In the third part of our preview ahead of the start of the new MGBSFL season, we look at the runners and riders who will be competing in the Premier Division…
The race for this season’s Premier Division title promises to be keenly contested – with three managers on record saying not winning it would be deemed as failure.
Hendon United A manager David Garbacz has laid down the gauntlet to his players – challenging them to wrestle the title back from last season’s champions Norstar London Raiders A. He said: “As always we will aim for the very top – anything but a title win will be considered failure. We were pipped by the better side last year in Norstar but we will be doing our utmost to regain the crown back from them. The targets are high but we believe we can reach them.”
Saying he also aims “to add at least one of the cups to”, he says: “We have a fantastic blend of youth and experience and I feel that is a massive advantage to take into the season. We’ll still be strong up front with a number of new young pacy forwards coming in, and will be looking to the usual hard core of Russell and Greg Corin, the Kons and Ari Last to guide them through.” Notoriously poor in pre-season, with this one apparently being worse than ever, he says it’s been practically impossible to get in any decent training sessions and friendlies, and hopes that won’t cost them early on.
Rob Richman hopes Norstar London Raiders A will enjoy another successful season, saying: “We’ll aim to replicate our performances and the enjoyment from last season, which hopefully will lead to another successful season.” Preparations for the big kick-off have gone “well”, and speaking of his squad, says: “We have talented players throughout the squad – have brought in a few players to supplement a strong group of players, a great team spirit and confidence after what we achieved last season.”
Harmen joint-chairman Sam Castle has also said a failure to lift the title will be deemed as failure. He said: “Last season was a season of rebuilding for Harmen. We finished fourth, which was a slight disappointment and reached a cup semi and quarter-final. This season, anything less than the league title and a cup final, will be deemed as a failure by the Harmen chairman and management team.”
Having started playing friendlies at the beginning of the month, he says: “The preparation for this season has gone well. We started our training camp at the beginning of July and had competitive friendlies since 2nd August. The boys are now raring to go especially playing at our new home ground, the newly refurbished Hadley FC.”
Describing what he sees as the strengths of the squad being, he says: “The key to Harmen this season is strength in depth. We have two players in every position all good enough to compete at the highest level of Jewish football. With some key additions at the back, our defence should be a hard unit to break down. Our front four this season is full of goals, with each player having a proven track record especially our skipper James Gershfield. Feed the Gersh and he will score!”
Harmen’s scouts have also been busy over the summer, bringing in no fewer than eight names to date:
Adam Arnold – signed from Neasden – one of the most exciting young players in the league. Was a tough fight to get his signature
Alex Taylor – signed from Faithfold – class centre half who will be looking to make our defence water tight
Nick Smith – signed from Faithfold – silky smooth Smith can play at centre half or in the middle of the park
Johnny Haik – signed from Faithfold – pace to burn and a serious grafter. Class addition to the forward line
Aviel Swartz – free agent – a MSFL legend who’s name speaks for itself. Will slip into the Harmen midfield like he has played for us for years.
Elliott Stern – free agent – can play anywhere on the right hand side. Great feet and an eye for goal.
Darren Stern – free agent – holding midfielder who always finds a team mates feet.
Max Hassle – free agent – can play anywhere along the back four. Big and strong, centre forwards should be scared!!
Blizzard Storm player-manager Simon Linden says staying in the Division is their aim – and he believes they’re more than capable of doing so. “We don’t want to be in this league to make up the numbers,” he says, “it’s important we compete and give a good account of ourselves every week. Staying up is the aim, we are more than capable of doing that.” Pre-season has been difficult, with him saying: “It’s been the toughest pre-season to date, August has been very difficult with a lot of players away and not much opportunity to get the group together.”
Happy though with the strength of his squad, together with the additions brought in over the summer, he says: “We have a good mix of experience and quality. It’s great to have Specky and Levene involved in the squad.
“Vivian Emmanual is a great bit of business. Andrei Greyson has spent the last couple of years on the sidelines. He is now back and ready for the season. He will be a big player for us. We also welcome back Michael Woolfe from his travels. Winger Dean Shaw had a fantastic season last time out, we have high hopes from him in the prem. He has proved himself in all the other divisions.”
Camden Park manager Will Castle wants to see his side prove to themselves they deserve to be in the Division. He says: “Having been extremely lucky to secure promotion, we are determined to prove to everyone (including ourselves) that we deserve to be in this division.
“If we can keep everyone fit and available (which we failed terribly at last year), with the additions we have made to our squad (as well as the new gaffa!), we believe are capable of surprising a lot of people. However, first and foremost, securing and consolidating our place as a Premier Division team has to be our main aim. A nice cup run would be a bonus as we haven’t played at Wingate before as a team and I know the lads are desperate to get there!”
Also going through a difficult pre-season, he says: “It’s always a difficult period, with squad members away, it becomes quite difficult to really get a rhythm going and to plan ahead for the coming season. However, we have had a full squad for a number of training sessions and a couple of friendlies, including a very competitive game against Harmen. We’ve still got another friendly to play, with hopefully another in the pipeline.
“Performances so far have been encouraging and fitness in the squad is much better than it has been at this stage in previous seasons. Everyone is obviously boosted by the news of promotion and we’re really positive we can make an impact this year. Securing a fantastic new home pitch in Willesden has been a great coup. Due to the impeccable 4G surface, we have nicknamed it “the Magic Carpet” as it allows us to play our passing game.”
Commenting on the strength of his squad, he says: “We have a very strong and reliable defense which traditionally has been a consistent area in our team. We are very strong throughout the squad and when we click offensively, we’re capable of attacking at very frantic pace and teams will find it difficult to deal with us.”
Confident new additions will help his side maintain their top-flight status, he says: “We’ve made some very important and very welcome additions this summer which we believe will improve our team massively. We have very cleverly identified the weaknesses in our squad and have signed players accordingly.
“Much to the relief of my teammates, I have decided to hang up my gloves and we have signed Steven Murad, a top, top goalkeeper at this level, who will further strengthen our defence and give the boys that extra bit of confidence at the back that we need.
“Another massive signing has been that of Yoel Deal. We have struggled in the past with finding our best Defensive Midfielder, a number of squad members have filled in, some to a very high standard, but we are very happy to now have a specialist. Yoel is disciplined, strong and composed on the ball. He will add a lot to our team. Both Yoel and Steven have instantly become indispensable first team players.
“Slick Rick Harris, an original graphite, has returned for a second stint at the club and will add some much needed calmness and experience on the pitch and in the dressing room. His quality and composure on the ball, will be very important this season. Moving Skipper Robert Hershkorn into the ‘number 9’ position, is not exactly a new signing, but will add a lot of firepower, which at times we were lacking last year. Finally, the return of Ben Harris from a season long layout will feel like a new signing. We missed his engine on the pitch and his personality in the dressing room. Welcome back.”
Oakwood A joint-manager Daniel Kristall wants to see the side compete in all competitions. He says: “We feel that with the personnel that we have added and are still in the process of adding, we have an excellent chance of competing in all competitions. We would love a couple of cup runs and will be going for a big run in the Peter Morrison. We’d love a trip up north.”
Having started training back in early July, he says the squad are both very strong and competitive – which will be reflected in their results: “We’re well prepared for the new season. We started training in early July and had two-three friendlies with a couple more to come. We’re trialling new players and trying different systems.”
Saying the squad is “very strong and competitive”, he said: “We feel the gap between the A and B team has closed in with the quality of players that we have from last year and the new additions. We believe that a competitive squad will reflect in our results on the pitch as nobody can take their place in the side for granted. We feel that throughout the squad we have quality… plenty of pace up front and wide, strength in midfield and a solid back four.”
Pinpointing new additions to the side, as well as regulars to look out from last season, he says: “We’ve brought in Kyle Bentwood from London Lions – a leader who can play centre-half and centre-midfield – very highly rated. Sam Cantor has been signed from South Manchester, a tall centre forward who looks good in the air and with the ball at his feet, Dan Seligman is a former Leeds Maccabi player, and is a skillful winger with great potential. He can beat a man and thread a ball, again he joins us highly rated. Finally, Dale Bradman has come in from Boca Jewniors, a good old fashioned centre-back who stood out in Raiders’ friendly in July – a good addition for the 15/16 season.
“Regulars from last season to look out for include our leading scorer from last season Dave Woolman, who’s known for his pace and goals. Brad Wine stands out for his pace, commitment and strength, Adam Levine – the captain and leader of the side – is very strong at the back, Guy Helman can walk past any player in his way; is very good with the ball at this feet, while Simon Davies is calm on the ball, effortless in his play, good ball winner and can spot a pass.
Last year’s Division One champions Redbridge B, have become this season’s Redbridge A, and manager Jon Jacobs says he’s looking for this season to be one of consolidation. “My Division One winning B side have stepped up to become the A’s for this season and with the added experience of some of last years’ A Team squad, we are aiming for a season of consolidation to begin with.My targets will be assessed after a few games into the season but would love a cup run,” he says.
Talking about their preparations for the season, he says: “Training’s been very good, integrating the players to become one squad has been very good, as is their technical ability and increasing the fitness levels. We have had two friendlies which have been good run outs for fitness levels and getting our ideas across on how we want to play. Saying “togetherness” is the main strength of the squad, he says: “The majority of these boys have played together for several years and with some experienced legs allied with pace , we could surprise a few people
Also saying there are no star players in the squad, with their strength being the team, he says: “That is the key strength, it is a squad of players that have been at Redbridge for many years. There are no new names with the exception of Jason Goldstein to bolster the squad. I’m picking out one of our unsung heroes from last season to be a key player. James Berkley has the strength, skill and stamina to become a top player. He has looked fitter than ever and alongside the three Sollosi brothers in CM , he has looked more than capable of taking his Football to the next level.
David Pollock wants his Maccabi London Lions A side to avoid a repeat of last season – which saw his side relegated to Division One. He says: “Having been reprieved from relegation last season, anything better then that will be a step forward. The aim is to consolidate the team and build a platform to go forward on.
Happy with their build-up ahead of the start, he says: “I’m delighted with our new coach Mikele Leigterwood, who has organised some fantastic sessions. There’s a fantastic spirit within the squad, and we are still looking to add additions to the squad before the season gets underway.”
A late managerial appointment has seen Dan Beresford take over at Faithfold A. He says: “As it stands we are going through a transition at the club and would like to just say that whatever happens we just want to enjoy playing in the top division and would like to think that we turn up every week and give everything we can to the cause.”
London Maccabi Lions A complete the line-up.