The 1980/81 season will be best remembered for Temple Fortune's promotion to the Premier Division for the first time. But the general feeling at the time was that the First Xl should have won the First Division championship. In a high quality division Temple Fortune lost just one league match all season in the 18-match programme. Sadly, Ashlodge Garden and Athletico Neasden 'B' narrowly pipped Fortune to the medal-winning positions.
This was due mainly to the high number of draws Temple Fortune accumulated during the season which proved to be so costly at the end. Avoiding defeat in the four matches against the fellow title-challengers was a creditable achievement in itself but the failure to beat struggling Westway at the end of November was a crucial setback. The only league defeat came against newly promoted Regents Park Rangers in a rather bad tempered match. Rangers went on to finish in fourth place, unable to repeat their success over Temple Fortune against the top two sides.
After that defeat, Temple Fortune went 11 matches unbeaten in the league excluding an unplayed fixture against Brady won by default. With the First Xl trailing Ashlodge by two points with two matches to play, the opportunity was there to possibly pip the leaders to the title or at least leapfrog above second-placed Athletico Neasden into a medal-winning position.
The penultimate fixture was against Ashlodge themselves and was an extremely tense affair, played at Lyttleton Playing Fields. Chances were few and tempers frayed on occasions. Following one unsavoury incident, Fortune striker Steve Hyams was sent off. The game finished goalless but it was enough to virtually secure Ashlodge's championship. However, the despondency of finishing third despite only one defeat lifted in the Temple Fortune camp by the news during the summer that the Club would be promoted afterall to the Premier Division for the first time.
In the cup competitions Temple Fortune entered the Maccabi Union's Peter Morrison Trophy for the first time. The first round draw paired the Firsts with Stamford Hill Old Boys of the Premier Division. Fortune played very well to win by 4-2 in extra time and then hosted an afternoon match against Cardiff Maccabi in the next round at Wormwood Scrubs which was comfortably won 4-0.
Half-time during the Peter Morrison Trophy tie against Stamford Hill Old Boys at Hampstead Heath.
In the quarter-finals of the Southern Area competition, Fortune played Clayhall Alandra, the reigning AJY League champions, at West Hendon Playing Fields. The tie was another ill-tempered battle but Fortune managed to win 3-1. In the early eighties, the senior top-division teams in the AJY League were considered to be stronger than the Premier sides in the M(S)FL, so Temple Fortune's excellent victory as only a First Division team remains one of the Club's best ever results since being formed.
The 'giants' of Maccabi Association London were Temple Fortune's semi-final opponents at Chase Lodge. MAL, of the Hendon & District League, were hot favourhes to reach the Southern Area Final and then retain the National Trophy won a year earlier. Nobody gave Fortune much chance but they gave MAL a huge fright throughout. Mike Geduld scored a great goal after 22 minutes and MAL were struggling. A shock was on the cards but fortunately for them, two goals by Gary Heuman and Micky Ossack only fifteen minutes from time saved their blushes. But what a fighting performance by Temple Fortune who put together as good a display from a team of no-hope underdogs as one would wish to see.
The First Team reached the quarter-final of the Cyril Anekstein Cup the M(S)FL's own domestic knockout event and had to play Premier Division champions Brixton Old Boys, undoubtedly the best team left in the competition. Nothing went right for the Firsts at Hampstead Heath; apart from failing to score for the first time all season, they sadly collapsed to a 6-0 defeat, although four of the goals came in the last ten minutes after Fortune heads had dropped following the killer third goal.
First Team Player of the Year was goalkeeper Paul Squires who deservedly won the award for many excellent performances. Steve Hyams topped the goalscoring list for the third consecutive season, whilst captain Stephen Bourne took the Chairman's Merit Award.
Looking back, the 1980/81 season had been successful. Although Temple Fortune's First Xl missed out on medals although enjoying lengthy cup runs, the subsequent promotion to the Premier Division was a worthwhile prize which was very well deserved.