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Raiders and Oakwood triumphant

Making the big step from bridesmaid to bride is often the hardest in football. But both Raiders and Oakwood fulfilled their dreams this week. And, boy, did they enjoy it.

    The tag of No. 1 Jewish Sunday team in the country is one that will sit well with everyone connected at Raiders. As a former NLR player and manager, I enjoyed many happy times at what is a superbly run club. Twice we reached the semi-finals of the National competition but fell agonisingly short.

    Credit to Dan Shafron for doing the business in his first season at the helm. Like Antonio Conte at Chelsea, he has made a couple of tweaks, added a couple of his own players and come up trumps.

    Unlike Conte, he has had to deal with injuries to key players — captain David Rhodes and midfield maestro Ben Joseph are just two — but Captain Rhodes timed his comeback to perfection to finally get his hands on that famous trophy.

    It was also a day to remember for full-back Jono Rochwerger — the latest in a series of talented Australian players to grace the club. The final coincided with his birthday weekend and he capped his final game with a man-of-the-match appearance.

    Two other notable figures also bid farewell on Sunday. Laurence Thorne announced that he is standing down from the role of Maccabi GB National Football Committee chairman after 10 years to “make way for some younger blood”. And Malcolm Collins, the competition’s vice-chairman for 13 years, is retiring “to allow a new core of people to take the competition to new heights”. These are unforgiving times for grassroots football and for this reason, Jewish football salutes you.

    Oakwood’s title success was written in the stars. Following the passing of former player Rob Davidson last year, managers Ric Blank, Dan Kristall and the rest of the squad were on a mission to win the MGBSFL for him.

    They conceded the fewest goals across all three divisions and were only beaten once in the league since September, so no one can argue they didn’t deserve it. They raised more than a L’chaim on Sunday after the news filtered through that Hendon had done them a favour.

    As I mentioned a month ago, points in the bag are always better than games in hand. Now let’s just hope the same applies to Liverpool in the race for a top four finish.

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