The new Hougang United coach is keeping his feet on the ground despite an impressive 3-1 friendly win over SAFFC on Tuesday evening.
|By Kenneth Tan
Although it was just a rehearsal, the signs for the new-look Hougang United team looked ominous for those present at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Tuesday night.
In those 90 minutes against Singapore Cup holders SAFFC in a pre-season friendly, the Cheetahs gave glimpses of what supporters could come to expect in the 2013 season – rushing off the blocks to clinch a 2-0 lead within the first 10 minutes, controlling the tempo of play thereafter, before stringing a few magnificent passing moves together and running out 3-1 winners on the night.
It was a satisfying work-out for new gaffer Alex Weaver, who saw his training methods come to fruition in an actual game.
“There’s a lot of positives to take from today,” the Englishman said.
“[Some] obvious things were that we had three to four Prime League players who played tonight and [despite that] we managed to push them [SAFFC] back for the first 15 minutes of each half."
Weaver explained that he had put in place a six-week program in training, where they "slowly build up in terms of intensity and volume", as well as to "always manipulate the different aspects of an actual game", where every drill or exercise is done with the ball.
"I want them to be adaptable and versatile to play in different formations and positions even during the same game, and also work on the positive mindset and be attacking right from the start,” he elaborated.
That said, Weaver was keen for his side to stay grounded at such a premature stage of the season.
“This is just our first pre-season game and [it's] basically a conditioning session [so] that’s why we put two different teams for each half. It’s still early days – I don’t look too much into the score and we still have a lot to work on in terms of our system and style," he pointed out.
The Cheetahs' 2013 cohort is now pretty much settled, with most of the local players from last season retained while new signings Thomas Beattie and Jerome Baker join Mamadou Diallo in the foreign legion.
Based on the impressive partnership which ex-NFL forward Robert Ezakior and Liam Shotton, elder brother of Stoke City defender Ryan, forged in the first half where both grabbed goals, it looks like the duo will be snapped up by Weaver.
“I still have a couple of places up for grabs, Robert and Liam did really well but we've [still] got some options. I have another English player on trial and he will only reach Singapore next month,” he said.
The former Stoke City academy coach also paid tribute to the foundations of his predecessors, but refused to state a targeted finish for his side in 2013.
“This may not sound as specific as you like,” he said.
“But the goal is really to be better with every training session and game. On the pitch, the foundation have been laid down by Aide (Iskandar) and Nenad (Bacina), while off it, the chairman (Bill Ng) has also been supportive.
"I’ve been here (in Singapore) since July last year and seen a lot of games. We’ve done well to secure the core of the team [and] with this stability, I see no reason why we can’t compete with any other team in the league.”