The aftermath of the 2012/13 season, in which the First Team suffered the presence of numerous undesirables, resulted in a mass clear-out leaving the Club's MGBSFL side with a weakened squad for season 2013/14. Although normality had returned in terms of decency and discipline amongst those who remained, the First Team slipped into three seasons of arduous decline. Lacking the quality of the 2012/13 side, the team finished bottom of Division Two twice and second from last once but at least Fortune were 'back on track' which was the main objective after the troubles of 2012/13.
So the arrival of Simon Linden at the end of the 2015/16 season came as a breath of fresh air. By the time pre-season training commenced, there was a revitalised feel-good factor evident, helped by the attraction of new players to Mill Hill Park. The summer sessions went very well and Simon began assembling what was looking like a strong squad. He brought in a few players from his previous team, Blizzard Storm notably new captain Adam Speck and Mike Woolf shone out as talented players and included around a dozen of the previous season's Temple Fortune squad. Added to them were a few newcomers such as Eshed Rahav, Jordon Sharifian and Gab Stone, and by the time the MGBSFL season was due to start, the Club was anticipating 2016/17 with relish under the First Team's new management.
The mission set by Chairman Nigel Kyte was one of 'progress' compared to recent seasons and that was certainly the case with the bonus of promotion come the end of the season. Early in the season Linden had built up a really competitive squad of 30 registered players!
After an impressive seven-game pre-season, the new-look team won two of its first three league fixtures and despite enduring the first defeat in early October, completed the month with more points on the board than Fortune had mustered in both 2015/16 and the campaign before that. Such was the size of the squad, the Club decided to arrange several Second Team fixtures to give fringe players game time.
Two many draws prevented the First Team from filling any of the top three places but they finished the year with 5 wins, 5 draws and 2 defeats, the second one being their last match of 2016. The best win was against new side Hertswood Vale by 61 and there was creditable draws against the table-toppers at the time, Catford, followed by new leaders L'Equipe. Highly-tipped RCUK and Redbridge JC 'C' were also held to 22 draws. The two losses were against Redbridge, also ranked as a main challenger (25) and a single goal defeat to RCUK.
Adverse weather restricted matches at the start of the New Year and Fortune finished January with a solitary fixture and victory against Faithfold 'B'. Then followed another draw in a hard match v Real Hendon before Simon Linden set out a challenge to his players in no uncertain terms he demanded six wins from the remaining six fixtures to secure promotion! And how they responded, taking one game at a time (as the old adage goes) and digging in deeply at times to pull out a string of excellent results.
Faithfold 'B' were despatched 50 before the Club managed to switch the fixture against Catford & Bromley to Silver Jubilee Park from the waterlogged Roger Bannister Sports Centre. Fortune beat the division's early leaders by 30 and then returned to the same 3G the Sunday after to defeat Boca Jewniors 20. Another impressive clean sheet followed, rather fortuitously against Mill Hill Dons (20) before goalkeeper Lee Fegan and his defence set a new Club record of five blanks in a row after beating Boca 40 at Chase Lodge.
At that point, the five successive victories had lifted Temple Fortune into second place and a real opportunity to realise Simon Linden's objective of automatic promotion. The last match of the season pitted Fortune against L'Equipe who had already secured the Division Two championship a couple of weeks previously. L'Equipe lost for the first time a week before to promotion challengers RCUK but Fortune needed to win and hope that RCUK would drop points.
In one of the most impressive performances of the season, Linden's team not only won the match, they actually thrashed the champions by an astonishing 7-1. News arrived later that day that RCUK had lost which meant that Temple Fortune achieved promotion at the first time of asking for manager Simon Linden as Division Two runners-up.
The arrival of new talented players seemed to bring out the best of the Fortune players remaining from the previous season and the integration of everyone in Simon's new squad old and new was highly successful.
Jordan Sharifian brought an attacking quality which had not been seen since the days of Rob Benson and the Israeli was scoring in almost every game. Sharifian notched 17 goals in competitive matches by the end of the year and increased his tally to 29 with a hat-trick in the crucial victory over L'Equipe. This was his fourth league treble of the campaign and he fell narrowly short of winning the League's top scorer's award. Jordan's goals some of them simply exceptional certainly were pivotal towards Fortune's ultimate promotion aspirations but others, such as Brett Stead (7), Gab Stone (7), Zack Rich (6) and defender Jake Marks (5), all chipped in impressively.
Out of the ashes of adversity rose a Phoenix of a team to dramatically turn the Club's fortunes around. Simon Linden had achieved what he set out to do promotion and it came in his first season which was way above what everyone might have anticipated. It was a fully merited achievement given the amount of hard work devoted to the cause by a whole string of people.
In the CA Cup, an early exit came at the hands of Faithfold 'B' from the same division and in the MMFL/MGBSFL Invitation Trophy, which Fortune entered for the second time in the competition's four years of existence, the Firsts lost on penalties to Masters League champions North London Raiders are a three-all draw.
Although several players could have won the Player of the Year award, the accolade went to Jordan Sharifian who also took the Leading Goalscorer's prize thanks to his 39 goals. Simon Linden was deservedly the Clubman of the Year for his outstanding efforts. And in a season where four members of the squad reached 200 appearances Jonathan Cohen, Lee Fegan, Rob Jay and Gavin Levy let's not forget Lee's amazing record of five clean sheets. Injured until November, he replaced Will Martyn as goalkeeper and was superb thereafter. It's easy to look at the likes of Sharifian for his goals, but full credit must go to the defence too, as their record verifies.
To cap an impressive personal season, Jordan Sharifian was presented with the MGBSFL Second Division Player of the Year trophy at the TFFC Awards event by MGBSFL Chairman David Wolff. This was the fourth time that TFFC had a player winning the MGBSFL Second Division Player of the Year trophy, following on from Henry Charles(1985/86), Bobby Benson (2009/10) and Scott Shindler (2010/11). Sharifian's success make it six MGBSFL Player of the Year awards for the Club in total, Gary Hyams (Premier Division Footballer of the Year, 1981/82) and David Shone (First Division Player of the Year, 1987/88) being the other two award recipients.
All in all, the buzz and excitement within the First Team camp revitalised the whole club; in reflecting back on an excellent 2016/17 season, it was fair to say that the good times had finally returned to TFFC!
Record breakers: The Temple Fortune defence that achieved a fifth consecutive 'clean sheet' in the second fixture against Boca at Chase Lodge. From left to right - Brett Stead, Adam Speck, Lee Fegan, Rob Jay and Gideon Wetrin.
Promoted: From left to right - back row: Jake Marks, Zack Rich, Jason Lindsay, Lee Fegan, Jonathan Cohen, Adam Speck, Adam Lenz and Simon Linden. Front row: Mike Woolf, Michael Goldberg, Jordan Sharifian, Gab Stone, Rob Jay, Eshed Rahav, Gavin Levy and Brett Stead. Squad members missing: Aron Barnes, Sam Barth, Robbie Berwald, Ben Isaacs, Sean Ladier, Paul Rich, David Sawyer, Dean Shaw, Ollie Squires, Gideon Wetrin, Amier Wiselman and Darren Zitren.