by David Pollock’s squad. There’s a strong nucleus of top-level Jewish footballers, with a nice blend of youth and experience. And there is a strong emphasis on the future too.
As you'd expect, the usual suspects are in there, such as Sam Sloma, Craig Ellis, Michael Sacks, Paul Hakim and Guy Morris. These big name players have been around the block, both in non-Jewish and Jewish football, and it’s great to see them remain dedicated to the cause, which is ultimately Jewish continuity, supporting Israel and going for gold.
Other names that stand out include Josh Kennet, the former Maccabi Herzliya star. His quality has helped London Lions reach a new level in recent times and he is capable of producing moments of sheer wizardry, promising set-piece excellence as well as a keen eye for goal.
The group has great depth and cover in key positions in case of injuries or suspensions in the latter stages of the competition. But it’s the new boys who capture the imagination – namely Adam Bolle, George Fierstone,
Jordan Marks, Daran Bern and Declan Green. Pollack’s vision to throw in some top, young talent has to be admired. His theory is, if you’re good enough, you’re old enough.
Having been on the books of a host of Football League clubs, Bolle, the son of former GB and Wingate & Finchley manager Jon, has real star qualities. He’s impressed every time I’ve seen him in action and I’m delighted that Pollack selected him.
Fierstone has made a rapid rise up the football ladder. MSFL fans have been fortunate enough to see him put in some wonderful performances from Brixton Old Boys in recent times and he has taken to the Spartan South Midlands Reserve League like a duck to water.
The boy Bern is a real livewire too. The 2010/11 JC MSFL Player of the Season is a someone who has put bums on seats since joining London Lions. He’s two-footed, quick and direct and will be a nightmare for defences to handle on the Maccabiah stage. He’s got a bit of Aaron Lennon and Theo Walcott about him too and is a real match-winner for me.
In Marks and Green, you’ve got two real talents who have come through the youth academy system at London Lions. Both are rightly proud to have made the cut at such a young age, but rest assured, they won’t be there to make up the numbers.
Manchester powerhouse Sacks continues to fly the flag as the only non-Londoner in the squad, while Jake Gottlieb, Daniel Cole, Aron Barnes and Andy Glynne deserve their chance. David Soutar personifies the word versatility and Daniel Stanton is about as reliable as they come. He can pass the ball through the eye of a needle and playing killer passes are second nature.
Pollock told me this week that he will add another goalkeeper to the squad. Ideally an experienced figure good at saving penalties. Now where did I leave my gloves ...