Written by: Stanley Payne, Born in Blackpool, Buangkok resident, closet fan of Hougang United
When the whistle blowed for full-time at Bedok Stadium on Wednesday night, a defeat to ninth-placed Geylang International, who were not playing their best football of late, had shown the latest plight of the Cheetahs this season so far. The Hougang HOOLS’ faces had shown that even with their cameraderie and singing for the entire ninety minutes, but in their faces shown that they had missed the “old” Hougang that they have adored for the last three seasons.
The “old” Hougang would have roughed up the likes Geylang, Woodlands, Tanjong Pagar and occasionally Albirex Niigata, whom the Cheetahs have shown their best performances lately, into a pulp.
The old Hougang also would have been near to the summit of the table at this time, if they had shown their direct attacking football at its finest with some fantastic runs from the wings.
Its easy to point out that the Cheetahs have been missing their former talismanic Canadian, Jordan Webb, who had switch from orange-black to the red of Home United. However, as an avid spectator of Hougang’s frantic pace of football for the last two years, I have known that the Cheetahs are blessed with the finest underrated wingers in Singapore, the ones who used to taunt the full backs and tear the defence apart. They are Fazli Jaffar and Basit Hamid, both who have yet been noticed by the National Team selection Committee.
Fazli in particular, has been a “victim” of Hougang’s unfamiliar passing plays in the middle. The Hougang equivalent of Ryan Giggs had been a maestro of assists, with the most for the 2011 & 2012 season, since joining from Gombak United. With the new passing play, Fazli has drifted into the middle too often, however, on occasions, his speed has caused problems for the opponents’ defence, in particularly against Tanjong pagar, where the Cheetahs have shown glimpses of their old selves.
Particularly, the Cheetahs passing game have caused the defence to move higher up, to be closer to the midfield. Against Geylang, the Cheetahs have moved closer to the middle of the pitch. This caused the Cheetahs to be prone to counter attacks, especially with strikers like Jozef Kaplan, who had caused much mayhem with his height and drop down headers to his fellow attackers. Many of times, the Cheetahs concede through counter attacks, with the two goals conceded in Bedok, and also Ismael Benahmed’s winning strike the last time round.
Lastly, the Cheetahs of old played with more tenacity and hustling around the opponents wherever they go. Skipper Lau Meng Meng have been sorely missed, where he is famous for being one of the best in man-marking for his entire time with the Cheetahs, while we have also missed Azhar Sairudin’s crunching timed-tackles, which have been Azhar’s best known skills during his time with the Cheetahs.
As a Hougang resident and a fan of their “old” football, I really hope that the players would enjoy playing for the Hougang United, especially when I feel at home whenever I catch a Hougang game at the Hougang Stadium. The HOOLS have been a fantastic bunch of individuals, taking time off from their family to lend their support for their beloved team. Lets all hope the old Hougang United will return, and also return the smiles to the players who have been clearly frustrated all evening, and also the smiles of the HOOLS, whom without them, S.League games would have been a monotonous affair.
Stanley Payne is a British football enthusiast who had came to Singapore in 2011 for an overseas posting. Hailing from the coastal town of Blackpool, England, Stan who stays in Buangkok have been following Hougang United, whenever time permits. His moment of being a closet Hougang fan came when the Cheetahs won 1-0 against Woodlands Wellington at Hougang Stadium. He also salutes the Hougang HOOLS, as he believed that they had started the fan revolution of singing and chanting in S.League stands, something which he believes had been missing in the league for a long time.