New coach Aw aims high with Hougang United
New coach Aw has ambitious plans for Hougang United
Optimism was in the air at the Hougang Stadium yesterday despite a torrential downpour.
Hougang United went through their paces for the first time under new coach Philippe Aw, who is hoping to guide the Cheetahs to a first top-half finish in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League next season.
At the end of the session, the 40-year-old asked his players to thank and mingle with the diehard supporters, who had surprised them by marching into the stadium and singing their cheers.
"I want to come here and make Hougang a better club, not only in terms of the first team, but also the Prime League team and the age-group sides," said the ex-Home United head coach.
"We will focus on the first and second teams for now; you can expect good football from these teams... and then a system will be put in place for the youth teams.
"In time to come, Hougang will be a force to be reckoned with."
Of Aw, Hougang chairman Bill Ng said: "He is always willing to take the extra steps, such as reading the boys' feelings and needs."
Ng is confident Aw will be the man to stop the revolving door of head coaches at Hougang - Aw is the eighth coach at the helm of the S.League club since they were renamed from Sengkang Punggol in 2011.
The Cheetahs have retained the services of local players such as Iqbal Hussain and reigning Young Player of the Year M Anumanthan, as well as Japanese midfielder Fumiya Kogure.
He is always willing to take the extra steps, such as reading the boys' feelings and needs.Hougang chairman Bill Ng on coach Philippe Aw
While they have lost last season's topscorer Stipe Plazibat to Home United, the club have brought back old boy Fareez Farhan from the Garena Young Lion s.
Also, Hougang have recruited Atsushi Shirota (Albirex Niigata), Fabian Kwok (Tampines Rovers) and French-Italian forward Antoine Viterale, while raiding the Protectors for Azhar Sairudin, Zulfahmi Arifin, Lionel Tan and Amir Zalani.
However, national striker Khairul Amri, who was previously linked with Hougang, has opted to sign with Tampines.
On his strikeforce, Aw said: "We still have Iqbal here and we have brought Fareez back.
"In the creative area, we have Azhar and Kogure, while we are also trying to bring a foreign forward in.
"With good guidance, I believe Fareez and Iqbal will produce good stuff.
"Amri is in his 30s, we need people to eventually take over him (in the national team).
"Hopefully, young Fareez and Iqbal can be the answer."
Fareez, who scored eight goals for the Young Lions last season, is determined to repay his coach's faith.
"It is very exciting for me to hear that because I've always wanted to be the top striker in the country, and coach Philippe has told me that he would develop me and Iqbal," said the 22-year-old, who played for Hougang in 2015.
"I will try to score more goals this season, and hope to even win the title with Hougang.
"We have a very strong squad, good coaching staff and good facilities... If Leicester City can win the Premier League, any club in Singapore can win the S.League title."
Ng to make decision on FAS elections soon
He is keeping his cards close to his chest.
For months now, Hougang United chairman Bill Ng has been touted as a possible candidate in the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) elections, which must be called by May.
When approached by The New Paper at the Hougang Stadium yesterday, Ng would only say: "I am still thinking about it.
"If I decide to run, it would mean that I would have to step aside from the Hougang project and work on football on a larger scale here.
"But I will make a decision soon."
Ng had reportedly spoken to former Tampines Rovers chairman Teo Hock Seng to join his team last year, although no other details are known at the moment.
Other than Ng, it is believed that interim FAS president Lim Kia Tong will form a team for the elections, while former Woodlands Wellington manager R Vengadasalam is expected to front another team.
The local fraternity will elect its first council in more than 30 years, after the affiliates approved a revised Constitution in an Extraordinary General Meeting last November.