After the glamour games and the free hits, the serious preparation for the league season begins.
A shot at silverware against Step 3 Enfield Town at their lovely stadium; a trip to the seaside to open Step 6 Holland FC‘s impressive new £550,000 facility; and a visit to the immaculate second stadium on the Olympic Park for a game against Step 5 West Essex.
All hugely enjoyable, and friendships forged and strengthened, but perhaps not as useful for player-manager Geoff Ocran to gauge how his new team will fare in the Middlesex County Football League Division 1, Step 8 of the pyramid.
The one fixture so far against a club of similar standing, Step 7 side Sporting Hackney, resulted in a 4-2 victory and now we face our first Step 8 opponents in fellow MCFL1 side NW London FC.
The club was formed in 2015 by friends Wasim Khan and Samir Naji, who are from the Cricklewood and Kilburn areas, hence the club name. The Gorillas, as they are nicknamed, rose quickly and entered the MCFL1 last season where they finished seventh spot.
Manager Wasim told us: “Playing our first season in MCFL1, it was definitely a step up as some of the teams had massive ambition and budgets to match.
“We showed we could match any team as on our run to the semi-final of the league cup we beat two teams who ended up being promoted. We maybe didn’t have the squad depth that was needed as we weren’t as consistent but we knew on our day we could definitely beat any team in the league.
“We’re working hard to address that this year and our goal is promotion. It’s difficult to predict as there are so many new teams but our set-up has improved year on year and we’re an ambitious club who wants to go as far as possible.”
Asked about how pre-season has gone in terms of fitness, results and recruitment, Wasim said: “Generally very good, we drew to Kensington Borough (Step 6) in our first game and then were unbeaten in the next four games.
“There’s quite a few new faces and importantly we have a couple of key players with us again, for instance 18-year-old.Lucas Jimack, called up for Middlesex U-18, who scored 22 last season.”
Indeed the summer has been a success since NW London FC showed Arsene Wenger hoe to do it as they lifted a trophy at the Emirates Stadium.
Wasim explains: “Arsenal host a Charity Shield 11-a-side every year at the Emirates. We won without conceding a goal in May. It was a probably a result of us improving our quality during the first season in the MCFL.”
When asked about their style of play, Wasim said: “We’ve always favoured a technical football approach. Myself and Samir spent time in Brazil and learned a great deal out there in terms of training and tactics.
“We also want to be a club that is respected for our discipline, as we had one of the best records for that last year.”
Ocran told us: “We look forward to finally getting a chance to have a look at MCFL1 quality looks like and see how we match up. I’m sure they will be looking to land a psychological blow ahead of the season and so I expect them to be very competitive.
“As always, we will look to impose ourselves on the game and hopefully get another positive result.”
The pre-season friendly takes place at another interesting venue – New River Stadium in Wood Green, best known as the home of London Skolars rugby league team. Admission will be £2 and the bar will be open.