MSFL Season Preview: Division Four
SPEC's Ricky Lawrence
Six new teams have joined the Maccabi League for season 2011/12. Here we get the low-down on the 10 participating teams in Division Four.
Expect SPEC to be the real deal this season. That is the view of Laurence Conway, the team manager. They have also entered the London Sunday Junior Cup, Peter Morrison Trophy and the JC Cyril Anekstein Cup, and they hope to complete a busy schedule by entering the JC Barry Goldstein Cup in the spring.
Captained by Ashley Burns, club secretary and midfield maestro Ricky Lawrence said: "Our hopes are to end the season as champions. We realise that it's going to be extremely difficult but if we weren't at least challenging at the top, we would consider the season a failure."
The team will look to bring a "whole new level of team spirit to the league", with an abundance of goals from Dan Cohen. At the back, Doug Berlin is known as the wall and the goalless draw in a recent pre-season friendly against North London Raiders B proves that they mean business.
With a squad aged 22-27, SPEC replicated the recruitment policy of Manchester United, doing their business early in the transfer window.
Sponsored by Cinderella Hair and Elmar Printers, everyone connected to the club are relishing the chance of putting SPEC back on the map.
The Bilbaum boys have a bold aim for the campaign. "To revolutionise the way the Jewish game is played," according to boss Mark Pasha.
He believes that the team can light up the division. "Despite the recession and widespread balance sheet deleveraging, the club has nonetheless gone ahead with the proposed stadium expansion, taking the capacity of the Bernebaum to a whopping seven seats," he said.
"Visiting teams should expect electric Sunday morning atmospheres and deafening crowds as they make the arduous trip to the far flung corner of Hampstead Heath."
The only club with a mascot - Baum Baum the Elephant - Bilbaum, who are sponsored by Magen David Adom UK, have made several signings with a "particular focus on strengthening the back-line to improve what was a miserable goals scored to conceded ratio last season".
The position of team captain remains up for grabs. Pasha confirmed that "the role will be decided at the Annual Bilbaum Doughnut Eating Contest, to be held on August 29". Indeed Josh Ejdelbaum, the club's former manager, is the bookies' favourite but he will have to fend off fierce competition from hitman Ed Green and Andrew 'Dog' Fenichel if he is to win the coveted prize.
Brady Maccabi B
Anything less than a top two finish will come as a disappointment to Josh Dagul, manager of newcomers Brady Maccabi B.
They come with the promise of a team who "tries to keep the ball on the floor and play some good attacking football".
With skipper James Joseph looking to lead by example, they are packed with leaders in the shape of Ollie Kay, Jonny Meltzer, Ben Hildebrand and Sam Frohlich,
James Joseph and Mike Beaber are described as the 'ones to watch' while Dan Korn is the outstanding youngster in their squad.
Based at Rowley Lane, and sponsored by Impex Russell Ltd - Lighting Specialists, the team will feature a sprinkling of experienced players.
FC Team C
Michael Myers spearheads the challenge of FC Team C. The ambitious and growing club are targeting promotion and a talented squad will be looking to play "good, possession football with flair".
Myers believes that the division will be "open" although he is unsure where the main challenge will come from.
Goals are guaranteed from the team that player-manager Myers has packed with university graduates.
The former Manchester Maccabi captain describes FC Team C, who will play home matches at Hatch End playing fields, as "talented, ambitious and enigmatic".
Asked where the title will go, Myers said: "I think all the teams are talking up their chances for promotion. Our focus will be on bringing flair to the division as we have a highly talented squad and the team wants to play good possession football."
North London Raiders C
This could be a big season for the Raiders, accoring to manager Oli Shorts. Recently appointed the league's Publicity Liason officer, Shorts has opted against entering this season's Jewish FA Cup.
Working together with his assistant Rich Abrahams, promotion is the name of the game this season as the team returns to their traditional orange colours.
"As Arsene Wenger would say, 'having a fit Matt Greene for the start of the season is like a new signing," said Shorts.
"Jonny Skolnick, Matt Keston, Michael Israel, Ben Hart and Sam Morell have all joined and we're hoping Rob Samuelson will come in as well.
With Josh Graham captaining the team, Shorts has tipped SPEC to be "there or thereabouts come the end of the season".
The manager has high hopes for James Franks, a player he likens to "Chris Iwelumo minus missing the occasional open goal".
Big things are predicted from Toby Katz. Shorts said: "He came on leaps and bounds last year and is my tip for Young Player of the Year.
"He reminds me of a young Perry Groves; the Ginger Magician."
Temple Fortune B
Led by player-manager Terry Jeffries, who will be working alongside assistant Adam Glekin, Fortune have a blend of youth and experience as they look for consistency of results in their second season back in the league.
Last season, they lost nine matches by a solitary goal, including five by just 1-0 margins, and they will be looking to "hold their own in the division and do much, much better than the last campaign," according to chairman Nigel Kyte.
The promise of putting out "a competitive and hard-working team that never gives" will make the them worth watching according to Kyte, who predicts that the side will "surprise a few teams".
Jeffries, last season's top-scorer, will look to the experienced figures of Garry Simpson and Simon Allen as key men on the pitch.
Kyte said: "Both have the attributes to lead the team, having done the job for the our A team on many occasions in the past.
The club chairman was unable to pinpoint a favourite to win the title. "It's always hard to say in the lowest division when there are a number of new teams coming in," he said. "They could be world-beaters who dominate from the start or total misfits who struggle to get off the mark - who can say?"
Unlike some of their rivals, Fortune were keen to avoid picking out star players.
"We prefer not to single out anyone in particular – as the old adage says, it's a team game and we play as a team with no stars. The priority is to remain competitive."
Fortune have found themselves a new home ground in Welwyn Garden City. As Kyte explains: "Having spent one season in the mud at Hatch End Playing Fields, the Seconds will be hosting most home league fixtures at Gosling Sports Park.
Fortune, sponsored by Bekhors, has a proud tradition in the Maccabi League. "We're a well run and friendly club with a long history – 42-years-old and still going strong.
"This Club has an affinity for Maccabi football and we are proud to be taking part for the 36th consecutive campaign, longer than any current team. We've had many ups and downs with the League over the years but at the moment, things couldn't be better so we are very pro-MSFL."
Boca Jewniors are another new team in the MSFL this season. Run by chairman Sefton Monk, the team is aiming to push for promotion in their first season.
The club held trials at the beginning of June and have put together a strong squad.
Playing at Meadow Park in Borehamwood, Farrell Monk and head coach Jamie Weinrich are confident of a strong showing.
A top three finish is the aim of Jewventus manager Gabriel John. With high hopes for record scorer Richard Fogelman, John said: "It looks as though we'll have a small but select side capable of beating anyone on our day.
"Richard will always be our main threat, though the squad is full of big strong seasoned campaigners."
● Newcomers Athletic Finchley and Brixton Old Boys B have kept their cards close to their chest in terms of plans for the season.