Photo Credits: Great Eastern Yeos’ S-League
In this blog section, Ng Ching Yan will tell us about Hougang’s trasistion from the wooden spoonists’ days of Sengkang Punggol to giant-killers Hougang United.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s Hougang United flying high! Once a bottom-table
regular, Hougang United has successfully transformed into a mid-table team. Their
ascension to a mid-table team was sparked when Aide Iskandar took the reins at
Sengkang-Punggol Football Club in 2010. During then, Hougang United was known as
Sengkang Punggol Football Club. Aide Iskandar worked wonders at Hougang United,
leading the Cheetahs to an unprecedented 7th position in the league as well as earning
a place in the Singapore League Cup finals. Despite losing to Albirex Niigata in the
Singapore Cup finals in 2011, Aide Iskandar had still transformed Hougang United into a
formidable side, no longer the whipping boys they used to be. Even though Aide Iskandar
left after 2011, the void left by him was quickly filled as Nenad Bacina took over in 2012
and managed to replicate his predecessor’s notable success by guiding Hougang United
to securing an 8th position in the league. Nenad Bacina was then appointed by Tampines
Rovers after the 2012 season.
The new era
2013 and Hougang United is enjoying a fresh start to life under the tutelage of new
manager Alex Weaver. Hougang United had still kept most of it’s local division intact
though which is concerting taking into account team chemistry and rapport is of
paramount importance in carving a team’s degree of success. They also bolstered their
squad with a couple of foreign players. Even though Hougang United had lost Jordan
Webb, who netted 33 times for them in his Hougang United career, the adage “no man
is bigger than a club” surely speaks volume that we shouldn’t write off Hougang United
as being a mid-table or even a top-table challenger. New manager Alex Weaver would
also be keen to prove that he have the capability to bring Hougang United to another level
after a series of abysmal pre-season results.
Well-armed on all fronts
That is definitely within the Cheetah’s reaches with the arsenal of firepower they have at
their dispense. Make no mistake, there is definitely no dearth of talents in the Cheetahs
camp. In part of the foreign coterie, they boast the likes of Thomas Beattie and Liam
Shotton as well as Mamadou Diallo, who can all shoulder the scoring responsibilities.
Should the trio fail to find form, Hougang United have new additions Robert Eziakor and
Jerome Baker at their disposal as well, with both of them forming the rest of the foreign
pool. Even though the onus will be on Liam Shotton to score, we should not forget the
presence of local strikers as well with Sobrie Mazelan also ready to net in some goals.
There is also the craft of Azhar Sairudin and the graft of the ever-reliable Lau Meng
Meng the Cheetahs can depend on in their bid for another record-breaking season. The
new tranche of local players includes new additions defender Shahir Hamzah, midfielder
Fairoz Hassan as well as winger Jeremy Chiang. A good attack may win a team games
but a good defence win championships. Don’t worry, that is not something depressing to
hear for the Cheetahs. Judging by the stellar performance of Hougang United’s defenders
Syaqir Sulaiman and Hasree Zais against Courts Young Lions in the first game of their
2013 S.League campaign, even though the Cheetahs conceded 33 goals in 24 games last
season, we can expect a meaner defence this season if both Syaqir Sulaiman and Hasree
Zais bring that form with them throughout the season. Hougang United definitely have
ample talents in every department to suggest that they are capable of challenging for mid-
table places. The goals conceded last season was just a facade of their goalkeeper’s true
abilities. Last season, Hougang United’s goalkeeper Fadhil Salim, wowed fans with his
lightning fast reflexes. If he manage to replicate his last season’s performances, it would
definitely be a mammoth task to score against the Cheetahs.
However, albeit boasting a strong squad, Hougang United is not the only team refining
their squad. Woodlands Wellington had recruited former Ajax youth player Khalid
Hamdaoui while Tanjong Pagar was more conspicuous with their transfers, luring
Monsef Zerka and a slew of french players as well as ex-Singapore international Ahmad
Latiff into their squad. Geylang United had successfully recruited Takuma Ito and
Shotaro Ihata into their camp while Balestier Khalsa now had Qiu Li donning their
colours. With the french revolution in Tanjong Pagar, Woodland Wellington’s dutch
addition and Geylang United’s Japanese sensations, will the Cheetahs be able to repeat or,
even better, transcend their last season’s feat?
If you ask me, yes they will but that doesn’t matter because in the past, the question used
to be if they will end up in the last place. Now, it is a question of whether they will end
up in mid-table, 6th or 7th place. So that already conclude that Hougang United is already
successful, successful in transforming from a wooden spoonist to a mid-table team. If the
Cheetahs can’t do it this season, there’s always the next season. At the end of the day, let’s
root for them all the way!
Ng Ching Yan is one of the Hougang Hools who resides in the Northeast. Together with fellow Hougang Hools Joberg Chan and Eric Teo, they formed a youthful team called Rivercove United. The three of them who are childhood friends, now follows Hougang United whenever they are available.