Not quite a minyan, but Oldham are the real Jewish deal


Someone asked me the other day, ‘which is the best Jewish football club?’ Spurs, Arsenal, West Ham, Chelsea, Watford, Barnet, Wingate & Finchley or even London Maccabi Lions would be likely answers, but my choice would not be one of them.

While the first five have large Jewish fan-bases and/or key players at boardroom level, it is in fact League One outfit Oldham Athletic. Lying eighth in the table, the Latics have four members of the faith charged with running the club. At board level, you have chairman Simon Blitz, managing director Simon Corney, vice-president Chaim Beniaker and director Danny Gazal.

In terms of playing personnel, former Rangers star Dean Furman, 21, has been earning rave reviews as he looks to catch the eye of South Africa manager Joel Santana ahead of next year’s World Cup finals.

Full-back Joe Jacobson, the former Wales Under 21 captain, has yet to play since moving from Bristol Rovers due to injury. The club also has striker Nick Blackman, 19, on its books. The former King David pupil, who is on loan from Blackburn Rovers, scored a long-range strike against Brentford. He has a Jewish mother and has played in a Maccabiah.

Corney is delighted by the kosher connection. “Each one of those boys is there on merit,” he told me. “Agent Matt Kleinman begged me to take Dean, who coincidentally was the first target of new manager Dave Penney. He’s been outstanding in the last few games.

“Joe has had a good career at our level and hopefully we’ll see how good he is. I didn’t know about Nick’s Jewish connection until Dave Nadler jokingly asked if I was trying to get a minyan.”

The Jewish roots do not stop there. Since Corney, Blitz and Gazal took over the club, they have had mezuzot dotted around the ground and kosher food is available in the boardroom for midweek games.

Like Corney, Jacobson and Furman fasted and did not train on Yom Kippur. The following day, Furman was man-of-the-match against the MK Dons. “Maybe we should get the team to fast before every game,” Corney joked.

MSFL champions North West Neasden A get their London FA Sunday Challenge Cup campaign under way this weekend when they entertain Albion Manor. Sunday’s second-round tie at Bricket Wood sees NWN looking to maintain their unbeaten start to the campaign in a competition they reached the semi-finals of last season.

Hoping to give a debut to Maccabiah star James Gershfield, Neasden will be missing Matt Stock.

I’ve watched all 180 minutes of Maccabi Haifa’s Champions League campaign. The 500-1 outsiders have lost to Bayern Munich and Bordeaux but have held their own in both games, succumbing to late goals. The Greens may not be blessed with big names and world-class talent but they are certainly giving a good account of themselves, perhaps only lacking quality and composure in the final third. That, together with Hapoel Tel Aviv’s recent victory over Celtic, leads me to believe that Israeli football is on the way up.

With this in mind, I will say a little prayer for Dror Kashtan and the boys ahead of their World Cup double-header against Moldova and the Swiss. Let’s hope there’s one final twist.

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