Hougang coach Bala told to go despite best finish
In shock move, Hougang release coach, Home's Aw set to take over
He guided them to their best finish in the S.League, and was the only local nominee on the three-man shortlist for the Coach of the Year Award.
But Hougang United's K Balagumaran will not be at the club next season.
In a shock move, Hougang's management has decided not to extend the 52-year-old's contract, which expires at the end of next month.
Sources told The New Paper that Home United's Philippe Aw is being considered as his replacement. Aw, 41, has been with the Protectors for 14 years as a player and coach.
He was handed the reins of Home's S.League team before the start of the 2015 season, and led the club to a sixth-placed finish in the league and a place in the RHB Singapore Cup final, where they lost to Albirex Niigata.
But, in July this year, with the club fourth after 16 games, Aw was replaced as head coach and redeployed as head of youth development and performance management, where he heads the club's Centre of Excellence, kids academy and scouting programmes.
Home's former assistant coach, Aidil Sharin, was then handed the reins of the S.League squad.
Aw's current contract with Home is understood to run until the end of the year.
Hougang chairman Bill Ng could not be reached last night.
Bala, however, told TNP: "The club told me they would not retain me.
"At the moment, I don't have any offers from other clubs, but I'll just have to move on."
Just last month, Hougang were in the hunt for a fourth-placed finish and qualification to the AFC Cup as the second highest local team.
But the club won just one of their last six matches, and slipped to sixth, which was still their best finish in the S.League.
Bala said one reason was that his players were distracted by off-field issues.
Fringe players were said to have been offered contracts for next season by the club's management, ahead of some of the club's first-team players, including Slovak Jozef Kaplan and top-scorer, Croat Stipe Plazibat.
While Bala said he would have wanted to build on his team's promising performance this season, he wished the club well.
"Even though it will come to an end, I've enjoyed my time at Hougang and I want to thank them for giving me the chance to lead the team," he said.
"The Hougang Hools (supporter group), especially, have been fantastic to me and the team all season.
"This team have a strong base and, if the club can build on that next season, they can do well."