Maccabi Masters season 2011/12 preview
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With two – possibly three – new teams in the Maccabi Masters League, and several others strengthening their squads, it looks like being a very interesting year ahead.
Division One has six strong teams, with new boys Scrabble being the unknown package, but with Jon Yantin at the helm, and some of the youngest players in the league at his disposal, it would be dangerous to write them off.
However, Brady Maccabi A remain strong favourites, given their pedigree at this level, having won the title for the past four seasons.
Glenthorne will be looking to strengthen their A team this year, with several of the 'old guard' moving down to the B-team in Division Two, creating places for younger, fresher legs to fill. And Faithfold continue with their steady improvement under the shrewd leadership of James Bloom.
North London Raiders just missed out on the title last year, and they'll need to add to the squad this time around if they are to wrestle the silverware away from Brady.
The same goes for South Mancs, who have consolidated their two teams into one this season, and will be looking for stability under the guidance of Mark Klinger and Dan Graham after a somewhat turbulent campaign last year.
Division Two also looks like providing a competitive and entertaining league, with Glenthorne B, Lions, EDRS Stonegrove and Hendon Harriers all likely to be in contention.
With the likes of Paul van Gelder, Andy Block and Sid Shaw dropping down into the lower division for Glenthorne, last year's champions, will be even harder to beat, but London Maccabi Lions seem certain to give them a good run for their money, with influential midfielder Lee Cohen now added to their ranks.
EDRS demonstrated in last season's Division Two Cup final that they still have enough craft to trouble any team in the division, but their age may be catching up with them.
And after a torrid season propping up Division One last year, Hendon Harriers may be the surprise package, with some of the youngest players at this level.
Clayhall Park Casuals – who looked like dropping out the league altogether last season – have been revitalised by the return of the prodigal Brian Deal and several other former Norstar players – after Norstar called it a day after nine years in Masters football – and Clayhall may yet spring a surprise or two.
Brady B can, no doubt, be relied upon to finish in a comfortable mid-table position, although they, too, may feel the effects of a relatively aged squad.
At the time of writing, we are still awaiting League clearance for another new team – Marshside FC – to join the league, and with the legendary Fara Moghim taking the reins there, anything could happen ... but expect fireworks at some point.
Ashlodge, Temple Fortune, and the newly-formed Glenthorne C – with former Norstar midfield dynamo Trevor Granger in charge – will surely not trouble the bookmakers too much, but they continue to prove that Masters football is more about the taking part than the winning, and exemplify that spirit brilliantly.
The Cup competitions are still a long way off, but even at this stage, Brady A are odds-on to retain the
Henry Swerner Trophy, whilst Glenthorne B, Lions and EDRS will not be far away from the medals when it comes to the Nathan Horwitz Division Two Cup.
As ever, the Masters League will feature in the Peter Morrison Trophy, and a representative team embarks on a seventh visit to Israel in October.
All in all, the Masters are flourishing again, proving that there is indeed life in those old legs.