Ray Abrahams says his Division Two winning Scrabble side are looking to make it back-to-back promotions as they chase their dream of securing Premier Division football next year.
He said: “Winning the league and gaining promotion last season was fantastic for the club, but all that is now history. We’re going to be in a tough division this year where there are some good sides looking to go up to the Premier Division.
“We’ve reluctantly released four or five players who did so well for us last season and have signed the players that we targeted to compete in this league. We’re confident that with the squad we now have that we can secure our aim of back to back promotions by next May.”
Pre-season wins have included a 9-0 win over a Redbridge select side, while he describes a 2-01 win over Brady as a “real psychological boost for the club.”
Having brought in seven new players and looking for one more, he says: “We have a really good group and can’t wait for the season to start to show what we can do.”
Redbridge B player-manager Sam Rank has laid down the title gauntlet, saying: “Our main aim is to win the title, we’ve a very committed and well trained side.”
Happy with their preparations, he says: “They’ve gone very well, pre-season fitness was very good for all players, who got so much out of the private sessions. The games had some very good results, which is great preparation for the season.”
Describing his side’s many strengths, he says: “The main ones are how the team performs as a unit. They’re a very hard team to break down, due to their work ethic, a quality a manager appreciates so much. The commitment the boys put in at training and on a Sundays also provide the team a great platform for the season.”
Not bringing in any players, they have though retained their squad from last year.
Oakwood B manager Jason Stein is looking at a top-three finish, saying: “We’d like to push for the title too, but it’s a deep division this year. It’s stronger than last year and I reckon at least five other teams – Redbridge, Faithfold, Lions, Scrabble, Raiders – will be aiming for the title and the top few spaces. I think all of them – including us no question – can realistically say ‘we’re expecting to finish top three.’ We enjoyed two good cup runs last year to the last eight in both and another one would be welcome.”
Reflecting on an ‘excellent’ pre-season, he says: “We’ll see if that translates to success on the pitch. We had 20+ training every week with a coach and we’ve played good friendlies, I’ve no complaints about the build-up.”
Just as happy with his squad, he says: “If we have full availability, our midfield will be as good as anything in the league. Dan Ash, Dan Selwyn, Dan Seligman, Dan Geey, Aaron Searle, Alex Koslover, James Frener, James Abrams. That’s a lot of excellent midfielders. We’re blessed with two terrific goalkeepers as well in Dean Caplin and Harris Kersh. I’d have both in the top five in the division. As I said, I believe we’re one of a group of five or six sides that will view themselves favourably.”
Bringing in a few additions, he says: “Alex Koslover re-joins the club, ex-Faithfold James Frener is a new signing I’ve been really impressed by and I’m still checking out three or four others. We do recruitment as a club and it’s been good so far, we’re pleased with where we are a club.
“The key for me this summer has been stressing to the 20 or so lads that I really rate, that they need to be here and they need to play more. We weren’t miles off last year. We had some great high-scoring wins, were right at the top and in the title mix after the New Year, but then availability suffered.”
Los Blancos manager Nick Grosse is also aiming for a top-three finish, saying promotion is “our ultimate goal.” He says: “This season marks a wholesale revamp of the entire club. Our goalkeeper for the last three seasons has decided to semi-retire and become full-time manager, we’ve changed our home ground, and most importantly, we’ve been recruiting heavily with James Joseph, Avi Kestenbaum, Joel Barnett, Joshua Gertner, Josh Cramer, Elliot Moslawy, Josh Hirshowitz, Luke Strauss, Josh Landy, George Collins and Joe Metliss all joining the Los Blancos family. Time will tell how things play out under the new regime, but we consider ourselves the dark horses for the upcoming season.
“After a few seasons of scraping together a squad of 11, 12 or 13 players for match days, we now have significant depth in our squad and cover in all positions including a full-time reserve goalkeeper. We’re technically strong and intelligent, but above all, we are a top bunch of lads who enjoy our Sunday football.”
Maccabi London Lions B manager Samuel Marchant is expecting a tough campaign, saying: “Having had a great first season last year and now in a higher division, we know that the standard will be tougher, which means we have to work that much harder if we want to achieve something special. The squad is strong and showing a lot of promise. We’re very young, with an average age of 21, and we have a lot of growth to be done individually and together. We’re also highly ambitious, and all being well, would love to be challenging for the promotion spots again. We are aware it will be very difficult but we feel as though if we want to achieve great things, we have to aim for them.”
Enjoying a productive pre-season, he says: “We like to test ourselves at pre-season and pitting ourselves against tough opposition is a great way to do that.
“The togetherness of the squad is something vital and we have a fantastic spirit between all the boys. It’s great that three or four of the squad who were at university last year are now back and able to play most weeks.
“However, our aims for the season, as is the same for most teams, depend on the availability of the full squad throughout the season. As long as we can keep full consistency with the squad, we have a chance of achieving anything.”
Faithfold A manager Rob Shooman believes his side will be “there or thereabout” come the end of the season. He says: “We have a physically strong squad of youth and experience that seem to gel extremely well. We have a few new faces, we’ve lost some to other teams, but have gained some experienced players and some really first class talent. We’re going to do well this season, I’m very confident in the players we have.”
North London Raiders B manager Jonathan Adelman concedes his side are an ‘unknown quantity’, saying: “Having lost so many of our stalwarts last summer and during last season, the first step for this is to gel as a side as quickly as we can, and we’ll take things from there. We’ve integrated a number of last season’s Cs in to our group and whilst Zack knows them well from managing them over the past few years, it’s fair to say that I’ve been very impressed by what I’ve seen from them over the summer. We will aim to be competitive and see where that leaves us come the turn of the year.”
Happy with a positive pre-season, he says: “We don’t play too many friendlies, but focus on getting the boys physically sharp. We’re much more about the collective than the individual – but I’m happy with the shape of the group which has evolved considerably from last season.”
Eli Gottlieb says Athletic Bilbaum are looking to build on a strong 2016, to “demonstrate more consistency and cement their place in Division One.” Saying the squad are relaxed and refreshed for the new season, their midfield, structure and dangerous wingers are their main strengths, while key players to look out for are a fully fit Seb Silverman and midfield maestro of Robert Rodney.
Hendon United B’s joint-manager Jono Nesbitt says his side are aiming for a comfortable mid-table position and use that to build on for next season. He says: “We felt we were very unfortunate not to finish in a promotion place last season, with some injuries and a run of some poor results after Christmas. We feel that justice has now been served, and initially we will just look to get used to our new league and surroundings.”
Pleased with the progress the side has made in pre-season, both with adapting to the new management structure as well and how he and James Neidle want the team to play, he says: “Our main strength is on the wings, we’ve some very skilful and pacey wingers that like to take on defenders and put them under pressure.”
Still looking to make a couple of additions to the squad, he says: “We’ve a very promising signing lined up, that may come as a surprise to many teams, which will bring a lot of goals and professionalism to the squad.”
• Brixton Old Boys and Finchley City FC complete the line-up.