While some teams cannot wait for the football season to finish, others cannot get enough. Now they are dreaming of a trip to Wingate & Finchley’s famous Harry Abrahams Stadium after entering the JC Barry Goldstein Cup.
The usual suspects such as Hendon United, Faithfold, North West Neasden and Redbridge Jewish Care are challenging for silverware in the big competitions but the Minor Cup gives some of the minnows their moment in the spotlight.
The tournament returns following a two-year absence with eight teams invited to battle it out for a place in the final on April 17.
Here, Danny Caro gives his verdict on the teams and predicts who might meet at Wingate & Finchley.
Faithfold C – there’s no reason why the holders cannot repeat the heroics of 2008. The current team is much stronger than the one who sparkled in Finchley, and it’s quite fitting that they start their defence at their spiritual home in Chase Lodge. Signing Jonny Blain from North London Raiders A was a master-stroke by manager David Garson. His quality and experience added with that of Ben Simons, Simon Beresford, Josh Franklin and Josh Sugarbread make them strong contenders. They should win their first match against Real MAL but the second one against Raiders C could be much tougher.
Three to watch: Ben Simons, Josh Sugarbread, Jonny Blain
Heath Banta - there is little to separate Faithfold C and Heath Banta as potential winners. Having claimed a win and a draw in the league against the Superhoops, they will go into the last game of the group with a psychological edge. They have the toughest possible start with Raiders away on 3G, but their experienced squad will be hugely disappointed if they don’t see manager Ben Nathan in a suit on April 17.
Three to watch: Oli Joseph, Benji Peters, Jeremy Teacher
Real Life - Jamie Beaumont’s troops have their work cut out not to finish bottom of Group A. The influence of Charlie Bernstein and Dan Markeson will ensure they have enough going forward but having conceded 61 goals in the league, I fear for them defensively.
Three to watch: Charlie Bernstein, Dan Markeson, Wayne Davidson
North London Raiders C - My dark horses for the competition. The team have improved big time since the turn of the year. They will do well to finish above Faithfold C and Heath Banta but they certainly have the players and belief. And they would light up the Harry Abrahams Stadium if they managed to reach the final – a stage fit for all three Franks brothers.
Three to watch: Jack Franks, Matt Green, Harry Franks
Catford & Bromley Maccabi - Pure genius is how I would describe the decision by managers Simon Wolfson, Adam Lewis and Joel Isaacs for bringing in the cream of Maccabi GB table tennis to the club. It has proved a season-turning moment for the Cats who stunned Division Three leaders Glenthorne A last Sunday. If Wingate & Finchley old boy Jonny Lee is up for the challenge, it’s hard to say how far they could go.
Three to watch: Rafi Marom, Ashley Stokes, Jonny Lee
UJIA - the JC Barry Goldstein Cup could be the making of UJIA this season. Manager Darren Rolfe made his intentions clear last summer when he drafted in Assi Avital and Ben Nassim. Avital already has one Minor Cup runners-up medal in his locker from his Golders Green days and if he and Matt Radstone get the right service, there’s no reason why they can’t make the semis.
Three to watch: Matt Radstone, Assi Avital, Dan Roth
Zig Zag - if anyone deserves a place in a Jewish cup final, it’s DJ Neal Cohen. The Zig Zag boss has been through thick and thin and stood by his club. Every MSFL team needs a DJ Neal and if he can get the best out of the returning Danny Jacobs, anything is possible.
Three to watch: Danny Jacobs, Byron Watkins, Jonny Winton
Temple Fortune B - rank outsiders Fortune B have it all to do. The lowest-placed team in the competition, I can’t see them winning a game let alone getting out of the group. Only time will tell if Gavin Levy and Rob Jay can get the best out of the team.
Three to watch: Marc Herman, Terry Jeffries, Jeff Bathija