As we approach the half-way point of the Jewish football season, Division Two managers reflect back on the first four months of the season, and tell us what they’re hoping for from the second half of the season.
Scrabble manager Ray Abrahams sees his side lead the way at the top of the table by ten points at the half-way stage, and despite also having two games in hand on their nearest challengers, refuses to get carried away by talk of the title.
He says: “We have had a fantastic first half to the season in the league and it goes without saying that we are delighted to be starting the New Year with a 100 percent record and sitting proudly on top of the table as we enter January.
“Our aim though as we say all the time is to win promotion from Division Two this season and we have given ourselves a great chance now to not only achieve our aims, but also to win the league title.”
Despite winning all their 11 league games, he isn’t entirely happy with their first half of the season. “Whilst promotion and the league has always been a priority for us this season, if we are disappointed with anything then it has to be the fact that we could not put a Cup run together in any of the competitions we entered”, he says. “If there is a further Cup competiton later in the season for us we would like to think that we can put together a good run in that tournament.”
But hoping they can continue their winning run, he adds: “We now have a very settled squad of players and will be looking to keep our winning run going in 2016 – and we believe that we have the quality in our squad to do this.
“It’s been great for the lads to be grabbing the headlines since September and we look forward to continuing this in 2016.”
Their nearest challengers are Real Hendon, though their player-manager Chaim Gothold is already resigned to competing for promotion, and not the title. He says: “The first half of the season has been positive and enjoyable. It took a while for us to get going and dropped silly points at the beginning of the season, but we have now taken 16 points from our last five games and hope to push on in the new year.”
Saying he hopes to keep everyone fit, to enjoy their football and win as many games as possible, he adds: “We have a good team and are confident of finishing in the top four-five, which we would be delighted with.”
Currently sitting in fourth spot, Maccabi London Lions B manager Sam Marchant is confident his side can secure runners-up spot. “The first half of the season has primarily been positive with five wins from seven league games, we’re in a strong position currently and if we capitalise on our games in hand, we will be safely in second place,” he says. Saying losses to Catford and Scrabble were “clear negatives for us as we felt we certainly deserved more”, he adds: “The objectives [for the remainder of the season] remain the same as the beginning of the season, to get promoted, but As I said, if we capitalise on the games in hand we put ourselves in a great position to achieve that.
“I have great faith in the guys in our squad and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to fulfil our ambitions.”
Catford & Bromley player-manager Jeff Gotch feels his side, who currently sit in eighth place, will continue to get better as the season progresses. He said: “I knew we would start slowly as we’re a new team with an old name, but with only four Catford players of old being involved and a total of 22 new faces coming in, it was always going to be tricky to begin with. After taking one point from our opening four games, we have now taken 12 from our last five, so we are definitely a team who is on the up.”
Saying he still harbours ambitions of securing promotion, he adds: “We have games in hand and if we can continue this run, there’s no reason why we can’t finish in the top two or three places. Scrabble has won 11 from 11 so they deserve the title, but in terms of the rest of the league it’s wide open.”
FC Team C may sit a place behind Catford though that hasn’t discouraged player-manager Mike Myers from still dreaming of finishing much higher up the table. He says:
“We have been hit by injury but I am very happy with the spirit of the team. I would obviously like more points on the table, but am confident we can get some more wins and then rocket up the table.”
Struggling at the foot of the table, currently sitting third-from-bottom, are Athletic Bilbaum. Eli Gottlieb said: “Following the disappointing relegation, this has been a transitional season with a new ground, management team and personnel changes. Injuries and commitment issues have born a different first XI each week which has undoubtedly affected our fluency. However, the squad are starting to gel, creating a new brand of attacking football.”
Targeting a strong second half of the season, he said: “We’re not going to fixate on an exact league position, but judging from the teams we’ve played, top five and above is where we should be aiming. With fewer injuries and better commitment, our squad can go far.
“We’re confident that we can achieve our goal of playing quick, attacking football that dominates matches. With the implementation of a new training regime, the incorporation of our new signings and the presence of mind to delivery the performances, 2016 is going to be a great year!”
One place lower than them are Boca Jewniors. Anton Nyman says: “Overall we’re disappointed so far, we hoped to be doing a lot better in the league and we feel rather unlucky so far – having scored a number of own goals, given away a number of penalties and had a number of decisions against us. But that’s football and over the last six weeks (barring the last game) we’ve significantly improved defensively, conceding six in six was definitely a defensive record to be proud of in that time.”
Looking ahead, he said: “Obviously the promotion race looks a bit beyond us now, barring a miracle or two, but I’m hoping we can build some consistency and start thinking ahead for next season to carry that forwards into. We’ve put a lot of effort rebuilding the team once again this year and generally they’re starting to gel quite nicely as a tight-knitted squad, so I’m hoping bar any major injuries ahead, we should be able to keep improving on that front into 2016.”