News • February 9, 2016
S.League 2016 Team Preview: Hougang United
Written by: Shawn Lim
To describe Hougang United’s 2015 Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League campaign as a tragedy would be a huge understatement.
On the pitch, results were so poor that the team had to undergo a mid-season shake up, which saw the Cheetahs released their underperforming foreign players like Renshi Yamaguchi, Manato Takahashi, Francisco Salvador Ela and Shunsuke Nakatake.
In their place came Diego Gama, Carlos Delgado, Atsushi Shimono and Vuk Sotirovic, as the Cheetahs also decided to give coach Salim Moin the sack with three games to spare and hired former LionsXII assistant coach K.Balagumaran.
However, the emergency changes came too little too late as the Cheetahs finished bottom of the league table.
To make matters worst for Hougang, affairs off the pitch weren’t that rosy either. The club’s proposed merger with Woodlands Wellington didn’t work out in the end, even though they managed to clear all their debts.
Balagrumaran, who ended the 2015 season with two defeats and a draw, will start with a clean slate this upcoming season after releasing most of the squad and will be buoyed by the new recruits that he has signed with the blessings of Hougang chairman Bill Ng.
The former Gombak United coach has managed to snag 2015 S.League Player of the Year Fumiya Kogure from Albirex Niigata (S), as well as former Geylang International influential captain Jozef Kaplan.
Balagumaran has also succssfully convinced former LionsXII players Raihan Rahman and Nazrul Nazari plus promising youngsters like M.Anumanthan, Afiq Noor and Iqbal Hussain to set up shop at Hougang Stadium.
In defence, the Cheetahs have welcomed back centre-back Wahyudi Wahid and signed veteran defender Yusiskandar Yusop, who will add much-needed experience to the backline, which also consists the likes of Delwinder Singh, Khairulnizam Jumahat and Ali Hudzaifi.
With the last-minute capture of former FC Gifu and V-Varen Nagasaki’s Croatian striker Stipe Plazibat rounding up the squad, the Cheetahs fans will be delighted with the businesses the club has done in the off-season.
They will now hope that with one of the most balanced squad in the league, the Cheetahs will be able to avoid a repeat of last season and finish in the top half of the table for the first time in their history.
Coach profile – K.Balagumaran
Into his second stint as a coach in the S.League, the 52-year-old will be hoping for better fortunes this time round after leading the Bulls to a ninth-placed finish in 2012.
Having spent the last three years in Malaysian football with LionsXII, where he won the 2013 Malaysian Super League and then at Negri Sembilan, Balagumaran believes he has gain invaluable experience as a tactician.
While the capture of Kogure is considered to be a coup, it was perhaps a shrewd decision by Balagumaran to sign a large bulk of players whom he worked with in his three previous clubs.
The good understanding between the coach and his players, could prove to be crucial over the course of the season.
Star Player – Fumiya Kogure
Can he do it again this season? That is the question the reigning Player of the Year must answer in his second season in the S.League.
If Kogure can replicate the form that saw him racked up five goals and 13 assists in all competitions for Albirex last year, then expect the goals to flow at Hougang Stadium.
Hougang United 2016 S.League squad
Huzaifah Abdul Aziz
Nur Na’iim Ishak
Nur Ridho Jafri