Season 1985/86 was undoubtedly one of the most memorable campaigns during Temple Fortune's lengthy history. It was the Club's tenth season in the Maccabi (Southern) Football League and culminated in the winning of the Second Division Championship, a marvellous feat given the problems endured during the previous couple of seasons. Two successive relegations had been suffered by the First Xl, which fell from the heights of the Premier Division after a three-year spell into the comparatively lowly depths of Division Two.
Temple Fortune, under the leadership of Steve Bourne, had enjoyed a relatively successful period spanning five seasons but that particular side was rapidly coming to an end. A mass exodus of Bourne's team halfway through the 1984/85 season left the Club in dire straights. Both the 1st and 2nd teams had to complete their respective league programmes with a greatly reduced playing squad. But somehow the Club survived with both teams intact and Temple Fortune began the 1985-86 season with a fair amount of uncertainty.
Thankfully, the pre-season soccer sessions at Edgwarebury Park attracted much-needed 'new blood'. In came goalkeeper Richard Carlowe, defenders Clive Cookson and Ray Dinkin, midfielders Jonathan Davidoff, Robert Freedman and Russell Vroobel, and striker Steve Feiger who was rejoining the Club after a year with Marlborough Olympic. The new-look First Team started the season with a bang, winning the first ten games. Glenthorne United's Second Xl, a strong side which eventually finished as runners-up, were defeated early on. But United halted Temple Fortune's run of five straight league victories with a 6-4 win at Bethune Park near the end of November. Another defeat soon followed against mid-table Scrabble when Fortune levelled a 1-3 deficit only to lose late on due to some bad goalkeeping.
Second team player Tony Espinoza replaced Richard Carlowe in goal and suddenly the First Xl's fortunes changed dramatically. The team put together a wonderful run of 11 consecutive wins in Division 2 and found themselves challenging strongly for the promotion places. Highgate Wanderers, including Steve Bourne, Dave Munns and Nick Waitsman, were beaten twice; the second win was a comprehensive 9-1 thrashing. During the great sequence, the Firsts completed a 16-3 'double' over Bushey 'B', winning 8-2 in the second fixture. The closest victory came against North West Warriors 'B' who led 4-1 at one point at Brook Farm. However, Temple Fortune displayed tremendous character to grab a thrilling 6-5 victory. Team Secretary Dave Salamons headed the late winner.
Thanks to heavy snow and ice which wiped out the entire February programme, Fortune had to play an important league fixture against Willesden during the week, The Firsts collected another two vital points by winning 7-4 at Cherry Tree Wood. This left Temple Fortune requiring a win against third-placed Brady to capture the Championship with one fixture remaining. In a tense encounter played at windy Hackney Marshes, Fortune led 2-0 before being pegged back to two-all. Tony Espinoza made one fabulous flying one-handed save to keep out an encouraged Brady team. Fortunately, Jeremy Fess netted the all-important third goal against the run of play and the 1st Xl survived extreme pressure towards the end to dramatically clinch the title. In the final league fixture, Brady ended Fortune's excellent run of consecutive victories but couldn't avenge the previous week's crucial defeat, drawing 1-1.
In addition to the Second Division championship, Temple Fortune also won the Ralph Epstein Memorial Trophy, beating First Division Bushey United 7-6 in a really thrilling match in Watford. 6-2 up at one stage, the Firsts allowed Bushey to pull back to 6-5 before scoring a decisive seventh goal late on. Steve Feiger and Steve Levy both netted hat-tricks, two of Levy's coming from penalties. This was Fortune's first REMT success, coming in the second fixture of the annual series.
Due to the First Team's exciting title challenge throughout the '85/86 season, progess in the cup competitions virtually played a secondary role. In the Peter Morrison Trophy, after defeating a good EDRS Stonegrove side in the previous round, Fortune lost to Gants Hill by default after a dispute with the organisers. However, the Firsts reached the quarter-final of the Cyril Anekstein Cup and gave Premier Division Ashlodge the shock of their lives. Temple Fortune were leading 2-1 until the very last minute. Then, a hopeful shot squirmed its way under Tony Espinoza and agonisingly trickled over the line to give the top flight side an underserved replay. Sadly, Fortune could not repeat the stirring performance of the first game and went down 4-1. That's the closest the Club have been to the Cyril Anekstein Cup semis. Just one minute away...!
Steve Levy broke the Club's goalscoring record in a season with no fewer than 46 goals for the First Team, easily bettering the previous record of 35 set by Steve Hyams several years earlier. Steve Feiger scored 43 goals which remains the highest tally by a second-top scorer for Temple Fortune. Off the field, the Club's administration was impeccable: Temple Fortune did not receive a solitary M(S)FL fine from over 45 competitive matches played by both the 1st and 2nd teams, an achievement that should have undoubtedly won the Club the M(S)FL Team Secretary of the Year award. Short-listed for this prestigious prize, Fortune controversially missed out, the award going to a Team Sec running a new team in the bottom division, in his first season! (This chap's subsequent appearance on the M(S)FL Management Committee the following season spoke volumes!)
The First Xl won 17 out of the twenty league fixtures, a Club record. Also, for the first time, they topped a hundred league goals, and the points tally was the highest ever as well. Henry Charles was Player of the Year and Tony Espinoza the Clubman of the Year. Dave Salamons took the Chairman's Merit Award for running the team superbly.
1985/86 was a really wonderful season for the Temple Fortune Football Club, as memorable as a victorious season could ever be!