DIV 2 PRE

Who will take the crown of Division Two champions – won last year by FC Team B?

In the first of a three-part preview ahead of the start of the new MGBSFL season, we start by looking at the runners and riders in Division Two – including the newly formed, Jewish News-sponsored Real Hendon…

Title challenge, winning promotion and simply “enjoying football” are among the ambitions of the 12 managers whose sides are set to contest Division Two of the MGBSFL.

The manager of Jewish News-sponsored Real Hendon hopes his side will enjoy life in the Maccabi League. After being formed this summer, manager Chaim Gothold isn’t setting targets for his side, saying: “We’re a bunch of mates who are looking to enjoy our football. If we win a few games along the way we’ll be delighted.”

Citing the likes of Zvi Noe, who’s been tempted out of retirement, and Gilad Kestenbaum and Rafi Addlestone as key additions to the squad, Gothold hopes friendly matches between now and the 6 September kick-off will give them the opportunity to build up match fitness. He says: “We’re a mixture of youth and experience. Versaility will also be key, and is helped by the fact that everyone seems to think they can play upfront or in central midfield.”And hoping to get themselves on the back page for their footballing exploits, and not just due to the name on their shirts, he said: “We’re delighted to be having the Jewish News as sponsors!”

Scrabble are re-joining the League after more than a decade’s absence and are hoping to rekindle their glory days of the 1990’s. Zak McLeod said: “We’ve got an excellent set-up, a very exciting squad, and we all can’t wait to get going. Scrabble has previously won almost everything Jewish football has to offer – we want to bring silverware back to the club.”

Saying the squad is full of “very capable footballers determined to play football the right way”, he says: “Our manager has outlined his philosophy of attacking teams’ right from the off, and with the players we have going forward; we could cause problems for a lot of teams.”

The third new team to the League this season is Faithfold C, whose manager Rob Shooman have the League’s best goalkeeper in Dan Kosky. Not having any specific targets in mind. He says: “There’s no limit for my side, we’re looking to win every game and just want everyone to enjoy themselves.”

FC Team C player-manager Mike Myers says his side are looking to make “a real bang this season” – and are targeting the title as they go “all out for glory.” A new management team will have a mixture of old and new faces to work with, which he feels will “bring a sparkle to the team.” He says: “We have a good mix of guys who complement each other well and the motto in the team is ‘if you are not first, you are last’ therefore we are going for glory.” Saying the Cooper brothers will take the Division by storm, he’s expecting big things from his side.

L’Equipe’s new manager Nick Stern is another manager who’s targeting the title. He says: “We have one aim this season and that’s to bring silverware to L’Equipe’s trophy cabinet. We’ve kept the same team together, only losing one player and have added to the squad in a very successful way.” Happy with how pre-season has gone, he cites camaraderie, banter, and passion as being the main strengths of the squad, and believes John Kay will “be flicking the ball on better than anyone else in the Maccabi League.”

Another team with title ambitions are Catford & Bromley, with their new manager Jeff Gotch, at worst, pin-pointing a top-two place. He said: “We want to win the title, and realistically we should be finishing in the top two – getting promotion at the least. “I’m very happy with the squad we’ve put together – bringing in 15 new signings with only four players remaining from last season – and believe the mixture of youth and experience will serve us well.”

Hendon United B manager Adam Glekin says promotion is the aim for his side, though says it will be tough for them given that it’s now a 12-team Division. He says: “We’ve got off to a poor start the last few seasons so if we can hit the ground running, then I see no reason why we can’t be up there challenging.” Friendly matches have provided a mixed bag of results, though Glekin says he doesn’t pay much attention to them. More content with the fact he’s retained the core of last season’s squad – though is still in the process of strengthening the squad – he says: “That will stand us in good stead. We have a great spine to the squad and our defence, despite the fact we conceded a fair few last year, is arguably the strongest part of the team.”

Norstar London Raiders C manager Zack Gothelf is another manager who’s looking for his side to challenge for promotion. He said: “We were pretty unhappy to see three teams jump above us in the pecking order, having had a really strong season in the end, to finish fourth, two points behind third having been bottom and sliding after five games. We weren’t offered the chance to be promoted which upset a lot of the squad, but we’ve been able to keep spirits high and we believe we’re good enough to be challenging to win this division.”

Happy with how pre-season has gone, he said: “It’s gone well so far. We’ve had our usual sessions in Mill Hill Park and now we’re entering friendly season in the hope that we’ll be match fit for our first competitive game.

“We’ve got a great team spirit around the squad. We’re also entering our fourth season as a squad as we’re at the point where our players understand each other which benefits us massively on the pitch. We won the title two years ago on the back of a strong defence and that’s the mentality we’ll enter this season with too. That being said, when we play our style of football, we can be too much for teams to handle. We’re pretty strong all over the park.”

Making a few additions to the squad, he said: “We’ve brought in one or two and we’re working on a couple of others, but player retention has been vital for us. A few players were thinking of moving on for one reason or another but most have stayed. As for names to look out for, just wait and see. As Tony Adams famously put it “play for the name on the front of the shirt and they’ll remember the name on the back”. Every player in our squad has the capability of being a ‘key name’, we’re quite confident of that.

Boca Jewniors boss Gabriel John is hoping for a top-four finish and with an entirely new squad at his disposal, says it’s another chance for the club to rebuild. He says: “It’s all change at Boca, the squad is made up of real team players. We have some flair but I think our team ethic will be our strong point. We were a little shot-shy in our first friendly last week, it will all come good, but like with all teams, it can take time.”

Maccabi London Lions B manager Sam Marchant is just looking at winning their first game, and says: “We’ve conducted our business quietly and efficiently, strengthening particular areas of the squad which needed just that. The signings we’ve made will give the team a very different look to last season – hopefully a winning look.”

Athletic Bilbaum and Temple Fortune complete the line-up.

**Division One side Brixton Old Boys are looking for players ahead of the big kick-off. Anyone interested should contact Alan Aaronson