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Last season’s Division Two winners Norstar London Raiders B

This season’s Division Two season promises to be a thrilling campaign, with FC Team B and AC Mill Hill talking up their title hopes ahead of the big kick-off.

FC Team B player-manager Mitch Young isn’t pulling any punches as to what he wants from his team, saying: “Our aim is to win the title. We have been successful in pre-season, scored lots of goals and are enjoying our football.” Citing Richard Salmon, Lorian Madanes and Ben Binder as their key players, he adds: “Our experience at the top level and our attacking players are the main strengths of our squad.”

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Someone else who’s hopeful of seeing his side challenge for silverware is AC Mill Hill’s new manager Dan Beresford, who said: “I feel very confident for the forthcoming season and believe we can challenge for the title. We’ve made a few signings and they’re great additions to the squad.” Happy with the way pre-season’s gone, they’ve played two friendlies, winning one and drawing the other, he says: “We have a lot of competition for places and a big squad to choose from. Ben Kaye and Ben Zloof will be very hard to stop each week and with new signings like Joel Lassman, Loz bloom and Jeff Gotch, we will be a force to be reckoned with.”

L’Equipe are another team looking to challenge for honours, with co-manager Josh Lewis saying: “Realistically we can challenge for promotion or the title – due to teams dropping out from divisions around us, we now we’ll be playing mostly similar opposition to last year. We also know AC Mill Hill well and are fully aware of the capabilities of FC Team and Oakwood so with that in mind know we’ll be up there challenging with the squad we have.”

After having just missed out on the title in the final game of last season the team are hungry for silverware. Lewis says: “We’re currently in the process of strengthening in all areas and have already locked down our Golden Boot striker Richard Fogelman who we’re convinced will get plenty of goals even though he will be available less.”

Although losing their first friendly on Sunday to Hendon A, he says: “We lost the game against a very good team and there were many positives to take out of it. We’re training hard as usual with fitness slowly building up and are looking forward to two more friendlies against Blizzard Storm and Faithfold, who I’m sure will give us a good game.”

Playing together for eight years means there’s a strong and committed core to the squad. “L’Equipe have always been based on a solid spine with Fogelman/JJ Marrache leading the line, Captain Mark Singer and Jules Bohm in the heart of the midfield and our central defence brick wall of Nick Stern and David Prager,” he says. “I don’t see many teams getting through them.” He also points out James Mandell as their main new signing to look out for, as well as the returning Jason Miller and Paul Rubenstein.

Jake Erlich says the main priority for his Jewdinese side is promotion, but says he’s also hoping for more, saying: “I know that with the squad we have, the title is more than achievable so who knows, you could see the Zebras get back-to-back promotions!”

Recruiting 20 new players over the summer due to 95 percent of last year’s team going off to University, he says: “If I’m honest, the tradition of young Jewish boys going to Magaluf on their first holiday away from home has put a dent in our pre-season preparations. However, we had a great pre-season training session and a great match against SPEC where we won 4-2. It was very pleasing to see as it was the first time the group of players had ever played together properly.”

Boasting his side have ‘endless strengths’ and not one weakness, he says: “Truthfully I don’t think there’s a weakness in our side. The strengths are endless, a young fit side ready to play (for most of them) for the first time in the men’s division. We’ve also kept a few players from last year to aid the team and bring a little bit of experience to what is a massive jump from youth football to men’s.

“It’s exciting as technically a lot of our players have the ability to be playing in the top division, although we have taken a few players from the Premier Division. The team spirit amongst the players is amazing to see as well. A very close group of individuals will no doubt be a massive benefit.” While not wishing to single out any one player, he does though put forward Sim Cohen, who will be returning from a leg break he suffered in April. “It will be exciting to see how he bounces back as up until that point he had been arguably the Division Three player of the season. Jess Alexander is also one to look out for, a great athlete in the centre of midfield and a great steal from Lions.”

Someone else looking for promotion is Catford & Bromley’s manager Lester Jacobs. He says: “Every year we aim for the title but will if we have to settle for promotion we’ll celebrate just the same. Having signed seven new players and seen four depart, he says pre season has been more a case of ‘getting to know you’, and as such they’ve experimented with different formations in their two friendly games to date. Hoping his new signings can prove to be the strength of his squad, he says: “There is no point signing new players unless they can improve on what you have. Last year we had a good squad that were seven points clear until the bad weather set in. Then following a ten week enforced break we couldn’t buy a win. Our new signings appear hungry and want to achieve something for sacrificing their warm beds on a freezing Sunday morning. I’m hoping these new lads will give an already pretty decent squad an added boost both physically and mentally.”

Six of the original ‘Catford Babes’ – Joel Isaacs, Adam Luria ,Simon Wolfson, Ollie Hitman, Johnny Lee and Yonni Bord continue for the umpteenth season, new signings Josh Krewne and Dan Cohen are two powerful no-nonsense defenders, while Zak Mcleod is being earmarked to cause problems for opponents. However, it’s their number one who Jacobs is praising to the hilt. “In Guy Ben Aroya, we have the best goalkeeper in Maccabi football. He proves week in week out that size doesn’t matter when you have agility and springs in his boots.”

FC Team C player-manager David Gordon wants to improve on their fourth place finish from last season. He said: “We were bottom going into the New Year so our improvement was huge and we want to try and carry that on. Our aim is promotion but that will be dependent on keeping everyone fit and available.”

Having played three friendlies to date, he says: “The main thing for me is to get our fitness and match sharpness to where it needs to be in September. I’m happy with how we are looking but there are still things we can work on. Our squad’s strengths are having a fair amount of experience and players that like to get the ball down and play a bit. We’ve tried to add a bit of youth to the squad as well so hopefully we’ll be well balanced in that respect.”

Saying Mitch Lassman and Blake Buckman are names to look out for from his side, he doesn’t though want to give much else away, saying: “There may be a few other names you might recognise, but I’m keeping them under wraps for now.”

The manager of last season’s Division Three winners Norstar London Raiders C, isn’t expecting back-to-back titles. Zack Gothelf said: “Our aim for the season is to cement our position. With six teams being promoted, we’d like to think we can retain our position from last season and finish above those five, if we do that, who knows where we could end up. We are conscious that we’re entering into a really strong and competitive league which is great and on top of that we know that every match will be a tough contest, but as with last season, our players are certainly good enough to do well in this league.”

Preparing for the season by training alongside Norstar’s A and B sides, he says: “We’ve had great preparations, and we’re making our way through our 5 pre-season games. We’ve not changed the squad around too much and it’s another opportunity for our boys to spend another season playing together and really understand each others’ game.”

As such he feels the strengths of his squad this year is the same as last, saying: “We’re strong in all areas and we’ve strengthened up top, which will be significant for us. We’ll be looking to build on our excellent defence last season and continue to enjoy the way our midfield runs the game. With a stronger forward line, we expect to score even more goals than last season.

“We really are a strong squad and we’re looking forward to handling what the opposition put in front of us.”

Loughton Orient’s Adam Conway has similar expectations, saying: “Our aim is to consolidate this year and then kick-on from there.  Mid-table would be a good target at this stage, with so many comings and goings over the summer.”

Describing their preparations as “chaotic”, he says: “Losing five or six players at the end of last season was far from ideal, especially after such a strong finish to the season and the build up has mainly revolved around attempting to recruit some more players, and most importantly still in need of a goalkeeper after Marc Jacobs called it a day between the sticks.”

Saying the season ahead may have to be more about “hard work and team ethic than the individual quality which they displayed at times last season after losing some key players”, he does though say the majority of the spine of the team is packed with quality, experienced players. “Skipper Ryan Kissin is up there with the best defenders in the League,” he says, David Blitz and Jaimie Sinclair ooze class, and after a career threatening toenail injury last season, Jimmy Lester up top is still one of the quickest and most feared players in the league.”

Jason Stein says the aims for his Oakwood B side is three-pronged, saying it ‘doesn’t revolve solely around football, but also instilling a strong sense of team-spirit and fun’. He says: “Unquestionably, we want to achieve promotion, that goes without saying, which we think is more than realistic given the quality, passion and right blend of youth and experience we have in the side. But we also want to make Oakwood B an enjoyable place to play football, socialise and meet fellow northerns living in the land of red buses and play football in the right away. We’ve got a brand spanking new 3G pitch and we should be utilising it. In my view, promotion is more than realistic and we’ve got a solid group of players.”

Very pleased with his side’s build-up and believing he knows where his team will be at their most strongest, he says: “We’ve had two friendlies and drawn both after good performances. Our defence, marshalled by Elliot Jackson, is strong and will be a match for the best strikers in the league, while we’re also lucky to have a dependable goalkeeper in Oren Hury – although I think a few referees would have a different description for him.” Jacob Richler Kleiman, Ben Polak and Josh Berkley are the names to look out for.

This will be the last season for AC Whetstone, and as such, joint-managers Anthony Cohen and Clive Nathan want his side to just go out and enjoy themselves. Cohen says: “The boys will hopefully be heading off to University next summer having been together as a team since they were six-years-old. It would be great to go out on a high but as we have never placed winning above all else we aren’t going to start now.” Talking about how they’ve prepared for the season, Nathan says: “It’s mainly involved trips to the gym to build up their physiques ahead of trips to Magaluf and Zante. That was followed by copious amounts of drinking and then sleeping when they got home. We also went down to Skeet House for our annual weekend away, learnt another country and western song and how to build a bonfire.” Saying elements as diverse as fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency and their new green and white uniforms are the strengths of the squad, any success will also be down to the team, with Nathan adding: “To single out any player would go against the ethos of the club. Every one of them has been a pleasure to manage over the last 11 seasons.”

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