S.League memories revived as ex-LionsXII star Raihan joins Hougang
Tough tackling midfielder Raihan Rahman says he joined Hougang United for the 2016 S.League season so he could relive his days as a Sengkang Punggol trainee.
Hougang United were formerly known as Sengkang Punggol where Raihan cut his teeth at the age of 15 as part of their youth programme.
"I chose Hougang because they were my first club," former LionsXII player Raihan told ESPN FC.
"I really feel comfortable at this club which carries a lot of good memories for me. I hope everything will go smoothly and it will be a successful season for me and the club."
Injuries meant a stop-start Malaysia Super League season for Raihan, with only nine appearances in all competitions for the LionsXII.
With that in mind, Raihan is determined to come back stronger and prove the critics wrong when he pulls on the Hougang jersey for the 2016 S.League season, starting in February.
"There is still fire in me and I am going to show people that Raihan Rahman is still capable of putting in a solid shift in defending and attacking," he said.
"Aiming to play well and start as many games as possible is my personal target, but my wish is also to try and score some goals and bring Hougang up to where they are supposed to be. Because we don't belong where we are at the moment."
While clubs like Warriors FC and Geylang International were also rumoured to be interested in his services, Raihan said Hougang's coach and supporters played a big part in his decision-making process.
Coach Bala[gumaran] was a big reason," he explained. "When he was assistant coach at LionsXII, he was always there to cheer me up and push me on with positive words even when I wasn't playing.
"To me, he is like a father figure. So now that I get to play for him, it really doesn't matter which position I'm deployed on the field. I'll go all out.
"Another reason for me joining Hougang is the supporters. You could see the passion from their fans. My teammate Wahyudi [Wahid] and I always talk about it and now that we are both at the club, hopefully we can bring some smiles to the fans who deserve it.
"I thought long and hard about it, and in the end, it was all about Hougang. I didn't come here just to sign for Hougang, I am here to prove to the supporters that I am here to help the club grow together.
"When I was growing up, my memories of a lot of fans watching the team at Hougang Stadium still makes me smile, and it is now up to us to bring the fans back to our ground with some good performances."
Having picked up the wooden spoon this year, coach Balagumaran is putting his own stamp on the playing squad with key players like Wahyudi and Raihan onboard.
Five others -- Nurhilmi Jasni, Ridhuan Barudin, Faiz Salleh, Delwinder Singh and Basil Chan -- have been retained from the existing squad.
And if the rumours of M. Anumanthan and Jozef Kaplan joining the club are true, then Hougang have every chance of competing with the big guns like Tampines Rovers, Home United and Warriors FC.