Club historian Cecil Fettle speaks to NIGEL KYTE, the Club's Chairman since 1976, about 30 years of Maccabi football.

Thirty years of league football – what does that mean to you?
Well, it's a marvellous achievement for a relatively small club like Temple Fortune. The fact that we have completed 30 consecutive seasons in the MSFL – which no other current team has done – is one to be extremely proud of.

Did you ever think the Club would come this far?
Not at all. There were several occasions when the Club's very existence was seriously in jeopardy.

Such as when?
In 1978, after our first two seasons in the MSFL, the original league team broke up. If it hadn't been for a meeting with Ricky Cohen, Andy Jaye and Martin Leigh, we would have been very short of players for the 1978/79 season. They represented a team which wanted to join the MSFL but didn't apply in time. Thankfully, through David Wolff, the trio contacted me and that was the start of the 'Stephen Bourne' era which kept us going for a further five seasons at least. In 1984 the Club was seriously in a mess after the Bourne side had more or less departed. But the likes of Henry Charles, Jonathan Davidoff, Jeremy Fess, Dave Salamons and Tony Stock joined in 1985, which sustained the Club for many seasons thereafter. And let's not forget another crucial meeting in 1996 with Simon Allen, Mus Kortach and Garry Simpson at the Load of Hay pub in Hendon... this was the start of another happy liaison which was instrumental in keeping the Club going into the new century. So I have never taken our survival for granted each season – realistically, at times it's been very much touch and go.

Clearly Temple Fortune could easily have folded and gone the same way as so many other teams.
I'd agree. But despite some incredible arduous seasons on the field, we've had our slices of luck off the field by meeting the right people at the right time. These welcomed associations have played an enormous part in keeping TFFC going.

Is there any one individual who you would like to point out for their contribution?
There have been many fine servants to this Club – too many to mention. But over the past decade, I would say that Simon Allen has been instrumental in keeping the MSFL team together. His commitment and enthusiasm has been as vital as anybody's, ever. And such a gentleman. But I cannot stop at one member. There's Garry Simpson, David Goldberg, Nick Waitsman, Steve Feiger, all totally committed towards the Club's management backbone... not to mention the likes of Silver, Friend, Davidoff, Fess, all of them vastly committed and hugely loyal members. And there are more I could mention...

Have you had objectives or aims for the Club over the years?
Yes, quite a few. Apart from rolling on from season to season, one objective was to compete in the MSFL Premier Division. We achieved that in two separate spells totalling six seasons. Another was to reach a cup final. We've reached two, albeit unsuccessful. Of course, winning a championship was always a target, which we accomplished in our 10th MSFL season.

Any more?
Forming a Second Team was always Peter's aim – over two spells we had the Seconds running for 18 seasons. Being founder members of a possible Maccabi vets league was an objective once we formed our Old Boys Team... this too happened. Another target was to reach 25 years of continuous league participation.

Well, you've certainly surpassed that – with five years to spare now!
Indeed! Thirty seasons is just incredible. Since reaching 25 years, I wanted to take our involvement to 30 at least. Anything beyond that in terms of the MSFL is a bonus.

You mean that participating in the MSFL isn't as important as it once was? Is that because of the Masters League being around?
It's still preferable to have a team competing in the MSFL, of course it is. The truth is that a younger team secures the Club's future for longer. But the Masters League has extended the playing careers of many committed Temple Fortune players and, as proud founder members, we are delighted to be participating. As a Club we led the way towards Jewish veterans or 'old boys' football! We formed an Old Boys Team before any other club in Maccabi football.

So TFFC are proud pioneers!
Very much so. We've been running our Old Boys Team since 1994, way ahead of 'big' clubs such as LML, NWN, Brady and M&G.

The Club's decision to return to the original league colours 30 years on was a nice commemorative touch. Was that based on Arsenal's dark red shirts to commemorate the last season at Highbury?
Not at all! We hatched the idea about 3 years prior to Arsenal's decision. For quite a while, Steve Feiger – in particular – was keen to change to green and white even though he wasn't playing for us when we joined the league in 1976. Good old Steve... he's got a great sense of TFFC history and really wanted green and white! My brother too wanted Temple Fortune to return to our original league colours. Arsenal's 'redcurrent' was purely a coincidence – it was our idea first!

Is it true that you were not particularly keen on the change?
Well, I am a traditionalist and one of Temple Fortune's traditions was to play in yellow and red. We wore these colours, with navy added as a complimentary third colour in 1995, for 20 years. I believe it gave us a sense of identity and I was keen to keep the colours going. When you think of Temple Fortune FC you think yellow and red, so changing to green and white was a very radical move. But to me, we are still yellow and red, which is one reason these colours still feature on the website home page.

So we can expect a return to yellow and red?
I would think that we will play in green and white for at least two seasons. This and next at the very least. But I can see the Club returning to yellow and red in the future. Just like Arsenal are red and white, Chelsea are all blue and Spurs are white and navy, I see Temple Fortune as yellow and red. The current colours are a commemorative 'blip' in TFFC tradition!

Nigel, what's the next step forward for the Club?
Now that the Masters League has split into two divisions, with specified age groups, it is feasible for us to enter a 35+ team into Division 1, possibly for the 2007/08 season.It will be a tall order to compete with top sides like LML but I think it is a natural progressive move in the right direction for so many of our players aged 35 and over.

But is it true that the Masters will diversify even more?
Yes, it's muted that the Masters will have 35+, 40+ and 45+ divisions in two or three seasons time. I think we should have the players to sustain at least two teams in the MMFL if not three but that might be a bit optimistic.

Would that mean the end of the MSFL team?
Not at all. We have several promising younger players – such as Gavin Levy, Rob Jay, Jeff Bathija, Neil Mifsud, Ben Isaacs, David Allen – to keep the MSFL team going. Add them to 'wise old heads' like Simon Allen and Andy Souber and we could have quite a good team. As long as we have the players and the personnel to run the side, I don't see why the MSFL team cannot continue.

Are these young players the mainstay of the Club?
Mainstay? (laughs) Well, if you're talking about mainstays, I'd look no further than those individuals who have given us season after season of dedicated commitment. Without these guys, we wouldn't have a club to allow these youngsters to play. Off the top of my head, I take my hat off to Simon, Ged, Feigs, the Simpsons, Graham Meyer, Yali, Rob Botkai, Monty, Davids S and G, Allon, Jon Dav, Phil, Bryan, Nick and my brother and anyone else I've missed out who has been a long running part of this marvellous Club.

That's quite a list of dedicated players!
Exactly! Obviously we must be doing something right!

So winning trophies isn't the be all and end all of running a football club.
Don't get me wrong, it's lovely being successful and we've enjoyed several memorable seasons. But at this level, we exist primarily to give guys of our faith an opportunity to play organised Sunday league football. Given that as a Club we are relatively small and have no youth club support, the behind-the-scenes administration is second to none. Happily we have team managers who mainly continue this 'well-run' ethos through their respective teams.

Ok, but how do you feel the Club has fared in 30 years of league football? Good, bad, average? Are you disappointed, satisfied? Could TF have done better?
Questions, questions! Let's see – the Firsts... 6 promotions, a title won, 2 cup final appearances, 6 seasons in the MSFL's top flight, beaten every major MSFL team at one time or another. The Seconds... 5 promotions, one prestigious trophy won.The Old Boys... founder members of the MMFL, runners-up in Div.2 once. What else? 3 MSFL Footballer of the Year award winners, numerous representative honours. Not forgetting that within the Club, there are 44 players in the 100 Club, a dozen more in the 200 Club and half that reaching 300 appearances. So, all in all, I'm not going to answer the questions... you tell me! How have we fared as a Club?

All things considered, not too bad!
(laughs) And the biggest achievement? That TFFC still exists – we're still going strong. We're heading towards our 40th birthday. FORTIETH! December 2008... truly unbelievable. We've got some club here with some story. Surely a dream taken into reality if ever there was one!

Thank you, Mr Chairman, for taking the time to do this – long may TFFC continue!

>>> 30th Season Memories & Anecdotes
>>> Gala Morning event – 3rd September 2006
>>> Green and White – back to the Club's original league colours, 30 years on!
>>> The story behind Temple Fortune's choice of Green and White colours
>>> Playing Kit Gallery – A pictorial history of TFFC's playing kits