Eastern Salon eye big return to Hong Kong's top flight
After top-flight absence of four years, former powerhouse eyes Kitchee and South China
Newly promoted Eastern Salon aim to upset the South China-Kitchee dominance of the domestic game with a budget of more than HK$10 million for the coming season.
In announcing their squad of 22 players yesterday, club official Peter Leung Shou-chi did not hide their ambitions after a top-flight absence of four years.
"Eastern are a traditional big name in Hong Kong and we don't want to come back without a target," said Leung, one of the most experienced soccer administrators in Hong Kong. "Our objective is to finish in the top three of the league as well as mount serious challenges in the cups.
"As a newcomer, we face some problems in securing top-quality local players as most of them are bound by contract with those leading clubs, but I believe the players we have signed are the best possible moves we can make."
Former Footballer of the Year Li Haiqiang has joined from Tuen Mun, while national team fringe players including Man Pei-tak, Lau Lim-yat, Leung Tsz-chun and Wong Chin-hung have signed.
Man, who spent seven seasons with South China, joined for more playing opportunities, along with teammate Manoel Santos. The Brazilian midfielder was the captain of the League XI for the Lunar New Year competition.
Eastern have also secured several expatriates who have proven records with other teams in Hong Kong, such as Afonso Clayton (from Tai Po), Diego Moreira and Roberto Fronza (Tuen Mun) and Giovane da Silva (BC Rangers).
Coach Lee Kin-wo, who played for Eastern at their height a decade ago, said: "This is just a new beginning for the club and it would be unfair to make a comparison with the mighty squad of the 1990s.
"But if we establish ourselves in the first season, we can certainly attract more big names so that we can strengthen the team year by year."
Eastern won the league title from 1992 to 1995. They also clinched two FA Cup and two Senior Shield titles before being relegated in 2009.