The horror show that was 2016 may finally be over, but with Trump about to move into the White House, the Brits still trying to decide what Brexit actually means, and the Grim Reaper no doubt preparing to slake his recently acquired thirst for celebrity corpses, 2017 probably won’t be much better. But there is a glimmer of light on the horizon in the form of the 2017 T1 (for yes, that is its new name) season, which will of course feature our beloved Port FC. Here are the Sandpit team’s wishes for the forthcoming season…
Get Well Soon
I’d wish Pinyo a speedy recovery. He’s been doing fitness training with the squad, but still no news on whether he’ll be ready for the start of the season. I was hoping to see him in the friendlies, but he hasn’t made an appearance yet. He’s an exciting young player. Looked good winning Division 1 with Police United. A lot of promise there and right for Port. If he’s fully fit, Pinyo should get regular first team football at Port. If he was at one of the top clubs he might be stuck on the bench. One question might be his natural position is right wing and we already have Pakorn there. We could use Pakorn as a more central attacking midfielder or get them to switch between the positions. They played together at Police United so should be able to fit into a system fairly easily.
This is never going to happen, but this is a wish list so I’d love to see a return of the old classic badge. It’s a roaring Lion in a football, you can’t beat that. This is not just idle nostalgia. Port have never really cashed in on the opportunity for selling Port stuff. The old disney fish was never going to sell any football merchandise. I still see stickers and key rings of the old Lion design. Fans print it on t-shirts, it’s still going. It always wins the ultimate design test, “Which Port badge would you like permanently inked to your skin?”
Now every new management group wants to rebrand everything in football. We got it right already, just use that one.
One Season One Coach
I wish for a season with one Coach. Jadet consistently put out the best team we had or very close to it. He wrapped Pakorn on the knuckles for being a dick . When Thiago stormed off he brought Wagner in as soon as possible. Wagner’s return was a major factor in Port securing promotion. Most importantly we need some stability. M. Pang’s first season saw five managers last year we had two. How about one this year?
Most clubs in football are too quick to sack managers. Most seasons in Thai Football see a new manager and a complete rehaul of the squads. Recently Thai clubs are getting better and more clubs are building sides around a group of core players. This year we’ve finally managed to retain some players. We have an opportunity to build on the quality players we have. Hopfully Jadet can stick around and put together a decent team in 2017.
Let’s not be rubbish
This next one so simple, I wish we had more bins next to the terraces and around the ground. Not having enough bins just gives everyone a reason to drop rubbish everywhere. The place looks a state. Port have consistently placed out of the top 100 Thailand’s tidiest grounds. (Our highest finish was 67th, that year when the flooding washed all the rubbish away.)
50 years celebration 1967-2017
It’s Thai Port’s 50th anniversary, I wish I could think of something special the club could do for this. I still can’t think of anything good. Random ideas:
50 free footballs given away to 50 kids before each game?
50 free bottles of Leo given away before the game, possibly to the same kids?
50 foot poster of M. Pang (probably planned already).
50 baht tickets? (Scrap that, I’ll be buying a season ticket so that won’t help me)
50 free season tickets ?
50 old stars of Port? Including, Steve Robb, Moize, Munze, Ittipol, Leandro, Joe “5 yards”..
50 Port fans aged 1 to 50 years old photo opportunity?
“50 Shades of Port” 50 fans all wearing the Port shirts from each of the 50 seasons?
50 shots of 50% alcohol by volume laao kaao.
50 flavours of 50% fat free ice-cream?
In celebration of 50 years and M. Pang’s takeover of the club, a special showing of “Attack of the 50 foot woman”?
50 Cent half time show with a new single remixed, In Da “Thai Port” Club.
A physically competitive Port side
I’m not a football purist. A bit of tiki taka is all well and good, but give me a life-threatening slide tackle over a double-stepover any day of the week. Port in recent seasons, however, have been among the most diminutive teams in Thai football, and that’s saying something. The list of Port players of the last couple of seasons capable of winning a header goes something like this: Lee Ho, Ali Diarra, Brent McGrath, Wagner Carioca and David Rochela. With just one of those players still at the club, you see the problem. The TPL gets stronger and more competetive every year, and Port will need to be physical as well as technical if we are going to survive. Thankfully we have already brought in 6 foot 5 defender Elias Dolah, but more steel will be needed in midfield and attack.
A foreign striker who knows where the goal is
Brent McGrath, Kayne Vincent, Thiago Cunha… Just writing the names of Port’s recent foreign strikers makes me want to curl up in the fetal position and cry. With French striker Sene not impressing sufficiently in his trial, the foreign striker role is still up for grabs, so the pressure is on the club to get it right this season. A 20 goal striker could mean the difference between relegation and a top 10 finish.
More Port Internationals
Tana was Port’s sole representative in the Thai National team in 2016. With his place in the squad likely being taken by Suzuki Cup sensation Siroch Chatthong, it may fall to the younger generation to fly the flag for Khlong Toei in 2017. Pakorn certainly has the potential to make the step up, but will need to improve his decision making in the final third, perhaps looking to bring team mates in to the game more and dribbling less. Pinyo is another with alot of potential, but he will need to get fit and stay fit, which he was unable to do last season. Both Pakorn and Pinyo represented their country very successfully up to Under 23 level, but have not been able to make the step up, although with both still aged 23, time is on their side time. Another 23 year old who could be an outside contender is new signing Elias Dolah. The Thai-Swedish centre half has probably not appeared on Coach Zico’s radar yet, having played in Sweden’s lower leagues and Thai Division 1, but given his un-Thai height and the opportunity to play alongside and learn from Rochela, he could yet find himself under consideration if he impresses. Young right back Meechok and goalkeeper Rattanai broke in to the under 20 and under 23 teams respectively last season, but I suspect that 2017 will probably be too soon for either to make the step up to the full squad.
More Minibus Mayhem
When the fixture list comes out, the first thing I will be checking for is away games on a Saturday. After being denied our final-day trip to Rayong – where we would almost certainly have been celebrating promotion – we deserve some good away trips this season. Suphanburi, Chonburi, Pattaya and Navy are all well within day-trip range, so here’s hoping for some boozy trips complete with annoyingly catchy snack-inspired chants.
A Top 10 finish
Siam Sport reported recently that Port are eyeing a Top 10 finish this year. Winning a 6 pointer in a relegation scrap is great, and not much beats a successful promotion campaign, but us Port fans have had more than our fair share of ups and downs in recent years. Maybe it’s our turn for a safe top 10 finish and a solid cup run in 2017. Stranger things have happened!
One Team in Bangkok
With Army Utd relegated and Bangkok Utd continuing to play in Rangsit, Port FC will be the only truly Bangkok-based team in T1 in 2017. Just think about what a massive opportunity that is – the only top flight club in a huge city full of crazy local and expat football fans. A proper old-school football stadium with no running track, a great atmosphere and cheap tickets, just minutes away from Asoke and the MRT. This is a great chance for Port to truly brand itself as Bangkok’s team.
Sadly it probably won’t happen. Like West Ham or Millwall, Port are too closely tied to their locale to ever be taken to the city’s heart, and the club’s marketing and PR remains virtually non-existent – I lived on Sukhumvit 16, just a 5-minute motorbike ride from the PAT, from 2012-2014, and remained totally unaware of the club’s existence. And Buriram shirts still outnumber any other Thai club on Bangkok’s streets. But this season at least, there truly is only One Team in Bangkok, and the club should be shouting that fact from the rooftops!
Scary Foreign Striker
I began supporting Port in the summer of 2014, and apart from Leandro’s brief comeback at the end of that season, I’ve yet to see Port field what I have termed a Scary Foreign Striker. It seems as if every team we play has the kind of big, pacey farang forward who, when they run at the Port defence, causes sphincters to tighten from zones A to D. Even last season in the second division we were regularly tormented by SFSs, sometimes in the unlikeliest of places – Bangkok FC and Nakhon Pathom spring to mind.
Rumours would seem to suggest that former PSG and Bayern beanpole Saer Sene didn’t sufficiently impress during last year’s friendlies to be offered a contract (personally I thought he did enough but I’ve been following Coventry City for 40 years so have no idea what a decent striker looks like), and apart from somewhat less than scary ex-Blackburn/Rotherham journeyman Matt Derbyshire, no other FSs have as yet been linked with the club. With the new season just over 5 weeks away, and our T1 rivals already gettin’ down to some serious transfer activity, time is running out for Port to finally sign someone who can loosen the bowels of opposition fans and defenders alike.
Much as I love Port, and much as I love pulling on the sacred orange & blue before heading out to a match, it has to be said our kit designs leave much to be desired. Port seem to be following the trend that afflicts football worldwide at the moment, as kit manufacturers, under pressure to introduce new designs every season, take the kitchen sink approach & add all manner of unnecessary frippery to shirts – Nike’s rather pointless dark sleeves on the Man City & England shirts for example; that stupid diagonal white stripe on Middlesbrough’s otherwise very nice Adidas number; or Under Armour sticking various pointless black bits on the traditional white of Spurs.
Port started the 2015 season with a classic v-neck & collar number with simple orange & blue stripes, but when La Pang took over, it was swiftly replaced by a fussy shirt with more sponsor logos than an F1 car, and which lasted about two washes; whilst the 2016 shirt was marred by those daft white sleeves, and the green away shirt is best left unmentioned. This season I’m hoping for something more stylish, as befits the sartorial elegance that we Port fans display during the week – something like an orange & blue version of Crystal Palace’s 2015-16 shirt, or AC Milan’s latest strip.
I mean, just look at it. It’s gorgeous. Oh, and a bit of roominess wouldn’t go amiss – whilst the modern, slim-fitting shirt might look good on bronzed Mediterranean dreamboats like Rochela or Suarez, it doesn’t exactly flatter the Leo-bloated figure of the average Khlong Thoey or farang Port fan.
The only good thing to come out of the 2016 Battle of Muangthong and the subsequent stadium ban was the club’s decision to install a big screen in the Port FC Futsal stadium, a warehouse down by the docks (the kind of place usually seen in the climactic scenes of an episode of Starsky & Hutch), for the home game against Ubon UMT last October. The ensuing evening became a cross between a late 80s acid house rave and a football game, with flashing lights and pounding techno every time Port scored. I even danced at one point, something seasoned Russell-watchers haven’t observed since the mid 1990s. It was bloody brilliant, and the most fun I had at a Port game all season.
With both games against Muangthong being played behind closed doors in 2017, hopefully the club will repeat the exercise. A warehouse rave and a local derby, all in one? It has the makings of a legendary evening.
An End to Prohibition
Ever since it all went pwopah fackin’ naughty against Chainat in 2014, the PAT has been an alcohol-free zone. Everywhere we go – even the hallowed corrugated iron halls of the SCG – other clubs trust us, not always wisely, to bring in beers and not trash the place. At Nakhon Pathom last season, they even let us bring in glass bottles of Leo. But our own club won’t let us have a beer while watching the game. Of course, given the standard of security at the PAT you don’t have to be Howard Marks to smuggle in the booze, with tactics including stashing cans of Leo inside a sleeping bag (with no questions asked as to why you’d bring a sleeping bag to a football game, as if we were West Brom or something) or bringing in innocent-looking pints of Coke laced with Sangsom (not that the Sandpit team would ever resort to such desperate behaviour of course).
The good side of the booze ban is that I don’t get as drunk at games as I used to, or as I often do at away games (partying in the Rajamangala carpark with a bag of crickets in 2015 after we played Osotspa springs to mind), which is a lifesaver for Sunday night or midweek games. But the downside of the ban is that the Chainat game was the last time I actually saw the first few minutes of a second half at the PAT – now I’m too busy chugging back a 10-minute beer before rushing back into zone B. La Pang may want to instill a more family atmosphere at the PAT, but come on madame, this is KHLONG THOEY.