The Unofficial Hougang United FC Supporters Blog

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cheetahs want to be remembered for the right reasons

TNP Picture: Ariffin Jamar
Not many teams would conduct a clear-out of both players and staff after enjoying their best season.

But that's exactly what Hougang United did after recording their best-ever league finish, seventh, and a place in their first-ever cup final - the League Cup final which they narrowly lost on penalties to Albirex Niigata - last season.

Key players such as playmaker Carlos Delgado, captain Shariff Samat, No.1 and vice-captain Fadhil Salim and the club's second highest scorer Mohd Noor Ali have departed, along with head coach Aide Iskandar and his support staff.

"We might have lost kep players but we've brought in a few good ones as well" - Hougang captain Lau Meng Meng.

Only 10 of the class of 2012 remain and of the group, only four - Lau Meng Meng, Jordan Webb, Azhar Sairudin and Fazli Jaffar - were first-team regulars.

But chairman Bill Ng is in no doubt as to why he has changed a winning team.

He said: "Unfortunately last year the team were remembered for the wrong reasons and this year I want Hougang United to be remembered just for the football and the fans.

"That's why we decided to refresh the squad."

The wrong reasons Ng alluded to was the pre-match fracas which saw their match against Etoile lat May abandoned before the opening whistle, and the October incident when Shariff sent a chair hurtling through the dugout after being sent off against Gombak United. it earned him a ban for the rest of the season.

The man with the unenviable task of matching Hougang's best season, on the pitch, is former Woodlands coach Nenad Bacina.

The Croat turned down a better last-minute offer from Oman's Al-Nahda to join the Cheetahs because he had given his word.

Despite revamping the squad with nine new faces, including compatriots Ante Barac, Stanislav Vidakovic and former Courts Young Lions winger Ignatius Ang, he has achieved instant results, in pre-season at least.

Hougang go into the season unbeaten in their warm-up games, winning five and drawing once, against SAFFC.

"The hardest thing in football is to recreate success but that's what we will be aiming for." - Head coach Nenad Bacina.

Despite the good results on the pitch, it's something off the pitch which has grabbed Bacina's attention.

"I've spent seven years in the S-league but I've never seen this kind of fan support," said Bacina.

"I was with SAFFC and their supporters used to win the fan club of the year every year, but I've never heard the kind of cheering that we get from the Hougang HOOLs before.

"At the end of the day, players need to know there is someone behind them who appreciates what they do on the pitch."

Mervin Tan of HOOLs (Hougang Only One Love) said: "We started this project to show how important fan support is. The semangat (spirit) makes a lot of difference.

"Without it, I think we would have finished a few positions lower."

With so many fresh faces in the Cheetahs ranks and the club's best-ever season to emulate, Hougang may need all the help they can from their merry band of HOOLs. - TNP

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