And while he would like to lead his side to another league and cup treble, he says the League title is their priority – and he’s confident they can achieve it.
He says: “I’m not quite sure how to set targets for this season on the basis that we come straight from an invincible treble winning campaign which is literally impossible to top. The treble treble sounds pretty sexy but traditionally it’s always harder to defend a winner’s trophy than to win it in the first place. Realistically speaking our main priority as always will be the league and anything else will be a bonus. We will be there to be shot at but are confident we can successfully defend our league championship.”
Unlike most other managers, pre-season isn’t something he reads too much into. “It’s never usually a huge priority for us,” he says. “It’s always very dis-jointed with lots of people away and this season was no different. We have had some decent enough training sessions and a couple of competitive friendlies, but our main focus has been on putting the squad together for the new season which we hope will be able to hit somewhere near the heights of last year.
“We started off by losing Yishai Last and Danny Kon who both went on Aliyah, as well as young Yehuda Korman and Jacob Gold. We were then dealt a big blow when Yoav Lebens decided to take his hair and his mum and dad across Mill Hill to join his mates at FC Team and all of a sudden we looked pretty short.
“We were also dealt the bad news that our three-year unbeaten home fortress at Hadley will be unavailable this year and we will have to move up the road to Mill Hill Village Sports club. However, we have managed to make some excellent new signings. We raided Raiders for extremely promising and talented youngster Ethan Zone who can play either at full-back or on the wing, as well as young Maccabiah Michael Kenley from Brady who will give us a great option up front.
“We also delved into the lower divisions to snap up one of the hottest youngsters around called Dovi Fehler who is a dynamite feisty forward. We were especially impressed in that he insists on playing with his Kippah on which makes Hendon the perfect club for him to ply his trade. However, possibly the coup of the summer came late on when from the beach in Tel Aviv I managed to persuade Simon Peterman that his talents deserved winners medals and that he should come and join us. We were delighted when he accepted and we expect him to fill in the gap created by the absence of Yoav. We have strengthened with other players as well from the B’s who have folded although we are yet to totally finalise. All in all though what initially looked like a disastrous summer has turned out well and we are delighted with the players we have brought in.”
Hoping the new signings will re-energise the squad, make us fresh and determined to go again, he says of his squad: “As always we will have great spirit and togetherness and have that marvellous family atmosphere. We’ll have lots of pace and plenty of strength, along with that irreplaceable blend of experience and youth. Last year you could say our main strength was in midfield but this year our squad looks like it is very strong in all departments. We’ll also be looking pretty hot as well thanks to our new very generous sponsors at CMC markets who have provided us with the very latest in shiny tight fitting fashionable new kits.”
And while he believes the usual suspects – the likes of Ari Last, Greg Corin and Yoav Kestenbaum to be their key players, he’s also making two bold predictions: “Before a ball has even been kicked, Avi Korman will win Young Player of the Year and Dovi Fehler will be the top Premiership scorer. You heard it here first. I also think Ethan Zone will have an exceptional year playing behind Greg Corin.”
Oakwood A manager Ric Blank says he just wants his side to do themselves justice every time they play. He says: “We don’twant toconcede sloppy goals and want to get the results our efforts deserve. We came third last year and want to come higher this season, but know it’s going to be tough. We’ve improved so much – we want to go back to Wingate and show greater consistency in the league.”
Saying their pre-season has been ‘fantastic’, he says: “We cut down the number of friendlies and increased the intensity of training and fitness. The fitness in the squad has never been better, sessions have been intense and the quality has improved week by week. We’re in good shape.”
Also praising the ‘tremendous’ depth of their squad, he says: “We have Adam Levine and Josh Rubin back from injury which is massive, while Dave Woolman is fully fit and raring to go and is going to be a handful for any side now. Dan Ailion, Lee Warner and Eddie Manson – all left footers – will give us better balance than last year and overall the squad has great balance. Picking the team is going to be incredibly hard but that’s how we want it. We’ll use the squad throughout – some players will be disappointed at times – but it’ll benefit us in the long run.”
And believing Guy Helman will be key to any success they have this season, he says: “With a year under his belt in Maccabi football, Guy will give us even more this year. He’s a big game player which is just as well because this year, every game is a big game.”
Not proclaiming a tilt for the title is Faithfold manager Zuriel Solomon, who says he’s just looking for his side to be competitive. Happy with his side’s build-up to the new season, he says: “It’s been good, the boys are looking sharp and are nearing readiness. Our unity and team spirit will be the real strengths of the squad.”
Norstar London Raiders A are another side who are looking to challenge on all fronts. Manager Rob Richman says: “We’re aiming to continue the good work of last season and challenge in all the competitions we have entered.” Saying they’re ready to go for the big kick-off, he says: “The build-up has been good and our results in pre-season have been pleasing. We’re near enough ready to start for real now.
“We have a strong group of highly committed footballers who all have excellent ability. We came very close last year and this year we aim to go one step further.”
Goalkeeper Jake Doffman is put forward as playing an important role for the team, while Richman also expects good things from new signings Liron Mannie and Ben Joseph.
Ben Gilbey wants his FC Team A team to consolidate their place in the division, while also embarking on a cup run, saying: “Wingate & Finchley stadium is calling for FC Team A”. Happy with his side’s preparations, he says: “Pre season has gone well in my opinion, we’ve managed to get the boys together and playing well, winning two and drawing one being a decent record.
“We started training and fitness work in early July and I hope we reap the benefits of this at the start of the season. Even one of our star centre-backs, Edward Benson, has had laser eye surgery to sharpen up his game!”
Labelling his team as being a ‘proper footballing team’, he says: “One thing our team has always done in the past is manage to play quick, exciting and attractive football, which I believe is good for this League. We’ve also never been short on the goals front, with quality strikers such as David Joseph Cohen, David James Cohen, Jez Julius, Alon Hirshcorn and Shim Bensoor. You can look forward to FC Team A bringing excitement to the league this year and plenty of goals!”
While believing Yoav Lebens and Jez Julius will ‘strike fear into opponents’, he also puts forward a couple of JFS ‘wonderkids’ to keep an eye on. “With Adam Aminoff’s masterful footballing brain and quick feet, together with David Joseph Cohen’s skill and pace, Premier Division defences will be having sleepless nights this year.”
Harmen’s joint-manager Joel Alterman is targeting a top-half finish in the table. He says: “We didn’t take the option of promotion without serious consideration of what we could do with our squad this year, but early discussions with the newly revamped management team of Joseph Marsh, Oliver Leslie, Samuel Castle and myself about new signings that we were going to make left us in little doubt that this division was the place for us to be.
“We’ve been working hard in pre-season to gel the new boys and if we can get everyone playing the way we have been in our pre-season games, there’s no reason why we can’t be towards the top of the table come the end of the season.”
Having a complete overhaul of the squad, they’ve brought in players with top level experience including James Gershfield, Bradley Dryer, Bradley Sharp, David Ronson, Joey Lazare, Josh Brooks, Marc Foster, Ollie Craig, Jake Gottleib, Rob Blackman and George Fierstone. Marc Lazare has also joined but faces a spell on the sidelines having been injured in a horror tackle in his first appearance in Harmen colours.
Going the other way are James Sandler and Adam Osper who have both retired, while Bradley Fox, Jordan Segal and Mitch Green have moved on to pastures new.
They will also have to do without Jon Morris, who is stepping down from captaining the side after six years. Stepping into his boots and leading Harmen into this new era will be Ben Weinberg, who has been described as ‘a great leader on and off the pitch and will captain the side with pride.’
“All of our new signings bring an added dimension to our team and we now have dangerous players in all areas of the pitch. Coupled with the core of the squad that we have retained from last season, there are exciting times ahead for Harmen.”
Redbridge A manager Sam Rosenthal says his side will be going all out to win both the league and cups. Signing four players from neighbours Chigwell, while Steve Summers – as a replacement for Adam Stolerman – and Craig Sandford rejoin their ranks, he also has high hopes of Richard Caplin, touting him as being the best player in the League, while reflecting on his squad, says: “We have a nice mix of youth and experience, everything you need to be champions.”
The main concern for Woodford Wanderers manager Tony Charles is that his side complete their games. “We hope to fulfil all of our fixtures,” he says. “With a skeleton squad of only 14 players we are only a bird flu outbreak away from forfeiting a game!”
Admitting there’s still work to do on the training ground ahead of the season’s start, he says: “We’re not ready, where we are today is not the end result. Those that have attended training have shown a tremendous attitude and application, but a thin squad has meant many postponements.”
Citing their determination and attitude as the main strengths of their squad, Mitch Hahn and Aviel Schwarz have been put forward as their men to watch.
* Maccabi London Lions Blue and North West Neasden complete the line-up.
Opening day fixtures:
Faithfold A vs Oakwood A
Maccabi London Lions Blue vs Hendon United A
North West Neasden vs Woodford Wanderers