The 39-team MGBSFL gets under way on Sunday, with 24 sides in action on Matchday One, with defending champions Hendon open their account at Rowley Lane – where they sealed the title last season, while newly-promoted Neasden and Woodford are also in action in the Premier. New boys London Rovers and Shacharit Donetsk make their bow in Division Three. Danny Caro has been busy speaking to the camps ahead of kick-off and makes his first predictions of the season.
FAITHFOLD A vs OAKWOOD A
David Garbacz got it bang on when he said Raiders and Oakwood will pose the biggest threat to Hendon’s credentials. Throw Redbridge into the mix too and you have a right royal rumble on your hands.
The mighty Oaks welcome back three big players this year and hope their injury curse is a thing of the past. It promises to be a very exciting season for their fans.
"Buzzing is the word I'd use ahead of the new season,” joint-manager Ric Blank told JC Sport. “We didn't finish the season until late May and it had been a long, emotional rollercoaster - everyone was due some time off.
“But come mid-July we were back and by August we were flying. The football has looked good over the past two weeks but our fitness is better than ever. We are better prepared than we've ever been.
“We signed two players in Lee Warner and Si Davies - Lee is away but Skip will feature at some point. Other than that the squad has remained and we look like a team.
“Adam Levine is back which is a huge boost - as is Dave Woolman's return to full fitness. We will see a totally different Wooly this season. He's got a point to prove.
Faithfold won the corresponding fixture 4-2 last season – with Mike Pearson bagging a brace – and Blank knows the importance of hitting the ground running.
“We couldn't have a tougher start. Faithfold for my money still have the best front players in the division. They have so much experience too. Whether they have the squad for the whole season only they know but there isn't a tougher way to open the season.
“It will be a great game - a close one at that. We think we've come a long way since we lost 4-2 in the corresponding fixture exactly 12 months ago. Let's see if I'm right."
Faithfold have been working hard to bring in some fresh faces. They’ve kept things in-house by-and-large up to now, but some of their youngsters will need to step up for what promises to be an all-action contest.
Manager Zuriel Solomon has extended his contract and he’s looking forward to Sunday. In a candid interview, Solomon told JC Sport: “We have worked hard through pre-season, although we have had a lot of people away.
“Oakwood will be tough but all the games will be so we will work hard and hopefully get the result. They will be high on confidence due to their good showing last year and we will have to be at our best.
"We have a few away but should have a good squad come Sunday."
An early season clash between two of the big boys is always hard to call, but I’m tipping the Oaks to nick it late on.
Venue – Hatfield 4G, Ref – Martin Lavender, KO – 10am
JC star man: Josh Rose (Oakwood)
DC Prediction: Faithfold 0 Oakwood 1
NORTH WEST NEASDEN vs WOODFORD WANDERERS
It’s the battle of the new boys on Sunday as last season’s Division One winners Woodford take on runners-up Neasden.
Of the two, the Wanderers appear to have fared better in terms of bolstering their squad, with Aviel Schwarz the marquee signing. Most people thought he would be at Lions for life.
The acquisition of Glenn Michaels is another clever one and manager Tony Charles is confident his players will not freeze on the big stage.
He told JC Sport: “We are delighted to be in the Premier Division and we are looking forward to kicking off on Sunday.”
Neasden moved house over the summer and are looking forward to hosting a team they know much about at their new Enfield home.
Boss Stirling Kay told JC Sport: “We’re looking forward to the challenge ahead, and we start off with a very hard opener. Obviously we know they will be very hard to beat - they are very difficult to break down and have forwards that will punish you.
“So we know we will have to raise our game and compete all over the pitch and then put our game plan into action, and hopefully we will start with a good performance and get rewarded with three points.”
I can see this being a tight, tense and tactical affair and it could take a moment of magic from the east Londoners to separate the teams.
JC team news: Neasden were still trying to add new players to their squad right up to the Thursday night deadline.
Venue – Hazelwood Rec, Ref – Neil Cooper
JC star man: Aviel Schwarz (Lions)
DC Prediction: Neasden 0 Woodford 1
MACCABI LONDON LIONS BLUE vs HENDON UNITED SPORTS CLUB A
It’s fitting that Hendon start their title defence where they won the trophy just over 100 days ago.
Boss David Garbacz is confident his boys can cage the Lions and extend their magnificent unbeaten run against a club who have kept things very hush, hush on the MGBSFL front since May.
It’s been a “frenetic” summer at Hendon, with several players moving on and the gaffer has been working hard trying to bring in quality reinforcements. I’d say he’s passed the test with flying colours.
Yoav Lebens left arguably the biggest boots to fill, but Garbacz has done well to draft in Simon Peterman, would should work well alongside Player of the Year Ari Last.
Most importantly, Hendon’s spine remains unchanged, with keeper Russ Corin, Avi Korman, Last and Avidan Last as reliable as they come. Throw Greg Corin, Ben Kon and the usual suspects in and you have a team that is very hard to beat.
Ahead of the game, Garbacz told JC Sport: “It is a new-look Hendon this year in many ways with a number of new additions to the squad, but the ultimate aim will be the same – to win games, play proper football, and challenge hard for all trophies.
“We are well aware that will be there to be shot at this year but the main thing will be to get off to a solid winning start and to start putting together a decent run. At this stage it will be impossible to know what to expect from a lot of the teams in this division and Lions will be no different so we will be focusing on our own game and looking to bed in the new boys as comfortably as possible.
“We went the whole of last season unbeaten – but we start again from scratch on a level footing and it is vital we set an early marker down with three points on Sunday.
“After a difficult summer, we are now totally ready to go again – we looked magnificent in training last night and literally can’t wait to set about the defence of our title.”
Arsenal and Liverpool showed reminded their fans of the importance of winning your first game, even when not playing particularly well and I think the same could apply to Hendon on Sunday.
JC team news: Hendon are missing Avi Korman, Yoav kestenbaum and Dovid Korman. New signings Simon Peterman, Michael Kenley Dovi Fehler and Ethan Zone all in line for debuts.
Venue – Rowley Lane, Ref – Adam Lewis
JC star man: Ethan Zone (Hendon)
DC Prediction: Lions 0 Hendon 1
ATHLETIC BILBAUM vs LOS BLANCOS
Life without Jono Gaon begins for the Blancos boys, with manager Jon Ison hoping his summer signings can repay a huge chunk of their signing on fees.
With a big travelling support expected at the Bernebaum, Blancos will need all their experienced former Hendon players for what could be a real pressure-cooker atmosphere.
Ahead of kick-off, Ison told JC Sport: “I have big selection dilemmas this week with around 20 available – it’s great to see but gives me the sort of troubles that I do and don't want.
“With a strong 14 chosen, and many others desperate to get in the team, I am certainly hopeful of a positive outcome on Sunday.
“With a mix of the old and new, I know that we will be playing some great football this season. Everyone in the squad is very comfortable on the ball and I am very confident going into Sunday’s game.”
Replacing Jake Gilbert has been the no. 1 priority for the new Bilbaum management team. Former bosses Ed Green and Mark Pasha continue to turn out in the famous green and while jersey as the club celebrates club mascot Baum Baum the Elephant’s fifth birthday. Many happy returns big guy!
A move to Regents Park will make him feel right at home. I just hope he’s able to focus on the task at hand and not try and get lucky over the road instead!
Back to the football and a fast start is important for both clubs, but I’m backing Ison and co to go home all smiles on this occasion.
Venue – Regents Park, Ref – Andy Myerson
JC star man: Chaim Gothold (Blancos)
DC Prediction: Bilbaum 1 Blancos 2
BLIZZARD STORM vs CAMDEN PARK
Big-spending Blizzard are ready to rock against a Camden team looking to bounce back from relegation.
Eyebrows were raised when Blizzard boss Simon Linden spent more than LVG, with Ben Ellis and Oli Henry topping the list.
Linden has left no stone unturned in his bid for glory and he has done his best to ensure his squad gives as good as they get for what is their first season in the division.
“We are looking forward to getting the season started,” Linden told JC Sport. “Pre-season has been good for us - it's now all about taking that form into the season and pushing ourselves to challenge. It won't be easy though.
“Everyone has hyped us up which is all good and well, however at the end of the day this fixture last season was a Premier side against Division Two and Camden will be well up for it.”
Linden is still scratching around for a top goalkeeper. So far everyone in his little, black book has blown him out.
With that in mind, attack could be the name of the game on Sunday. Linden said: “It's got the makings of a great game. I expect 25,000 Blizzard fanatical fans to raise the roof on Sunday morning.”
JC team news: Blizzard have a few players out, including new signing Conor Brand after picking up a shoulder injury midweek.
Venue – Hertswood Centre, Ref – Neal Cohen
JC star man: Oli Henry (Blizzard)
DC Prediction: Blizzard 1 Camden 1
SPEC FC vs BRADY MACCABI
Safe hands Sam Singer is back in nets for the Brady boys and that could be bad news for SPEC FC on Sunday.
Anything less than the title will be a disappointment as far as Josh Dagul is concerned, and there are also high hopes for “explosive goal-scorer” Matt Frohlich – a great addition following the departure of MLS-bound Dave Newman.
But it’s the signing of James ‘the prodigal son’ Joseph that excites Dagul most. “He’s returned home, claiming that the little child inside of him couldn't turn down the chance to rejoin Brady. Joseph has penned a new long-term contract for an undisclosed fee and will no doubt be looking to fire his team into the Premier.
SPEC FC were mightily relieved to avoid relegation, but they could not have asked for a tougher opener.
Ricky Lawrence and Michael Rhodes are running the show following Laurence Conway’s retirement and they have been working hard to improve the squad.
"What a huge game to kick off the start of a brand new season,” Lawrence told JC Sport. “It's not come at the best time for us with both the new captain Marc Hecht and the old captain Ashley Burns missing. However, we've had a decent pre season and are looking forward to the game.
“Obviously the loss of both Laurence Conway and James Segal over the summer was a big blow to the club and we'll see how we deal with it over the coming weeks."
Venue – Brunel, Ref – Tony McEvoy, KO – 10.15
JC star man: James Joseph (Brady)
DC Prediction: SPEC FC 0 Brady 2
FC TEAM B vs L’EQUIPE
Mitch Young is backing his boys to deliver this season, but my tips for the title may not have things all their own way when they host newly-promoted L’Equipe in Mill Hill.
Big things are expected from Ben Binder this season and and I’ll be interested to see how an experienced L’Equipe defence gets to grips with the youngster.
Team have quality in every position and Young is demanding the title. Looking ahead to the game, Young told JC Sport: “The first game of the season is always very tricky. Having played L’Equipe a few years ago, I know they bring with them a great team spirit and togetherness.
“Having only lost four games last year they are clearly hard to beat and we will not be taking the game lightly. However, I am expecting us to go out and fight for the three points and setting down a marker for the rest of the season.
“I am expecting an exciting game with three good sets of lads looking to enjoy their football. I have full faith in my team and we are ready to go. We’re looking forward to the game."
Of the two clubs, L’Equipe have invested more heavily this summer and managers Josh Lewis and Dan Cordell hope they can hit the ground running on Sunday.
They did well to get out of a strong division last year and are hoping to get as many minutes out of Richard Fogelman as possible.
Lewis told JC Sport: “All the boys are looking forward to Sunday’s opening game and as usual it will be tough to pick our strongest 14.
“Dan and I have worked hard to add to the squad over the summer – we’ve now brought in the likes of James Mandell, James Bell, Rob Simons and Mark Smith who will all bring that extra competition that’s needed when competing in a higher division.
“I was initially surprised to hear that FC Team were bringing their Premier League team down to Division Two and promoting the other team that didn’t even win Division Two last year. I’m expecting a tough game, but I’m also expecting my team to step up to the challenge as we did last season and pick up where we left off.”
I can see L'Equipe huffing and puffing for 90 minutes, but can see Team's doing enough on the day.
JC team news: Team have Oliver Segal is unavailable due to family commitments, Danny Moss has a foot injury, Richard Salmon is 50/50. Richard Sternberg returns to the squad after a two-year long injury, Daniel Breger and wonder kid Ben Binder in line for debuts
L’Equipe have a few absentees, with Dave Prager, Rich Alexander and James Mandell away. Lewis added: “But as I said in pre-season, we have a very strong core and the likes of Nick Stern, Rich Fogelman and captain Mark Singer will step up on Sunday and put in a shift against a strong FC Team B."
Venue – Old Camdenians, Ref – David Lazarus, KO – 10am
JC star man: Ben Binder (Team)
DC Prediction: Team 2 L’Equipe 0
FC TEAM C vs CATFORD & BROMLEY MACCABI
Momentum is the name of the game for both FC Team C and Catford this season.
David Gordon’s men enjoyed an excellent second half of last season and there are high hopes about the signings summer.
But Gordon says his players are going into unknown territory on Sunday. “It’s difficult to make any predictions or know what to expect at this point,” he told JC Sport. All of the teams have changed personnel and we’re only going to know who the serious contenders are after the first month or so.
“We’ve had a good pre-season but there are still things we can improve on and we’ll be looking to start working on these on Sunday.
“We want to start quickly and a win would go a long way to boosting our confidence; nobody wants to lose the opener.”
Shirt sales with Cohen, Krewne, Charles, Green and Mcleod have gone through the roof in the Catford club shop.
Promotion is the aim, according to manager Lester Jacobs who is tipping goalkeeper Guy Ben Aroya and Player of the Year Gazza Hill for big things this season.
The first goal will be crucial on Sunday and the battle between Mitch Lassman and Adam Luria is key.
JC team news: There could be three debuts for new players this weekend. Fan’s favourite Emile Ben-Atar returns after injury for the first time since the opening game of last season. Blake Buckman will make his second debut for the team.
Venue – Old Camdenians, Ref – Laurence Thorne, KO – 10am
JC star man: Blake Buckman (Team)
DC Prediction: Team 2 Catford 1
JEWDINESE vs AC WHETSTONE
United signed Falcao, Liverpool signed Balotelli, Arsenal signed Sanchez and ‘Nese signed Jess Alexander. A statement of intent if ever there was one.
The boys in black and white are on the up and going places. Promoted after just one season, I can see them doing great things this season – especially if Brad Dryer gets near goal!
An intriguing battle of youth is on the cards – it’s definitely one for the purists.
“Everyone is very excited for Sunday especially the whole Jewdinese board as it is a chance to show off our new team and display the quality we have recruited over the summer,” ‘Nese chairman Jake Erlich told JC Sport.
“Like every other game we will be playing to win and I am very confident that with our team that this is more than achievable.
“We know AC Whetstone are a competitive and good team from last season, but I feel we have the upper hand as our record against them shows.
Whetstone bosses Clive Nathan and Anthony Cohen are confident their boys will continue the proud tradition that has helped the club get to where it is today.
No doubt tears will be shed at the end of the season when the squad prepares for university life, but knowing them as I do, they will want to go out in style.
That said, it could be backs-to-the-wall stuff on Sunday.
Venue: Napsbury Park, Ref – Steve Levy, 10am kick off.
JC star man: Jess Alexander (Jewdinese)
DC Prediction: Jewdinese 3 Whetstone 1
OAKWOOD B vs LOUGHTON ORIENT
No-one expected Loughton to be about this season. You probably remember the pictures on the backpage of the JC in May, when they stopped L’Equipe from winning the Division Three title on the final day of the season. But not only did they survive, they went up.
Finding an able deputy to replace big Marc Jacobs in goal is crucial to how Loughton fare this season. Dave Blitz, Jaimie Sinclair and Josh Jacobs remain big players for them, but keeping the goals out will be key.
Oakwood are also under new management this season, with Jason Stein and Nicky Harris steering the ship. Director of Football Marc Conway will also offer his advice when asked, and otherwise!
Expectancy is high and Stein told me that out of the “14 players in the squad for this weekend, eight would probably feature their first choice”.
Two new boys, centre-back, Elliot Jackson and right-back Josh Berkeley are away after impressing all through pre-season. But centre half Max Clynes is making his eagerly anticipated debut after his move from Leeds and new star striker Jacob Richler Kleiman “will hopefully bring his great form into the opening day. He bagged six goals in three pre-season games, including a hat-trick at the weekend in a 4-0 against Lions.
“Our form has been good in pre-season and a 3-3 draw with Raiders B showed we are more than capable. I absolutely want to win this weekend so let's see how it goes.”
I’m going to stick my neck on the line and tip Richler Kleiman to be the top-scorer in the division. He’s a real talent and with him leading the line, Oakwood will definitely go places.
Venue - Nicholas Breakspear, Ref – Mark Jacob, KO – 10.30
JC star man: Jacob Richler Kleiman (Oakwood)
DC Prediction: Oakwood 3 Loughton 1
LONDON ROVERS vs HENDON UNITED SPORTS CLUB B
Adam Glekin has almost an entire squad of 20 to select from for this weekend's opener at London Rovers.
After a strong pre-season, the Hustlers manager has high hopes for the upcoming season. He told JC Sport: "Some of our performances in the last few friendlies have been excellent and raised expectations amongst the squad.
“Everyone is chomping at the bit to get going now, and everyone wants to play - it has given me a real selection headache as to who to leave out."
Last season's POTY James Neidle will captain the side, and will be joined at the heart of the defence by Ezekiel Jacob. Full-back positions are less clear, with four players vying for the two spots. Avi Mocton is a certainty to start in central midfield after a sparkling pre-season, but Glekin was unwilling to disclose anything further regarding his starting XI.
www.thejc.com/sport/sport-news/122070/meet-teams-hendon-utd-sc-b >LONDON ROVERS SEASON PREVIEW
Rovers have a full and strong squad for Sunday. “Everyone is fit and ready to go,” chairman Viv Emanuel told JC Sport.
“Jeremy [Brown] has not even told me his starting 11 - that is how important this week’s game is.
We do not want any leaks to the press!
“If we can get a win in our first game as a club it will be great. We have a great new kit with sponsors Benjamin Stevens Estate Agents signing a two-year deal in July and we want to show their faith in us by making London Rovers the best club in Jewish football both behind the scenes and on the pitch.
“Hendon B are so hard to predict - you can either get the good Hendon or the dodgy Hendon - of course we want a good game but if the dodgy Hendon turn up great news. Hendon can score, so I guess it’s a game of score more than your opposition.
“I am very excited to return to chairmanship for the first time since winning the Watford Friendly League U18s with Canons FC back in 2004. This squad definitely has what it takes to challenge for the league this year.”
Experienced captain Adam Kay will line-up at the heart of the team, leading from the back. Manager Jeremy Brown returns to MGBSFL after several years in temporary retirement. Emanuel said: “Jeremy has vast experience that he brings to the table and so far, in friendlies, has got results.”
Brown is relishing his return to the dugout. He told JC Sport: “We've had a really good pre-season and we're ready for the campaign.
“Wrapping up the signing of Yisroel Lewis from Hendon A in the final ours of deadline day was a massive coup for us. We'll be going out on Sunday to set a benchmark for the division.
“It's very important that the guys put into practice what we've been working on during pre- season. I think you'll be seeing a lot of tactical, disciplined football as opposed to all guns blazing.
“We're all very excited and looking forward to kick off. I haven't come out of retirement to lose!"
I’m predicting goals and that both sets of fans go home happy.
JC team news: Rovers confirmed the signing of Yisroel Lewis from Hendon United and Olivier Tevli from Faithfold B. Emanuel said: “They will both boost our strong squad with their experience.” Ricky Ziederman is the only player missing this week due to work commitments.
Venue – Northwick Park, Ref – Steve Russell
JC star man: Yisroel Lewis
DC Prediction: Rovers 2 Hendon 2
SHACHARIT DONETSK vs TEMPLE FORTUNE
Temple Fortune mean business this season – they got their house back in order last term and chairman Nigel Kyte told me the other day that things are shaping up well.
Expect Zach Rich and Laurence Swerner to feature regularly on the scoresheet, with new boy Anthony Shaw giving the team another dimension. Kyte describes him as a “very accomplished midfielder”.
With the experienced Dave Sawyer in the middle of the park, Fortune should give as good as they get most weeks and I’d be surprised if they held up the division again.
Adam Ellis and Gav Nussbaum lead the charge of new boys Shacharit Donetsk, with boss Elliot Nussbaum hoping his youngsters make a fast start.
Don’t be surprised if this finishes honour even.
Venue – Clitterhouse Playing Fields, Ref – Quentin Fox
JC star man: Adam Ellis (Shacharit)
DC Prediction: Shacharit Donetsk 1 Fortune 1
(Kick-offs 10.30am unless stated)