When Amy Recha announced his departure from Geylang International last season, many were curious about where the “Fox in the Box” would land. After all, Amy had a stellar 2021 season. He was a standout player and a consistent performer for the Eagles, with 12 goals and 3 assists. After months of speculation, his decision and new home have finally been revealed.
Like Amy, Hougang United had a largely fantastic 2021 campaign and finished third behind Lion City Sailors and Albirex Niigata (S). As the SPL’s second highest-ranked local side, they have thus qualified for the 2022 AFC Cup group stages. Yet, while Hougang had a brilliant start to the campaign in 2021, their momentum petered out in the second half of the season.
Hougang fans may disagree, but let’s look at the statistics. Before the mid-season break, the Cheetahs played 11 matches, of which they won seven, drew twice, and lost twice. A key reason for this great spell of form was their lynchpin in attack Tomoyuki Doi, who scored 14 goals in 11 games. Yet, when the second half of the season kicked off in July, the Cheetahs put up a poor showing and conceded a 4-1 defeat to the Jaguars in their first game back. This would be the first of five defeats that the club would suffer in the second half of the season. In addition, regarding the other five fixtures, they drew twice and only registered three wins.
What went wrong for Hougang United? Well, it would appear several issues plagued the Cheetahs as the season waged on.
Idraki Adnan established had himself as a pivotal figure for the Cheetahs whenever they orchestrated an offensive in the first half of the season. However, once he suffered a crucial ligament rupture during the first match of the second half of the season against the Jaguars, his season ended.
The Hougang defence looked formidable during the first half of the season, but in the second half, it seemed rather wobbly. I’m a massive Lionel Tan fan, and he had some remarkable displays before the mid-season break. However, he never fully captures the magic in the second half of the season. ]
And then, there’s their main man upfront as well – Tomoyuki Doi. While he bagged 14 in 11 games in the first half of the season, the Japanese ace only notched 5 goals in the 10 remaining matches. He may have finished the season as Singapore Premier League top scorer, but his performances during the first half of the season helped him over the finish line in the Golden Boot race.
That being said, don’t get me wrong. Doi was still an essential piece in the Hougang puzzle moving forward. He connected well with his teammates and found them in important positions with clever passes. But, nevertheless, Hougang needed to outscore their opponents to win, and Doi was supposed to be their main guy to get those goals.
This brings me to why Amy Recha is the missing piece in the Hougang United puzzle.
Three reasons spring to mind – goals, versatility, and most importantly, pre-existing chemistry.
Feel free to disagree with me, but I do believe that Amy Recha is one of the top poachers in Southeast Asia. Somehow, someway, you can find Amy in the penalty box. If he has the ball between his feet, you feel confident that he’s going to bury it into the back of the net. Geylang had Moresche and Amy shared the goal-scoring responsibility in 2021. While that burden was shared across the Hougang squad, Amy’s arrival helps ease the weight on Pedro Bortoluzo’s shoulders, who has big shoes to fill since many fans consider him to be Doi’s replacement.
Amy’s arrival also allows for numerous tactical variations that Clement Teo can utilize. Amy’s ability to effectively play as a right-winger, left-winger and most importantly, striker, allows him to be deployed in all three positions. This also enables the squad to seamlessly interchange between their front three-personnel, much like the Amy-Moresche-van Huizen combination we saw at Geylang towards the end of 2021. Yet, of course, the other question is, can Amy assimilate swiftly into this team?
I’m pretty confident Amy will gel well with his new teammates, mainly because he’s rubbed shoulders with many before. Shawal Anuar and Anders Aplin have played together with Amy for years whilst at Geylang. Other former Eagles teammates include Shahfiq Ghani, Shail Suhaimi, and Fabian Kwok, who have all featured alongside Amy at some point in his career. The prolific goalscorer also plays alongside Shahril Ishak again, his teammate (and someone he looked up to growing up) at Home United in 2018. Wh le he will be surrounded by familiar faces, one has more importance than the others. I sincerely believe that 2022 will be the season where we see several moments of magic between Amy Recha and Shawal Anuar. Something that fans (both old and new alike) can appreciate. Given his recent experience with the national team and his previous AFC Cup experience with Home United, Amy additionally has valuable continental experience under his belt – a big plus for Hougang as they prepare for a long season ahead.
Of course, Amy helps plug one gap in the team but a gaping one remains open. In essence, Amy is one missing link and until another is filled (or managed), Hougang may have crucial issues for 2021. I’m referring to the keeper position for those clueless as to what I’m talking about. Izwan Mahbud’s departure from Hougang has left a void that Mukundan Maran and Ridhuan Barudin have to fill.
This obviously deserves its own article, but I may not dedicate the time needed for one, given my hectic schedule. So, allow me to make this parting remark for the time being. Signing Izwan Mahnud for Hougang during the 2021 mid-season may have partly helped Hougang finish in third place. Yet, Izwan’s arrival inadvertently stunted Mukundan Maran’s development and denied Ridhuan Barudin from gaining good momentum. This season, both keepers start from scratch after Izwan hogged the starting keeper spot for the second half of the previous campaign.
Featured Image Credits: SoccerKakis, Singapore Premier League & Hougang United.
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