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Tom’s Transfer Talk – 7 Dec 2016

Port could be keeping hold of just one or two of their foreign players from last season, if Thai news reports are to be believed.

Thiago Cunha (10) left under a cloud with five weeks of the season still remaining. His final kick – perhaps his most accurate of the season – was aimed at the dressing room door rather than the goal, which incidentally he had struggled to find all season.

He was followed out of the door by Wagner Carioca (35), a player who many hoped would remain at PAT Stadium after a string of impressive displays in the second half of the season.

Now there are rumours that Rodrigo Maranhao (29) and Genki Nagasato (18) have also not made the cut.

Genki Nagasato

Genki Nagasato

Maranhao made an electric start to the 2016 season, scoring at will and looking every inch a TPL player, but his form faded markedly throughout the year and he found himself in and out of the starting XI in the final weeks of the season.

Genki, on the other hand, was not known for his match-winning displays but for his high workrate and consistent 7/10 performances. He featured in many positions across the midfield and attack without ever really making any of them his own.

It would seem that Jadet Meelarp – or perhaps an even higher power – are demanding more from their foreign contingent, and will be looking to the transfer market to add more firepower to the squad in their bid to secure TPL survival in 2017.

In a surprise twist, it is also being suggested that Renan Oliveira (25), who made just a couple of appearances last season, could remain at the club along with Captain and star player David Rochela (22). As Oliveira has not been seen at training of late, The Sandpit would be shocked if he was kept on, but stranger things have happened in the unpredictable world of Thai football!

Wanchalerm Yingyong, 23

Wanchalerm Yingyong, 23

In confirmed transfer news, 23 year old midfielder Wanchalerm Yingyong has joined on loan from big-spenders Chiang Rai, and in not-quite-confirmed-yet-but-pretty-close news Spanish playmaker Sergio Suarez will likely sign on the dotted line any day now, making him the first foreign signing of the season.

Thai attacking midfielder Pakin Kaikaew, who boasts an impressive record of 13 goals in 96 games over the last four seasons for TPL rivals Bangkok Glass, is also believed to be on the verge of joining, although as always The Sandpit will wait patiently and keep refreshing Madam Pang’s Instagram page until there is real confirmation.

Thanks to Sven from Thai-Fussball for some of the gossip, as without his work I would have almost nothing to steal and pass off as my own!

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Spit in the Sandpit: Cold Turkey

Hi. My name is John Spittal. Proud Port FC supporter since 2013. I am excited to share with The Sandpit my observances, beliefs and more importantly my biases about Port FC, and the sport of soccer…soccer? Whoops sorry, I just gave away my Canadian upbringing. I call these little writings..Spit in the Sandpit

Dear fellow Sandpitters. I don’t know if you will see me at the season home opener in February. The reason is I may have succumbed during this unbearable wait. The excruciating wait to watch my beloved Tarua play a meaningful match at PAT stadium.

You say it’s only two more months; I say two more months might as well be two more years. How bad is my withdrawal you ask? Well, I think I have forgotten what a football looks like! What is even more distressing is I have joined that fraternity of Thai Premier League referees in forgetting the rules of the game. When I see the distinctive blue and orange Port FC shirt on the streets, I run up to the startled supporter, clench his shirt with both my hands and openly weep. You hate to see a grown man cry? Then tell the TPL schedule maker about it.

I honestly can’t remember when was the last time I saw the local lads at PAT. Let’s see, I think it was pre-Cambrian age, way way back to the pre-Brent McGrath age. I have even forgotten why I hate Muangthong United….oh….wait, it hasn’t been THAT long. It’s all coming back to me. Thank you MTU, the thought of you has triggered how willing I am to wait months and even more months to see my Port FC. Go Tarua!

MATCH REPORT: Port FC 4-1 Thonburi University

Port got pre-season up and running with a low-key friendly win against Thonburi University on Saturday. The Sandpit, along with a couple of hundred fans, watched Port run out 4-1 winners in an unusual match played over three thirds.

Trialist Saër Sène opened the scoring for the Khlong Toei Army in the first period, before Todsapol (6) and then Ekkaphum (8) profited from the excellent wing-play of Pakorn (9) to put Port 3-0 up. Thonburi fought back with a smart freekick, before Sène capped a successful trial by rounding off the scoring in the dying minutes.

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In the first period of the match, Port fielded a combination of trialists and squad players. Young ‘keeper Rattanai (17) enjoyed a meteoric rise last season, winning a starting berth and making his debut for the Thailand Under 23 team. He looked comfortable, despite not having much to do, as Port controlled the game against their unfancied opponents without ever really looking likely to score. It took a mistake to break the deadlock. Thonburi passed the ball dangerously across their own goal and Sène pounced, intercepting the ball and showing composure in front of goal to give Port the lead.

In the second period Port fielded what looked like Meelarp’s first choice team. A front four of Sène, Genki (18), Ekkaphum (8) and Pakorn (9) turned up the heat, playing with more fluidity and creating chances consistently. Pakorn showed his class midway through the period, when he earned a freekick and delivered an inch-perfect cross which Todsapol (6) met with a textbook downward header, leaving the Thonburi ‘keeper with no chance. Port soon made it 3 as Sène flicked a clever pass through to Pakorn who, instead of opting to shoot from a tight angle, squared to the better placed Ekkaphum. On his weaker right foot, the fan-favourite made no mistake with a cool side-footed finish.

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Thonburi, determined not to go home empty-handed, scored a clever goal that they will remember for a while, but Worawut in the Port goal will want to forget. The Thonburi midfielder shaped to cross, but curled a delightful lob over the head of the Port ‘keeper, who was caught out of position. The ball ricoched off the far post and into the net, ensuring that the visitors could celebrate a goal if not a positive result.

15272343_1475582245789796_4163520404342404121_oIn the final period Meelarp sent out a Port team comprised of mostly trialists who played out an uninspiring 30 minutes until Sène once again underlined his credentials with a goal in the final seconds of the game. Unfortunately, all we can tell you about the goal is that it was well-applauded by the home fans, as we were on our way off to The Sportsman, where we would bump in to Captain David Rochela.

One of the stars of last season’s successful promotion campaign with his consistent rock-solid defending and invaluable leadership, Rochela proved to be as nice a guy off the pitch as he is a formidable defender on it.

We will be bringing you more pre-season match reports in the coming weeks in preparation for February 11th, when the long-anticipated 2017 season is scheduled to get under way.

 

Photos by Tim Russell

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Tom’s Transfer Talk – 4 Dec 2016

Rumours of comings and goings have been dominating discussion among Port fans in recent weeks. The Sandpit can confirm that Rodrigo Maranhao (29), despite talk of his departure, turned out for the first team in Saturday’s friendly, but compatriot Wagner Carioca (35), who announced his departure earlier in the week, was not involved. Despite his dominant displays at the heart of Port’s midfield last season, the combative midfielder has been deemed surplus to requirements for the coming season, but will continue to train with the team as he looks for a new club.

Sergio Suarez, 29

Sergio Suarez, 29

Talk of his replacement has repeatedly centred around Sergio Suarez. The 29 year old former Las Palmas and Songkhla midfielder was spotted running laps around the pitch by The Sandpit’s eagle-eyed scouts, seemingly confirming rumours that he is set to join the Klong Toey Army for the 2017 season.

In other rumours, French trialist Saer Sene scored twice in Port’s 4-1 friendly win against Thonburi University, potentially putting him in the frame to lead the line next season. Playing in a position that no Port player has really made his own over the last two seasons, the towering physical forward staked his claim with a composed finish to put the Klong Toey Army 1-0 up. He showed some skill with a deft flick in the build up to the third goal, but in the latter stages missed two chances that he probably would have expected to do better with. He found the target again at the death to round off the scoring, but The Sandpit was busy buying beer at the time.

Captain David Rochela, speaking exclusively to The Sandpit when we bumped into him outside The Sportsman later that evening, commented that the trialist had been with the club for two days,and that turnover of trialists has been fast and furious. We think that Coach Jadet Meelarp will likely want to see the striker face a tougher defence than that offered up by Thonburi before making up his mind.

Tom Goes Training

I popped in to the club shop on Monday afternoon to pick up a few ‘Back to Thai League’ t-shirts that I’d ordered from the club Facebook page. Having a few hours to kill, I decided to grab myself some pork satay from across the road and a cheeky Leo from the bloke who sells snacks and booze from the back of his truck outside the ticket office and watch training.

I was a bit early, so was the first in to Zone C, but Ittipol (7) and vice-captain Wuttichai (14) were already out on the pitch doing some fitness work. As I made my way to the upper tier I noticed that either the port fans have been taste-testing several different brands of lemonade or… ohhhh. None of the nearby bathrooms were open, so… great. Undeterred, I found myself a spot a safe distance from the mystery bottles and settled in.

Before long the players began to appear. Of the 5 foreign players who finished last season at the club, Wagner (35), captain Rochela (22), Maranhao (29) and Genki (18) were all there, but Oliveira (25), who barely played last season, was nowhere to be seen. No surprise there. Most of the rest of the squad were present except Meechok (20), Rattanai (17) and Tana (5), who have been on international duty for the last few weeks; Meechok with the under 20’s, Rattanai with the under 23’s and Tana with the first team. Atit (19) and Sathaporn (15) who were on loan last season from Muang Thong and Buriram respectively, seem to have gone back to their parent clubs. Piyachat (28) was the only player I expected to see but didn’t. He was a mid-season signing from Sukhothai, so I assume he is injured, rather than having moved on again.

There were about ten players who I have never seen before, so I assume there are several trialists, but no way to work out who any of them are. We will have to wait for the start of the season and follow everyone’s favourite source of Port transfer news – Madame Pang’s Instagram – in order to get confirmations of new signings.

There were also a few new faces on the coaching staff. A well-built Brazilian, who I gather is called Rod Pellegrino, was in charge of training, while another new coach, who I assume is also Brazilian, was training the goalkeepers seperately. He seems to have replaced the bleached-blonde goalkeeping coach from last season. So, for what they’re worth, those are my probably-completely-meaningless observations from a Monday afternoon training session.

It’s only been a couple of months, but it seems like forever since the season was so abruptly cut short. Can’t wait for the pre-season friendlies to begin, as it’s perfect football weather, and I assume it means the club will open the Zone B bathrooms again, ending the lemonade craze that has taken off on the upper tier of Zone C. See you all at PAT Stadium soon for beers, laughs and hopelessly trying to work out who is who during friendlies!

Think I’d Better Call Me Nan: Undercover in Nakhon Pathom

Following the latest outbreak of hostilities with those lovely people at Muangthong Utd, Port fans once again found ourselves locked out of the last three games of the season. But having already booked two minibuses for the away jaunt to Nakhon Pathom, we decided to stick it to The Man and go there anyway, and it turned out to be the most memorable game of the season.

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Some Muangthong merchandise is discovered en route

A few cold beers in the bag for the journey (I always vow not to drink on the bus but there are few sights more tempting than tiny beads of condensation forming on a can of Leo as it’s removed from the fridge, and I rapidly cave in), we embark for Nakhon Pathom in a two-bus convoy. Whilst bus two apparently have a Northern Soul party, we spend the journey coming up with new Port songs, generally on the themes of Hockers’ hat, our friends at Muangthong and their myriad deficiencies, or Keith calling his grandmother and eating nachos. You had to be there.

Our pre-match drinking plans are thrown into confusion when it transpires that our mooted venue is in fact a nightclub and doesn’t actually open until 10pm, but on arrival in Nakhon Pathom we find a suitable restaurant and are greeted with looks of terror by a waitress who had clearly planned to spend the afternoon staring at her phone rather than serving food & beers to 20 farang football fans.

The palatial surroundings of Nakhon Pathom Stadium

The palatial surroundings of Nakhon Pathom Stadium

Pre-match bracers consumed, we head on to Nakhon Pathom Stadium and do our best to arrive discreetly, given the fact that our presence is officially illegal. We’re not wearing Port colours – lower-division English football shirts are the order of the day – and as we park some distance away from the main stand we’re convinced we might just pull this off. Until we open the bus doors, step out and are greeted with shouts of “TARUA!” from the local kids. Fuck.

The Grassy Knoll

The Grassy Knoll

We notice a conveniently-placed grassy knoll behind one of the goals, which becomes a Plan B should we fail to negotiate tickets, but we needn’t worry, as the baffled ticket office girl, who looks as if she’s never seen a foreigner before, takes our money and hands over the tickets with glassy-eyed incomprehension, and we’re in.

The friendly, horizontally laid-back stewards (so laid-back they disappear at half time) in the opposite stand tell us we can bring in cans and bottles as long as we don’t throw them on the pitch – they’ve obviously met Port fans before – and so we send one of the buses to the local Sewen to stock up.

Transformers - Port Fans in DIsguise

Transformers – Port Fans in DIsguise

The home fans clearly know who we are but seem to find our presence more entertaining than confrontational, and as the game begins, 3 more Port fans in disguise shuffle in, identify us as compadres, and come to sit with us. Making a total away following of 23. We may be keeping quiet, but the home fans around us aren’t and – expertly led by Thailand’s youngest ultra, a shirtless 8-year old kid – they make a wonderful racket.

Amazingly, it didn't actually rain!

Amazingly, it didn’t actually rain!

The game itself is fairly forgettable. Port go 1-up in the first half and pound the home team’s goal without increasing their lead, then it all goes tits-up in the last few minutes with Port inexplicably pushing forward and leaving huge gaps at the back which Pathom exploit – twice – with the last kick of the game bringing a winning goal. 2-1. Bollocks.

At the final whistle wonderful things happen, as the home fans stand up and give us all a round of applause, which is a very moving moment that brings a tear to my jaded old eye, and provides a welcome reminder that, despite the unpleasantness of our recent visit to Muangthong, Thai football is generally a very friendly affair. We sing a few Port songs outside the stadium, and then return to the vans for the journey home, the usual 2 hours of drinking, singing and multiple toilet stops.

A wonderful, unexpected away trip and one that none of us will forget for a long while. Thanks as usual to Keith for organising the buses, and of course to the fans and stewards at Nakhon Pathom for making us so welcome. We look forward to returning – when they come up to the TPL of course…

 

Kenny’s Klip

 

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Suarez Linked With Port!

No, not the neck-chomping Barcelona superstar unfortunately, but 29-year old Spanish midfielder Sergio Suarez, formerly of Las Palmas and who has spent the last three seasons in Thailand: one at Police, and two at Songkhla Utd. He also made 125 appearances in the Spanish second tier for Las Palmas, scoring 15 goals. Not sure why he has a black eye in this picture but possibly suggests he’s the tough-tackling midfield dynamo we need.

His Wikipedia page has him listed as a Chiang Mai player for 2017, but according to SMM Sport, Port’s rumoured interest may have scuppered the deal, understandably so – why move to the fresh air and green hills of Chiang Mai when you could be playing amidst the scenic splendour of Khlong Thoey?

 

 

2017 TPL Season Start Date Announced

The new TPL season (yes, TPL!) will start on Saturday 11 February, say the Thai FA. As yet, that is all we know, with no announcements about season breaks or fixtures etc.

As usual with Thai football, there are still a few issues to be decided including:

  • Pattaya Utd – rumour has it that they will fold and their licence will be taken over by Udon
  • Port & Muangthong – it is as yet unclear whether the stadium ban will be carried over from last season, because the remaining games of the season were cancelled, or if the slate will be wiped clean
  • Samut Sakhon Power City FC – AKA the Artists Formerly Known as Osotspa or Various Variations Thereon. Dom informs me that Thai FA regulations state that a team cannot change its name after just one year under the previous name, so their current status is uncertain
  • Army Utd & Chainat FC – will they or won’t they appeal against their – unjust, in my opinion – relegation? Couldn’t give a flying hornbill about Cheating Chainat, but it would be good if Army stayed up as it’s an easy away trip, despite my wallet getting lifted last time I went there

Obviously it is completely unreasonable to expect to have any idea which teams will be involved in the TPL with the season being a whole 10 weeks away, so for updates, watch this space!