Stone backing Winston's warriors for gold
Threat: James Gershfield
Michael Stone, the Barnet coach, believes that Team GB can end several decades of heartbreak and take gold in the Open competition at the European Maccabi Games.
Having recently helped the Bees survive relegation from League 2, Stone has been running his eye over the Team GB Open squad who will be going for gold in Vienna.
Stone was coach of the GB squad that took bronze at the 2007 EMG in Rome and he has been working closely with manager Ben Winston and his troops in recent weeks.
"I think we have a really good chance of winning gold," said Stone. "We won silver at the Maccabiah Games two years ago and I think that we're getting closer. Our squads are getting stronger.
"We have exactly the right balance this time and have the experience to be a hard team to beat."
Stone recently took a session in which the squad watched footage of the recent Under 21 European Championship match between England and Spain. Focusing on GB's tactics, he said: "The most import thing is possession of the ball as we don't want to be chasing it in the heat. The GB squad won't be pressing for 90 minutes and they won't be trying to close down their opponents high up the pitch in traditional English style. Defensively, it will be all about retreating and keeping shape, shuffling and being tactically aware.
"When we have the ball, we will look to pass it from the back, play through the different thirds of the pitch and play a very non-English style of game. We've worked really hard on trusting each other in possession of the ball.
"It's all about trust, passing the ball and being patient in our build-up play. I think this will pay dividends come match three or four and help keep us fresher."
GB will start their schedule against Belgium next Wednesday followed by matches against Switzerland, Mexico and Austria.
Stone said: "It will be a tough tournament. The boys will have to play the game, play the conditions, play the officials, show the right temperament and they will have to be lucky with injuries with lots of games in a short space of time."
One of the squad's strength is at the back, according to Stone. "We have great experience in our back line. In Guy Morris, Michael Sacks, Craig Ellis and David Soutar, we have players who have seen it, done it and got the T-shirt in terms of top Maccabi experience.
"Then you've got the raw talent in attacking positions with Daran Bern, George Fierstone and James Gershfield, who are potential match-winners. Michael Sacks has played in many big tournaments but is still young while Daniel Stanton looks particularly sharp. He has come into the competition on the back of a very good season and I think he's in for an exciting tournament.
"This is not an 11-player tournament and GB will need every player to come in and play his part. We have players like Paul Babai who have come in and raised the bar. The players who have come in deserve their places."
Michael Stone's verdict:
● Matt Davis - a reliable keeper in terms of the basics, has the edge over Dan Lee for the No. 1 spot. He is a very steady kicker, shot-stopper and comes out for crosses. Has a proven temperament and will cope in a tournament atmosphere when the pressure is on.
● Daniel Lee – has different attributes to Matt Davis. A completely new face to me. Has gradually impressed more and more through training. Very brave and courageous. Capable of pulling off stunning saves. Goes in and goes in strong. Will take one in the face if he has to. Worked very hard at training.
● Daniel Cole – hadn't seen him since last EMG. During that period he has really matured as a footballer and a person. Been back and forth to New York which shows unbelievable commitment. Our Ashley Cole of the team, but on the right side. Will definitely play an important part in this tournament.
● Aron Barnes – another player I haven't seen for a while. His game has really developed. Came into the squad pushing for a midfield or full-back slot but has been outstanding at left-back and has made it very difficult for anyone to challenge for the position. Very comfortable on the ball. Playing by the rule that possession is nine tenths of the law, Aron is going to be crucial to the squad. He's a great character.
● Guy Morris – Captain. A real leader on and off the pitch. A veteran of Maccabiahs, EMGs and Maccabi football. Not the tallest but competes brilliantly in the air. Strong tackler. Will be the leader of the unit at the back. Probably looking at this as his last chance of winning a medal before moving into veterans football.
● Michael Sacks – one of best attitudes of a Jewish footballer than I've ever come across. Has hardly missed a session, travelling up and down from Manchester the same night. Been involved in the Maccabi set up since 15. Loves the football and spirit of the tournament. A strong centre back, tough tackler and is strong in the air. A no-nonsense player. His experience of FC United in Manchester has really given him an edge to his game.
● David Soutar – can play centre back or right back. A real gem of a lad. His character and personality adds so much to the squad. Comfortable on the ball, a strong defender who stands tall not just in stature but in terms of bravery. Really good communicator. His experience will be of great importance.
● Ben Lauffer – came into training looking quite rusty but really knuckled down. I know how good Ben can be in this kind of tournaments. A Rolls Royce of a passer. He's very smooth in what he does. I think his game suits these kinds of tournaments more than the game in this country. I know how much he loves playing in this tournament. He controls and passes the ball well and will play a major part.
● Craig Ellis – mixes between deep-lying midfielder and centre half. Know him very well from our Wingate days. An uncompromising defender/anchor midfielder who won't take any prisoners. Very strong tackler and good in the air. An intelligent player who spoils possession and can be the unsung hero of the team.
● Paul Babai - At first, I think he might have been a bit in awe at the squad and the players around him. We've worked hard to make him believe in his quality and that he deserves to be part of the squad. A tackler, a spoiler and someone that can cover a lot of ground in the midfield area. The kind of player the opposition doesn't like playing against. Gives great protection in front of the back four which we'll need in this tournament.
● Dan Stanton – a player I know very well having previously brought him into Maccabi squad very late and also from working with him at Wingate. A creative midfielder and a very unselfish player who will work in an advanced position in this tournament. When he's on the ball we will create chances. We'll be looking to get the ball to him at every opportunity. I believe he's got a goal or two in him and we're encouraging him to shoot from outside the box.
● Daran Bern – has a massive asset in his game - electrifying pace. That is not common among Jewish footballers. Keeps working hard to add more quality to his final ball. He can certainly explode in this tournament. Daran comes into the competition on the back of a fantastic season in Maccabi football and I can see him going to Vienna and ripping the place up. He is potentially the player of the tournament.
● Matt Stock – like Daran Bern, blessed with blistering pace and the squad have been working on how to get the two of them into the game. It's now a case of smoothing over the rough edges. We have to find ways of utilising them in the game. Must work hard to get the ball and stay involved.
● TJ Keterman – new on the radar. Can play as a No. 1 striker or just behind. Good technical ability and holds the ball up well. Capable of coming up with a goal. Also developed as the training programme has progressed. If he builds on his momentum he will be a vital player in terms of goal-scoring threat and strength further up the field.
● Ben Ellis – will probably be utilised in wide positions both sides. Like George Fierstone, a junior member of squad. Been really impressed with his attitude. He's desperate to be part of this. Absorbed coaching sessions like a sponge. Different type of player who will provide a different threat. Good feet for a tall player. Gives the squad nice variation. Opposition will think he's our Peter Crouch but Ben can play football.
● James Gershfield – another player who has matured a lot in his football. Really impressed in recent friendly against a Trialist XI, scoring two goals. Terrific work-rate and pace. Has improved play with his back to goal and holding the ball up. He carries such a good goal-scoring threat and goes into the tournament in good form. Will try to score the goals that will win us gold.
● George Fierstone – an exciting young talent who is the baby of the squad. Has done extremely well to be part of the set-up. Has come in with a no-fear attitude. What he has to do now is und his role in the team and his positional play without the ball to make sure he can play within team structure and build on his brilliant ability on the ball.
● Adam Stolerman - A goal-scorer. A fox-in-the-box who holds up ball well. Adds something to the squad for sure, capable of scoring big goals at important times.
● Ben Winston (manager) – our working relationship started before Rome in 2009. From then on we've become the closest of friends off the pitch and away from football. Ben was my assistant at Wingate & Finchley. His greatest skill is his man-management and his ability to get the best out of players and teams. He should be congratulated on putting the team and staff together.
● Darren Yarlett (coach – London Lions & North West Neasden) – I've been really impressed by Darren. I've always said that these kinds of events shouldn't just be for the players. He has a genuine interest in coaching and developing players and squads. Darren is very well-prepared and researched. I think he'll thrive on the experience in Austria and be a better coach for it.
GB matches: July 6 - Belgium (10am), July 8 - Switzerland (1pm), July 10 - Mexico (3pm), July 11 - Austria (5pm)