It’s not about the money: Hong Kong Football Club won’t be splashing the cash with budget of just over HK$1 million

Wednesday’s trial attracted 80 hopefuls seeking to impress manager Richard Ewart ahead of the new top flight season kicking off at the end of August

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 July, 2016, 9:45pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 July, 2016, 4:51pm

The 80 hopefuls that turned up for Wednesday night’s Hong Kong Football Club trial will be expected to “walk over hot coals” to get into the side that will compete in the Hong Kong Premier League this season, although those few who are selected will still need to work a day job with only a “nominal” budget available for players.

Manager Richard Ewart is aiming to add around six new players to his current squad who finished as runners-up in the First Division for a second term in a row last season.

And the first step of that process took place on Wednesday as interested players were asked to fill in a form which asked for basic personal information, plus preferred position, experience and whether they are amateur or professional.

Lau Tsz-kin was one of those who signed up after featuring for Wong Tai Sin in the top flight last season only for the club to be relegated and then not seek dispensation to remain in the expanded 11-team league for 2016-17.

Ewart will then access players over two internal trial matches on Friday and Sunday before selecting those who he wishes to retain for fitness and conditioning training ahead of a first preseason friendly with Southern on July 31, with the season kicking off on August 28.

Come and play with us: Hong Kong Football Club seek new players ahead of Premier League return

“It is better than I expected. Hopefully we can reap the benefits,” said Ewart, who also put the current first team through their paces on Wednesday watched by the group of trialists.

“I can tell a footballer by the way he walks, I don’t need 45 minutes, 45 seconds is enough. I will look at the profile of the existing squad, there are clearly gaps within that squad, so it won’t just be a question of if this guy is good enough, it is a question of is he better than what I have already got?

“I am happy with what I have got, but if someone stands out, I will give them the opportunity.”

Ewart, though, won’t be able to offer significant salaries despite the club switching their status from amateur to professional with a budget of just HK$1 million set aside for operating costs which includes medical, security and player registration expenses.

Grand ambitions: South China look for former glories as they spend HK$25 million for new season

That figure is dwarfed by the HK$25 million South China, who finished third last season behind champions Eastern and Kitchee, have set aside to improve their squad for the new campaign.

“We won’t have a budget to compete with the likes of South China. We will have a nominal budget for players and then around HK$1 million to cover costs associated with running a team,” said Hong Kong Football Club soccer section committee member Neil Jensen.

“We want players who want to play for us in the Premier League and will walk over hot coals to do it. It’s not about the money.”

Hong Kong Football Club last played in the top flight in the 2010-11 season, but were relegated after just one season.

“Having all these guys turn up should be motivation for us and if it leads to pressure, try to turn that pressure into motivation,” said sales manager Frederik Schipper, who played in that team five years ago.

“Nobody last season was guaranteed to start every game, and it will be the case this season. We will train more and the main challenge will be to combine that with our day jobs.”