REPORT FOR SEASON 2016/17
It was six years ago when Temple Fortune last had a memorable season in the MGBSFL, winning the Second Division championship. Now, we have fallen just one place short of emulating that feat by finishing runners-up in the same division. All the same it has been a fabulous season from start to finish beginning with the arrival of Simon Linden in May 2016. Simon joined us from Blizzard Storm who had endured a horrible season themselves and he came in with impressive enthusiasm for the task ahead with Temple Fortune.
Simon's tenure as our MGBSFL team manager started with taking summer football sessions at Mill Hill Park which attracted around 20 players each Sunday. It did not take long before we realised that we had an impressive group of players joining us and the season ahead looked promising. Indeed, what has been particularly pleasing is that the majority of players from the 2015/16 season not only stayed with us but quite a few of them played a part in Simon's new-look team. With the numbers we had arriving in the summer it was inevitable that he had to release a few and by the time the season began we decided to arrange some 'B' team games under the banner of the Second Team, primarily to give fringe players game time.
These additional games have not been easy to organise given the limitation of suitable opposition available but nevertheless we managed to arrange ten fixtures by the end of the season. Certain fringe players were told that if they remained with Temple Fortune we were hoping to set up an official Second Team with the intention of joining the MGBSFL for season 2017/18. With promotion of the First Team guaranteed in April of this year we decided to go ahead with this idea. I see this as a positive step towards the progression of this club; after several years of struggle I believe we are going in the right direction and hopefully we will have two competitive MGBSFL teams next season.
I know that Simon will be working hard to recruit new players to strengthen the First Team and also the new Second Team. We realise that we need to improve the admin side of not only the First Team but also the new side to make sure that we are well organised, specifically on match days.
Looking at the First Team's results, they drew more games than perhaps they should have and were sitting in fourth place at the end of the year, having lost two league games up to that point. But a fantastic unbeaten run in the second half of the season elevated them into an automatic promotion position, culminating in an amazing 71 victory over L'Equipe, the newly crowned champions. So the First Team lost just two league matches out of 20, the fewest for 31 years since the Firsts won the Division Two title in 1985/86.
Included in the unbeaten sequence was the excellent feat of going five league games without conceding a goal. No other Temple Fortune team over the past 40 seasons of playing league football had achieved this. Whilst giving full credit to the entire defence who took part in this amazing run I will single out goalkeeper Lee Fegan who was the main guy responsible for keeping these clean sheets so impressively. By the close of the playing season, the First Team had extended their unbeaten run to an impressive 12 matches which set a new Club record.
On the goals front, Jordan Sharifian has proven to be the best striker we have seen at TFFC for many years. He is the first player to score more than 35 goals since 1993/94 and is only the fourth player to achieve this in 87 seasons completed by the First Team, Second Team and Old Boys Team collectively. Jordan's reward for his fantastic exploits (he finished the season with 39 goals in all matches) was an array of trophies, fully merited for a superb season, including one for the MGBSFL Second Division Player of the Year. This is the fourth time the Club has had a player winning this particular trophy, following on from Henry Charles (1985/86), Rob Benson (2009/10) and Scott Shindler (2010/11).
The Old Boys Team have had a reasonable season in the Masters League Second Division and have finished in a satisfactory mid-table position. Given that it would be almost impossible to finish above Maccabi London Lions, EDRS, Glenthorne and arguably St John's Wood Tigers, the Old Boys were always going to be chasing fifth position at best. We managed to bring in a few new players which improved the side immeasurably and some decent performances and results followed. One of the best displays was against the Lions who have been undefeated in league football for two seasons now and even though the Old Boys lost 20 it proved to be a measure of the team's improvement. The Old Boys ended their league campaign with a tremendous 64 victory against Glenthorne so overall we can be satisfied with what they achieved this season.
The Second Team's friendlies brought mixed results and my thanks go to my brother Peter for managing the side. Simon too played a big part in ensuring that these fixtures would go ahead.
Considerable hard work was put in by Simon and myself to ensure that everything was ready for the new season and this has continued throughout the campaign. For the first time we started up a Facebook page which has been running for about a year now and has been hugely successful. The Facebook page has allowed us to get in contact with quite a few ex-players and the rapport with people who have played for TFFC has been excellent. I have managed to maintain the content of the Facebook page to keep it fresh and interesting and my only regret is that I did not start up this social media site sooner.
At the time of writing this we have 105 'friends' on our Facebook page with the majority being current and former players. Facebook has allowed us to renew liaisons with players even as far back as our pre-league days Andy Batten being one example which is fantastic. In fact I would go as far as saying that Facebook has proved to be more important than Twitter and for that reason I have not paid as much attention to the latter site this season. As long as I can retain the interest of our Fortune 'friends' I will maintain the Facebook page with interesting content as much as time permits.
Towards the end of the season I was offered the opportunity of hiring Silver Jubilee Park next season, a venue which I personally have frequented on many occasions as both a Hendon FC supporter and a Masters referee. Because the Masters League are anticipating a reduction of facilities, the vacancy came up at Silver Jubilee Park which we will be filling together with fellow-MGBSFL side Faithfold. We were fortunate enough to be able to play a couple of league fixtures at SJP towards the end of the season. To play at a Ryman Premier Division ground using an excellent 3G pitch and a clubhouse with a bar is more than we could have been envisaged so this is an opportunity we cannot turn down, even though the pitches are £100 dearer than those we use at the Roger Bannister Sports Centre. To cover the increased expenditure, we may well be raising First Team match subs to £10 but for this kind of improved facility I should think the players will accept this.
During the season I have been continuing work on the TFFC 50 Years book which I hope to release in time for the Club's Golden Anniversary at the end of next year. This colourful publication has reached 94 pages and is crammed full of TFFC-related material. Samples of the pages were featured on the TFFC Facebook page earlier this season and I have been getting quotes to print the book. Whether or not we can afford to do this remains to be seen but it will be distributed in PDF format at the very least.
Generally speaking, the season flowed by without too many major headaches. Obviously trying to keep everybody happy in Simon's large squad was problematical but we only lost two players who were transferred. Partly as a 'thank you' to those who remained loyal and dedicated during the 2015/16 season, I believe that the Second Team is essential to maintain the improvement and progression of this club. A group of long-serving players, who would be eligible for Masters football next season, decided to opt to remain in the MGBSFL. As disappointing as that might be to Stuart Lustigman and David Goldberg of the MMFL who desperately need Division One teams having a second MGBSFL side is in the best interests of the club at this time, otherwise we would lose quite a few players too young to play in the MMFL.
Whether or not both teams will be competitive come September remains to be seen but I feel we are duty-bound to try this exciting new project. This is the fourth time we have formed the Second Team and the first time we will be running three teams since 2012/13.
Socially, there were several events going on during the season, including Michael Goldberg's 'curry nights', Gavin Levy's TFFC reunion and a few Legends Get-Togethers arranged by my brother and Tony Espinoza. The new WhatsApp group has been successful in keeping the MGBSFL squad's social banter going on throughout the season the group has been entertaining if nothing else!
The Club Awards Presentation Event was held successfully on 28th May at Silver Jubilee Park where we were very pleased to have MGBSFL Chairman David Wolff attend to present the awards. These included Jordan Sharifian's Second Division Player of the Year Trophy and the MGBSFL Second Division runners-up medals which were handed out to eligible First Team players who were present.
To sum up the season, I recall agreeing with Simon back in September 2016 that exciting times lay ahead for the Club and I have no reason to change this view. Indeed the 2016/17 season has been exciting from start to finish, a really memorable campaign which I think we deserve after several years of adversity.
I would like to say a big thank you to everybody who has helped to make this season as memorable as it has been. None more so than Simon, of course, for his committed endeavours. We can look forward to next season with relish and excitement three teams up and running, a fantastic new home venue for the First Team and a sound financial footing.
Altogether, as we approach our Golden Anniversary at the end of 2018, the Club continues to be in very good shape.
NIGEL KYTE, 1st June 2017