Blizzard Storm made a major statement of intent over the summer as player-manager Simon Linden brought in ten players as they look to make a major impact in Division One.
Premier Division players Oli Henry and Ben Ellis top new names, with Linden saying: “This is a great opportunity for Blizzard. We wanted to take advantage of a late promotion and put together a team that can achieve. This league will be very competitive with a lot of good sides, but with the character and ability in our group we have the confidence that we can match any team. We have signed some good quality players, plus kept our existing core making up a healthy squad.”
However, playing down his side’s pre-season tag of title favourites, he says: “I want us to challenge for promotion, we are more than capable – however we must take one game at a time. We know it’s going to be extremely competitive especially in the opening two months as it’s a tough league with a lot of good teams and they will all fancy their chances.”
Happy with his season’s preparations for the season, they are also currently unbeaten in their friendly matches, the ready steady fit training sessions, whom are also their new sponsors, have been beneficial to everyone.”
Citing the attacking side of the squad as being the strengths of the squad, he says: “We attack well and the front six have all been in good goal scoring form throughout pre- season.
“Adam Speck and Adam Levene are going to be crucial, the experience they bring to the table is fantastic. Oli Henry and Bradley Cohen have a great understanding as a midfield pairing and with a striker like Ben Ellis there’s always going to be plenty of goals. Winger Dean Shaw is also going to have a cracking season.”
Jonathan Adelman may have seen his Norstar London Raiders B side run away with the Division Two championship last year, but is playing down their hopes of making it back-to-back titles this year.
He says: “This Division looks like it will be extremely competitive and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were just a few points between the clubs chasing promotion and those facing relegation. We’re relishing a highly competitive league this year but it looks like Blizzard Storm have splashed the cash this summer which makes them favourites, but I suspect most teams will be quietly fancying their chances of challenging.”
A stop-start pre-season hasn’t helped their preparations, but he’s hoping they’ll be ready to go come the big kick-off. “With so many holidays and simchas it’s been quite a disjointed summer in terms of availability for friendlies, but I’m confident we’ll be ready to roll come the first game of the season.
“Coming off the back of an unbeaten league season it would have been easy to rest on our laurels, but we knew that if we picked up injuries to Nicky Woolf and David Esterkin that would have impacted on our goalscoring ability. With that in mind we have added three JG’s in Josh Green from our A’s, Jake Gilbert (who was the best player we faced last season) and Jacob Gold (returning following his trophy laden spell at Hendon A). “Whilst we were strong at the back last season we felt some Premier League nous would benefit us so Dan Grossman has come in from the A’s and Lewis Blitz returns from his year-long loan to Lions. We’ve also added some pace and grit with the return of Matt Sheldon after a number of years away from the club.”
And believing the whole squad will be key to any success, he said: “Every one of the squad is capable of contributing key performances – that was a major asset of ours last season when different players popped up with Man-of-the-Match honours and I expect it will serve us well again. Teams planning for us this season will not be able to double up on the likes of Woolf, Esterkin or Hershman otherwise they’ll leave too much space for the likes of Green, Gold and Gilbert!”
Redbridge B manager Jon Jacobs is making no bones as to the task which awaits him. He explains: We have been decimated by University call-ups for the bulk of last year’s ‘real’ Division Two champions. We are down to the bare bones and will be looking to the experienced heads to guide us through.”
“Old stager Amir Nathan will be on hand to talk and talk that bit more to the younger players and will also do a lot of pointing as to where players should go, that is one of the key skills we have learned during pre season.
“We have managed to keep star midfielder Sam Rank from being sold to KS United, we have promised him football and training for 6 days a week plus a free tub of ice cream from the local Rossi’s.
“Our other star man is Brad Grant in goal and again,his contract rider was weekly delivery of tinned fruit to put me off my half time team talk.
Talking about what he hopes for the season ahead, Jacobs says: “This season is all about consolidation so as long as we are still in Division One next season, all is good. We have a long term plan for the Premier League which will only be unleashed when the boys are back from University.
“We have managed to keep star midfielder Sam Rank from being sold to KS United, by promising him football and training for six days a week, while our other star man is goalkeeper Brad Grant.”
And even offering his prediction for who will top the table come May, he says: “Brady B will win the division and North London Raiders B will finish their fixtures by Chanukah.”
SPEC player-manager Ricky Lawrence is bracing himself for a tough campaign. He says: “After last season we know it’s going to be a difficult season and there are some very strong teams in this division, but we’ll be hoping to hold our own and hopefully not face the same struggles as last season.”
Saying they’ve had a ‘very solid’ pre-season, he says: “So far it’s just been the old problem of converting chances in friendlies which we’ve struggled with, but we’ve been working hard on that and hopefully we’ll come good come the start.”
Citing Elliot Wallis and James Lesner as their two main names to look out, providing they can stay fit, he cites the centre of the park being key to any success they have. “We’ve got some very quality in centre midfield and if they can play together during the season like they’ve shown glimpses of during pre-season, it’s going to help us enormously.”
Los Blancos’ Jonathan Ison says consolidation is paramount to his side, saying: “This season we are looking to build on our mid-table finish from last year. We are going through a slight rebuilding process, losing our top goalscorer Jono Gaon along with one or two others, but I am confident we have brought in some quality to give us a great squad this season to kick on from last year.”
Generally happy with their build-up to the big kick-off, he said: “Pre-season results have not been as desired, but pre-season is about more than the results. I have been really pleased with the improvements we have made each game, bedding in lots of new players and also missing a number of key players whilst they went on various pre-season training camps around the world.”
Believing the squad’s strength in depth will serve his club well, he says: “We will be looking to use that to our advantage. As a manager, it is a nice position to be in when all positions are tightly contested, but it’s never nice dropping quality players. Everyone will be fighting to keep their place in the famous Blancos shirt, as they know that one bad performance and another member of the squad will be snapping at their heels to replace impress the next week.”
Hoping James Joseph, their stand-out performer in the second half of last season can continue his form into this season, he adds: “We will be looking at the whole squad to step up to the plate with the regards to replacing Jono’s goals, with the likes of Hersh and Waters looking to increase their goal tally’s from last season.”
Athletic Bilbaum’s new joint-management team of Julius Judah and Nick Shinder are looking for their side to consolidate their status in the division. They said: “After a double promotion over the summerbreak, we’ll be looking to consolidate our position and become a household name of the League, providing attractive, yet direct and dynamic football. Inspiring the youth of today, and the footballers of tomorrow. A cup run would also be appreciated by the fans and to lift the cup in the Bernabaum Stadium would be a dream come true for many of the players.”
Happy with their build-up to the season, they say: “It has been exciting and new. With a fresh faced managerial team, we have been looking for an injection of new talent to combine with the passion and experience of the old guard, which has been epitomised by the newly appointed captain, club legend, Eli Lew. The club is grateful for all the hard work and commitment displayed by Ed Green and Mark Pasha, who will continue playing at the club, although stepping down from their managerial roles.”
Believing stability is the biggest strength in the squad, they say: “We’re lucky to have players who have supported and stuck by the squad since it’s birth many a moon ago. Their belief in the Baum way is infectious and influences the whole squad. For these players Baum is not just a team, but a way of life.”
And while there may not be any key names to look out for, there is one character of the club who will definitely stick out: “This year marks the 5th anniversary of our club mascot and patriarch, Baum Baum the Elephant. Look out for his glorious and ruach filled exploits around the Bernabaum’s new location, Regents Park!
Brady Maccabi, Brixton Old Boys, Camden Park, and Maccabi London Lions White complete the line-up.
OPENING DAY FIXTURES:
ATHLETIC BILBAUM VS LOS BLANCOS
CAMDEN PARK VS MACCABI LONDON LIONS WHITE
SPEC VS BRADY MACCABI