|By Kenneth Tan
The 2012 S.League season may have just ended but for an aspiring club like Hougang United, preparations for the 2013 season is already underway.
18 men were gathered for their first pre-season training on Monday evening at the Khalsa Association and there were plenty of new faces spotted, although regulars like Ridzuan Fatah Hasan, Mamadou Diallo, Hasree Zais and Basit Hamid were missing due to personal reasons.
With Guinean striker Diallo the only one retained from the foreign legion of 2012, there will now be space for four more foreigners to join the 2013 team.
Five foreign trialists were spotted gearing up during the training session as they vied to impress new coach Alex Weaver.
Among the five, there was a familiar face in Adrian Butters. The towering centre back made 10 appearances for Woodlands Wellington last season before leaving in the mid-season transfer window.
When approached by Goal.com Singapore, the 24-year-old revealed the training session was good but that he was also going for trials with Tanjong Pagar United.
There were three new faces on the local front, although only two will be signing terms with the club.
Former Home United full-back Jeremy Chiang is rumored to have joined the club although he was not seen at the training session, while K. Vikraman, who was amongst the 18 players, is understood to be joining Patrick Vallee's revolution at Tanjong Pagar United instead.
The two boys who will be donning the Cheetahs' colours in 2013 - pending official confirmation - are two old boys, Fairoz Hasan and Shahir Hamzah.
Fairoz spent the early part of his career at Sengkang Punggol until 2008 before progressing to Young Lions the following season and subsequently Gombak United.
With the Bulls sitting out next season, the 24-year-old jumped at the chance to re-join his former club.
"I called [techical support manager] Bruce Tan to ask for permission [as to] whether it's okay for me to come back here," he revealed.
"It all now depends on the coach. Hopefully I'm staying and I just can't wait to get the season started with them."
For Shahir, a major restructuring of the LionsXII outfit meant he had to accept an offer which was available to him long before the announcement.
"I was here in 2010 before moving to Young Lions then LionsXII," he recalled.
"Actually I still had a contract here before I went to National Service in September that year. They called me in September to offer me a new contract [but] I didn't accept it then because I thought the opportunity for LionsXII will open up again.
"However, it changed at the eleventh hour and thus I'm back here right now."
The 23-year-old only recently returned to full fitness following an operation on his knee in May and failed to make a single appearance for the Malaysian Super League outfit.
New gaffer Weaver was keeping a keen eye on the charges throughout the two-hour long training session, constantly providing feedback to the players and trialists alike.
Although the club has refused to comment on the confirmation of his appointment as yet, Weaver has already updated his profile in social networking site Linkedin as 'Head Coach of Hougang United'.
His CV includes being the Director of Football for six years at the Manchester United Soccer Schools in the UK, in addition to being an Academy coach at English Premier League side Stoke City for two years.