Seeing Brady Maccabi (the reigning Masters Division 2 champions), Glenthorne United and London Maccabi Lions on the 2006/07 fixture list, let alone runners-up Clayhall (who had tied on points with Brady), would have been good enough reason alone to predict Temple Fortune's aspirations as a mid-table position before the campaign started.
The previous season, which marked the first full season of a Masters Second Division, the Old Boys had competed well and a final position of fourth was an improvement on anything before then. Indeed, for the first time in seven seasons of league involvement, Temple Fortune's Masters team had actually completed a campaign with more wins than defeats, albeit by one match. So the team went into the 2006/07 season with optimism that a similar position could be achieved as a minimum requirement, content with sitting below the so-called 'big three'.
Before a ball was kicked in earnest, a quirky rule change at the MMFL AGM in June 2006 helped the Club. Even though the minimum age was raised from 40 to 42 for Division 2, any under 42s playing the previous season could continue. But the bottom four teams from the 2005/06 table were permitted to sign up two new players aged under 42! Temple Fortune, placed exactly halfway in the 7-team division, benefited from this bizarre ruling and took full advantage.
In came Graham Meyer, previously Player of the Year for the First Team on two occasions, adding to under 42 year olds such as David Summer and Robert Botkai. Suddenly, a bit of additional quality in midfield, aided by a strengthened defence and more attacking options, gave the Old Boys a far more balanced look than in previous seasons. The general lack of strength in midfield had always highlighted Fortune's limitations so having Meyer alongside Bryan Silver, flanked by Jeremy Fess and Geoff Isaacs, looked a promising prospect indeed. More strength in depth allowed all-time leading goalscorer Steve Feiger to concentrate on his ability upfront rather than filling in elsewhere because of shortages endured the previous season. With Feiger now partnering Robert Botkai, the Second Team's highest scorer ever, a potentially successful goalscoring unit was looking encouraging.
With two central defenders from Allon Schick-Maier, David Summer and Stephen Brower and full backs David Goldberg, Gary Burns or Phil Friend, in front of sound goalkeeper Serge Weinberger, the team as a whole was taking shape and a promising season ahead beckoned. Other very capable players like Gary Bekhor, Peter Kyte, new-comer James Ryan and the ever dependable Jonathan Davidoff, could fill in and do a good job without disrupting the team's flow too much.
Altogether, from having a team struggling for numbers in previous seasons, here the Old Boys suddenly had quite a competitive squad with an improved level of welcomed enthusiasm for the task ahead. Kitted out in a brand new green and white strip to commemorate 30 years of Maccabi football involvement (which replicated TF's first league colours), Temple Fortune started well in the Masters Division 2 and set a new record for the Old Boys team by winning the first seven league matches. The previous season's champions, Brady 'B', were beaten 52 followed by Glenthorne 'B' being on the end of an impressive 71 hammering.
Then the Old Boys showed a new-found indomitable spirit absent in previous seasons by overcoming a 20 deficit against bogey team Norstar to win 42. Suddenly the team were on a roll and perhaps the best result of all came in the very next match against London Maccabi Lions 'B'. This was always going to be the yardstick in terms of the Old Boys XI's progress. At Parmiters, Temple Fortune probably pulled off its finest result in Old Boys football by defeating the Lions 32, a fantastic result which retained top place in Division 2.
Splendidly kitted out in the brand new commemorative playing strip, sponsored by Gary Bekhor. From left to right, back row: Perry Greenblatt, David Summer, Allon Schick-Maier, Serge Weinberger, Phil Friend, Leon Pernikis, Geoff Isaacs, Jonathan Davidoff, Nick Waitsman (manager). Front row: Peter Kyte, Graham Meyer, Jeremy Fess, Gary Bekhor, Steven Feiger, Bryan Silver, Robert Botkai, David Goldberg, Gary Burns.
After an expected crushing victory against Clayhall 'B', where had the Old Boys not 'guested' them 2 players the margin may have been at least a third greater than 100, Temple Fortune stumbed towards disappointment in the return with Glenthorne. A stronger opposing side than the first encounter, further hindered by a poor performance, resulted in a first league defeat of the season by 21.
A break of nearly a month perhaps was a timely refresher for a team disappointed to drop points for the first time during the season. Upon the resumption, there followed three good victories, all completing 'doubles' over Ashlodge, NOBS and Clayhall 'B' respectively. In fact, the 101 victory against the hapless Clayhall side equalled the Club record for the highest league double 201 previously achieved during the 1977/78 season by the First Team.
Sadly, there was not much more to shout home about for the remainder of the league campaign. A disappointing dip in form proved to be hugely costly as the team slumped dramatically. Of the next five league matches, the Old Boys won just one, a record which was to cost Temple Fortune any chance of winning the Club's first title since the 1985/86 season.
A very tense match with title-contesting outsiders Brady at Goslings saw Steve Feiger miss a penalty at 01 down with 15 minutes remaining. Only Robert Botkai's last gasp equaliser saved a point. Fortune were not so lucky when they fell to fourth-placed Clayhall by 42 in the next fixture. The cup exit to Division 1 South Mancunians aided with their younger Over 37's side didn't come as a great surprise but was not the best preparation for the following match, the important 'title-decider' against London Maccabi Lions at Goslings.
Despite a much improved performance, some bad luck and a costly poor refereeing decision conspired against the Old Boys to give the Lions an avenging 31 success. When 10 ahead through Graham Meyer's effort, Bryan Silver was controversially judged offside when through on goal a second goal then may well have put the championship beyond LML's reach. But it wasn't to be and for the first time in the season, the Lions were in the driving seat.
Faithfold were dispatched with immense hard work in the penultimate match, the Old Boys throwing away a comfortable 20 lead before trailing. Only a sending off for the opposition appeared to be Fortune's lifeline afterwhich they managed a rather flattering 74 victory with late goals. The win leap-frogged Temple Fortune back to the top of the table they led for most of the season.
In the last match, the Old Boys, needing a win to put some pressure on the Lions, gifted Clayhall 'A' a 40 lead before amazingly recovering to grab a draw. More controversy denied Fortune what would have been an incredible winning goal but under the circumstances the team had to be grateful for a point. That left the Lions trailing by one point with two matches left. Nevertheless, for Temple Fortune to finish the league campaign with 11 wins, 2 draws and only 3 defeats was a record each player would have glady accepted at the start of the season.
A revitalised Steve Feiger scored five hat-tricks to lead the Old Boys league scoring charts, followed by Robert Botkai who also broke into the twenties as evidence of a successful striking partnership. Graham Meyer deservedly captured the Player of the Year award, the second midfield recipient in succession following Bryan Silver a year previously. Meyer received a record 10 'firsts' from 13 votes, an astonishing verification from his team-mates of his own fabulous season.
So the 2006/07 season proved to be a commendable best-ever campaign for the Old Boys team in the eight years of Masters participation, giving the Club its second runners-up place in Division 2. Given that the previous second place was in a 4-team split division halfway through the 2003/04 season, the achievement of 2006/07 was superb and capped a very memorable season indeed.