Nazrul out to help Hougang achieve top-five S.League finish

Wingback Nazrul Nazari is keen to emphasise that his move from LionsXII to Hougang United isn’t “a step down” for his career as he looks forward to helping the club rise from the bottom of the competition. 

Much of the attention last December was focused around the playing futures of LionsXII players, following the disbandment of the team after the Memorandum of Understanding between the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) expired.

I’m just going to do my best to help Hougang and ... remain in the national set-up

One of the more surprising moves was Nazrul electing to join Hougang, a club which finished last in the S.League the previous season. However, the established national team player is adamant this is the right move for his career.

“For me, it’s certainly not a step down,” he told FourFourTwo after his new side’s first pre-season training session at Hougang Stadium on the weekend.

“It’s going to be a year for me to learn and for the rest to know that it doesn’t matter where you play at. It’s more important to get the chance to perform wherever you can, play with your heart in every game and help the club to achieve better things.

“It’s going to be an exciting year for us (former LionsXII players) when everyone is going to respective clubs. It’s time for us to show what we can do to help our local league.

“As for myself, I’m just going to do my best to help Hougang and for myself to remain in the national set-up.”

With familiar faces from LionsXII like Wahyudi Wahid, Raihan Rahman and Samuel Benjamin also linking up with the Cheetahs, Nazrul believes it will be easier to bed in with his new teammates.

The 24-year-old also has experience working with current Hougang coach K Balagumaran, who was the assistant to V Sundramoorthy when LionsXII lifted the 2013 Malaysia Super League title.

“It’s good that my former teammates are around because we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses well,” he explained. “As for ‘Bala’, I only knew him as the assistant coach in 2013.

“Now this is the time for me to show that I can help him and know more about what kind of coach he is.”

Having secured impressive signings like Anumanthan Mohan Kumar, Fumiya Kogure and Jozef Kaplan, it appears as though Hougang have assembled a rather tidy squad for season 2016.

Nazrul is aiming for a top-five finish in the nine-team league.

“It’s going to be a learning process for the club and the rest of the players,” he reflected. “I have a feeling it’ll be an interesting and exciting season here at Hougang with all the new players.

“It’s going to be tough with other teams also getting stronger, but hopefully we’ll be able to get top five in the league, or maybe the semi-finals of the Singapore Cup and League Cup.” 

Photo: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo