Balagumaran: Kogure will push Hougang to greater heights

Hougang United have secured the signing of last season’s Player of the Year Fumiya Kogure from Albirex Niigata (S) as the club looks to recover from a disastrous S.League campaign….

It is a real statement of intent for Hougang United to snag Kogure, who played an integral role in Albirex’s successful year.

The classy playmaker, who had made 45 appearances for the main Albirex Niigata side in the J-League, scored five goals and contributed 13 assists as the White Swans went on to lift both the Singapore Cup and the League Cup the previous term.

Hougang coach Balagumaran believes the 26-year-old is the missing formula in a Cheetahs side, which scored just 28 goals in 27 league games last season.

“Everyone knows what kind of player Kogure is,” he told FourFourTwo.

“He’s an intelligent playmaker who can create chances and take set pieces. He showed his quality in an Albirex side which is patient in possession and keeps the ball well; this is what we want and I think he can really fit into our team.

“I believe a lot of players at Albirex have gained a lot of experience playing with him in the past year, now I hope he can bring this and inspire our local players at Hougang.

“To me, it’s been very long since we saw players like Yahya Madon and Syed Faruk – such creative midfielders.”

With Singapore Cup finalists Home United reportedly also interested in the services of Kogure, Balagumaran was pleased that the Hougang management managed to convince the former to sign on the dotted line for the less-fancied Cheetahs.

“It’s a big achievement for a club like us to bring in a Player of the Year,” reflected the 51-year-old, who succeeded Salim Moin in the Hougang hot seat towards the end of last season.

“With the club running on a tight budget, it’s not easy getting him in. I heard Home also wanted to sign him and they can definitely offer a much higher salary, but he decided to sign for us.

“I spoke to him personally and with the management, telling him the style of play we’re looking for and he liked the approach. The management including the chairman managed to negotiate the terms of the contract with him, so I have to thank them.”

It has been a pretty decent off-season for Hougang so far as they have also secured the signatures of five LionsXII players in the form of Khairulhin Khalid, Nazrul Nazari, Wahyudi Wahid, Raihan Rahman and Samuel Benjamin.

Hougang have also signed Nazrul Nazari, who impressed for the LionsXII this season.

Besides that, Geylang International captain Jozef Kaplan and Courts Young Lions midfielder Afiq Noor are also believed to be amongst the slew of new signings.

Thus Balagumaran is satisfied with the current outlook of his squad so far as they aim for a top-five finish in the nine-team league in 2016.

“For now, we look good but the same can be said for other teams,” emphasized the former LionsXII assistant coach.

“We cannot be compared to Tampines (Rovers) who now have the core of the LionsXII squad, or even Geylang (International) who is building an established team.

“That said, it’s looking like it’ll be an open season and I believe every team has the chance to be in the top five. Where we finish will depends on how we fare against the big teams in the league.”