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South Korea warn against LVG, AVB rumours

South Korea
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 By Kenneth Tan

Philippe Aw to stay at Hougang United, vows to lift Singapore football

Despite failing to achieve their preseason target of achieving at least one piece of silverware, Hougang United will stick with coach Philippe Aw for the 2018 S.League season.

Speaking after his side's 1-0 S.League defeat to Balestier Khalsa on Thursday night, the 39-year-old revealed that he has been handed a one-year extension to his one-year contract.

"Well, I'm actually on a two-year deal," he said. "The club offered me another year just two months into the season because they believed in my work, and my vision to transform the club.

"I kept mum about it all this while because I believe to keep some things under the wrap, and also to see people's true colours."

Hougang have fallen way beyond expectations in 2017, with their latest result confirming that they will finish sixth -- the same position as last season under K. Balagumaran.

There was not much joy in the cup competitions too, as they failed to get out of the League Cup group stages, and saw their Singapore Cup run ended at the semifinal hurdle by Philippines' Global-Cebu FC.

It is a largely disappointing end to a season, in which many tipped them as dark horses for the S.League title.

But Aw, a firm advocate for youth development, believes there are positives to be drawn out of this campaign as he looks forward to building for the next.

"It's disappointing that we cannot go into our last game against Warriors FC to give them a good fight, but it's a good chance to give some young boys opportunities to play," the former Home United coach said.

"This year, we exposed the likes of Gerald Ting, Lionel Tan, Justin Hui and Gareth Low. Especially Gerald, who was part of the NFA [National Football Academy] system, but dropped out halfway through the season, and came to us.

"He played two great games against Albirex -- a 2-1 league win and a 0-0 draw in the League Cup -- and caught the attention, so now he's in Mongolia representing the national Under-18s; previously no chance.

"And Hougang led the way in terms of administration. We changed the entire dressing room in preseason, and made everything off the field more professional. The only club in Singapore doing all that is Albirex, and they deserved to be where they are now.

"Hopefully, the league finalises the rules for next season soon, so that we can plan ahead. Singapore football cannot go any lower, now and I want to be the one to change things. If not, we'll still be at this level five years down the road."

Hougang will conclude their 2017 S.League campaign on Nov. 17 away against Warriors FC, but will finish their season off with a Singapore Cup third-place playoff against Aw's old side Home eight days later.

Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT

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