Ex-Newcastle youth player Charlie Machell eyes SPL title with Hougang
Hougang's new signing Machell wants to dispel stereotype by scoring and firing them to first SPL title
If Hougang United are to improve on their highest finish of third in last year's Singapore Premier League (SPL), they will first have to overcome the departure of SPL Player of the Year Faris Ramli.
Filling the boots of the Singapore international attacker, who has joined Terengganu, will be no easy task.
But Hougang coach Clement Teo believes the signing of English midfielder Charlie Machell will go some way towards coping with the loss of a player who racked up 16 goals in last season's SPL.
Machell, who turned out for Cambodian champions Svay Rieng last year, has already opened his account for his new club - and in sensational style, too.
Latching on to a lay-off from forward Stipe Plazibat, the 25-year-old unleashed an unstoppable half-volley into the net in last week's 3-1 win over Lao Toyota in the AFC Cup.
Said Teo: "He is technically very sound and he's done very well so far, and has got on very well with the players here.
"He has shown in pre-season that he can prove himself in the league and in the AFC Cup.
"He can score goals, which is something that we will miss with Faris being away.
"He makes the runs into the box and what really helps us is that he is really versatile. We like what we see in him so far."
Machell, who can play in defensive midfield, as a box-to-box midfielder or as a playmaker, told The New Paper that he hopes to dispel the notion that he is just a "typical English midfielder who just likes to get stuck in".
Said the former Newcastle United youth player: "I don't want to be that typical English player who smashes people.
"I want to get involved in the game, create chances for my team and score goals. I have confidence in my ability to do that."
Having won the Cambodian league last year, Machell is eager to add an SPL winner's medal to his collection, and he pulled no punches when asked if he believes Hougang can do it.
He said: "They had a great season last year. But yeah, we want to win the league. It's as simple as that.
"I don't think I'd be here if the target was any different. And in the AFC Cup, we would like to go as far as we can. But, personally, I want to score plenty of goals and have lots of assists."
Hougang's transfer activity has certainly matched Machell's ambitions. The Cheetahs have also signed Australian defender Zac Anderson from Malaysian side Perak.
On the local front, they have snapped up defender Anders Aplin and attackers Shawal Anuar and Sahil Suhaimi.
Teo is delighted to see his club add quality and experience.
He said: "Yes, they are all major signings for the club but it's how the team do collectively that matters.
"We want to do better than last season. Everyone in the league has strengthened well and we will give it a shot."