Not quite a minyan, but Old­ham are the real Jewish deal

The Jewish Chronicle - - Sport -

SOME­ONE ASKED me the other day, ‘which is the best Jewish foot­ball club?’ Spurs, Arse­nal, West Ham, Chelsea, Wat­ford, Bar­net, Win­gate & Finch­ley or even Lon­don Mac­cabi Lions would be likely an­swers, but my choice would not be one of them.

While the first five have large Jewish fan-bases and/or key play­ers at board­room level, it is in fact League One out­fit Old­ham Ath­letic. Ly­ing eighth in the ta­ble, the Lat­ics have four mem­bers of the faith charged with run­ning the club. At board level, you have chair­man Si­mon Blitz, manag­ing di­rec­tor Si­mon Cor­ney, vice-pres­i­dent Chaim Be­ni­aker and di­rec­tor Danny Gazal.

In terms of play­ing per­son­nel, for­mer Rangers star Dean Fur­man, 21, has been earn­ing rave re­views as he looks to catch the eye of South Africa man­ager Joel San­tana ahead of next year’s World Cup fi­nals.

Full-back Joe Ja­cob­son, the for­mer Wales Un­der 21 cap­tain, has yet to play since mov­ing from Bris­tol Rovers due to in­jury. The club also has striker Nick Black­man, 19, on its books. The for­mer King David pupil, who is on loan from Black­burn Rovers, scored a long-range strike against Brent­ford. He has a Jewish mother and has played in a Mac­cabiah.

Cor­ney is de­lighted by the kosher con­nec­tion. “Each one of those boys is there on merit,” he told me. “Agent Matt Klein­man begged me to take Dean, who co­in­ci­den­tally was the first tar­get of new man­ager Dave Pen­ney. He’s been out­stand­ing in the last few games.

“Joe has had a good ca­reer at our level and hope­fully we’ll see how good he is. I didn’t know about Nick’s Jewish con­nec­tion un­til Dave Nadler jok­ingly asked if I was try­ing to get a minyan.”

The Jewish roots do not stop there. Since Cor­ney, Blitz and Gazal took over the club, they have had mezu­zot dot­ted around the ground and kosher food is avail­able in the board­room for mid­week games.

Like Cor­ney, Ja­cob­son and Fur­man fasted and did not train on Yom Kip­pur. The fol­low­ing day, Fur­man was man-of-the-match against the MK Dons. “Maybe we should get the team to fast be­fore ev­ery game,” Cor­ney joked.

MSFL cham­pi­ons North West Neas­den A get their Lon­don FA Sun­day Chal­lenge Cup cam­paign un­der way this week­end when they en­ter­tain Al­bion Manor. Sun­day’s sec­ond-round tie at Bricket Wood sees NWN looking to main­tain their un­beaten start to the cam­paign in a com­pe­ti­tion they reached the semi-fi­nals of last sea­son.

Hop­ing to give a de­but to Mac­cabiah star James Ger­sh­field, Neas­den will be miss­ing Matt Stock.

I’ve watched all 180 min­utes of Mac­cabi Haifa’s Cham­pi­ons League cam­paign. The 500-1 out­siders have lost to Bay­ern Mu­nich and Bor­deaux but have held their own in both games, suc­cumb­ing to late goals. The Greens may not be blessed with big names and world-class tal­ent but they are cer­tainly giv­ing a good ac­count of them­selves, per­haps only lack­ing qual­ity and com­po­sure in the fi­nal third. That, to­gether with Hapoel Tel Aviv’s re­cent victory over Celtic, leads me to be­lieve that Is­raeli foot­ball is on the way up.

With this in mind, I will say a lit­tle prayer for Dror Kash­tan and the boys ahead of their World Cup dou­ble-header against Moldova and the Swiss. Let’s hope there’s one fi­nal twist.

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