Will Oakwood A claim a second consecutive Premier Division title, or will a rejuvenated Lions side take the silverware back to Rowley Lane?
Oakwood A joint-manager Daniel Kristall says the reigning champions are looking to retain their title and go further in the two Jewish cup competitions.
Having won the title on the last day of last season – after Redbridge failed to beat Hendon – Kristall says: “We will hopefully build on last year’s title success, expect to have a much bigger go in the cup competitions and strive for more success and consistency in the league.
“To do this, we’ll need to dig deep into our squad again, but having the best defence in the league over the last two years has given us the platform to succeed. We will aim to continue where we left off last season.”
Saying he also hopes they test themselves in the non-Jewish County Cup, new players on board for the season include Tom Cantor, Toby Levy, goalkeeper Joe Botchin and Josh Cuby, though Guy Helman has left the club. Speaking of some of his signings, he said: “Joe was signed on a free from Leeds Maccabi, Toby is an excellent player and huge addition from South Mancunians, while Tom, brother of Sam, has had an excellent pre-season and will add some much needed cover at the back.
James Gershfield has taken charge at Maccabi London Lions White and says he wants to see the side compete for the title. “I want to continue the Lions tradition from last year and win silverware,” he says. “I’m putting together a strong squad with a mix of youth and experience, I want to compete in the league and the chat in our team whats app group is to aim for the treble.”
Ahead of the big kick-off, he says: “Training has been very intense so far and the commitment from the boys has been brilliant. We were competitive in our first pre-season game against Brady and looked very sharp in patches. We ended up getting beat 4-3 in the last minute, but I took a lot of positives from the game. We bounced back strongly on Sunday with a great performance against Camden and ended up winning 7-1. The introduction of Mikey Perkins and Andrei Greyson was the main positive with both putting in great shifts.”
Looking at the strengths of the side, he said: “We are solid all over the pitch, but I expect our attacking force to surprise people this year. New signings – Jack Mattey, Akiva Levin, Andrei Grayson, Charlie Dryer and Mikey Perkins will show their quality.
With a few signings more likely I am very happy with where my squad is at the moment, but the likes of Jack Mattey and Akiva Levin will surprise a few people this year.
The other Lions side, Maccabi London Lions Blue, will once again be managed by Samuel Marchant, with the team also entering the Hertfordshire County Cup. Expecting a challenging season, he said: “Being in the top division means we will have incredibly tough matches every week, we’ll take our season week by week and hope to consolidate our position in the top flight.
Having brought in “only” a few players, including David Nezri from North London Raiders A, he says: “The squad has certainly become smaller, with about eight names leaving.” Citing Benji Weinberger, Nathan Anders and Adam Abadi as “the ones to watch”, he adds: “We hope to bring a team which is extremely tough to break down and one which is clinical with its chances. “
North London Raiders A manager Dan Shafron says his side’s aim is to challenge in all the competitions they enter. Describing pre-season as “good”, he says: “We’ve got leaders on and off the pitch plus strength in depth. We’ve strengthened in key areas where we lacked last year and have Ben Joseph and Josh Pistol both returning after missing all of last season.”
Hendon United Sports Club’s Russ Corin says the aim of his side is to compete as best as possible in all the competitions they’ve entered, saying: “The main focus though will be to win the league and bring the Peter Morrison Cup back to where it belongs.”
Saying pre-season went well, albeit preparations were slightly hampered by changes in the backroom staff, including Dave Garbacz finally deciding to pass on the reigns after a record stint as manager, Greg Corin will be taking over the role.
Russ continues: “The main strengths of our side are the mix of youth and experience, hopefully we’ll be able to strike the right balance which will allow us to compete on all fronts.
“The discussions during the post-season mainly focused on the size of our squad and the difficulty in trying to compete last year with players injured and a smaller squad. We decided to look at signing players with a bit more experience and a good pedigree. We’re delighted to welcome back to the club Josh and Paul Bentley, along with Ben Lauffer who will without doubt be a player to watch out for.
“Zack Lewis will be looking to add silverware to his cupboard after a great season last year and will be one to watch again, along with Avi Korman who has returned fresh and hungry from his successful Maccabiah experience, while Larry Cohen is our big signing of the summer. With previous professional experience, we had to go all out in getting the chairman to break the bank for his services.”
Stirling Kay will be managing Camden Park, ably assisted by Rick Harris who will also be taking to the pitch for the side.
Saying his hopes for the season are very simple, he says: “I want to win more games than we lose, to be competitive in every game, for everyone in the club to enjoy the season and to win a trophy. And as a club, we will be setting out to win every game as everyone knows it’s about the strength of the squad that will decide where the league will be won.
“Our strengths will be that I have a group of players who really want to show everyone that they are desperate to win a trophy and by playing as a unit and playing for each other so much can be achieved.”
Saying new signings Dan Orgel and Dan Sherman up front will be a partnership to watch, he added that pre-season has “Started very well but we have been hit by injuries and holidays. Overall, we have added some very good players to the squad, however because of injuries we need to add two to three players, plus a cover goalkeeper. If we can find these players I believe we will surprise a lot of people.
“Leagues are won by good teams not by good individuals as Oakwood proved last year. We intend being good individuals playing as a good team unit. The rest will take care of itself.”
Brady Maccabi and Redbridge Jewish Care A complete the line-up.