Time for another 2017 season preview, and today’s contributor is Swat Cat (see editor’s footnote) fan Russ John.
How will your team fare in 2017?
Nakhon Ratchasima has the stadium, a huge fan base and now has survived two seasons in the Premier League. Each season from now on, my hope is that the club can maintain its Premier League status, however cementing its place as a top ten team would be a real bonus.
I do not think that the Swatcats will be able to compete with the big boys in the near future. The team needs to develop the ability to attract top Thai players to the club – it would appear that present financial constraints preclude this from happening.
I have great confidence in Milos Joksic. When he took over last season, the team was in a mess, struggling on the brink of potential relegation. His introduction had an immediate effect on the attitude and tactics of the team. In my view the team was playing better in the latter half of the season than they were in the previous campaign when they finished a very creditable 8th place
Who is your most exciting new signing?
Victor Igbonefo, Antonio Pina and Krste Velkoski have all been recently signed. Of the three, I am most looking forward to seeing Igbonefo.
Which departed 2016 players will you miss the most?
Milos has ditched Tagbajumi, Nagano,Lindemann and Chivuta (a mistake in my mind regarding the latter two) and has begun to mould the team into HIS team with some astute signings. The only foreign player retained has been Dominic Adiyeah. Of these football wise Bjorn Lindemann will be missed. Personality and effort wise Noah Chivuta will be a great loss.
What changes would you like to see at your club?
I am pretty happy with the way things are going. People are continually suggesting that the club is badly run (as are many Thai clubs) but as a mere supporter, I see that the club has risen from tier 3 and has initially cemented itself as a mid table team. In the future I would like to see the club to have real ambition and aim for top 5 – everything is in place. 20k attendances would be the norm if the Swatcats were successful.
Which teams will finish at the top of T1?
Bangkok United but with a massive challenge from Muangthong United
Which teams will go down to T2?
Pattaya, Superpower and Navy will be battling to avoid relegation. I think Thai Honda, Ubon and Port will all, for various reasons, survive.
Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2017?
Buriram United of course, but all of the Isaan games will draw big crowds. I would like to think that the Swatcats could emerge as the top team in Isaan.
Finally, if you could change one thing about Thai football, what would it be?
Many things need change. Decisions made at the top in recent years have turned the TPL into a bit of a circus but as we have recently got a new crop of chiefs in, I don’t see much hope of change. The league needs stability and strong leadership to avoid continual name changes, location changes and teams just dropping out of the league. I would also like to see more professional behaviour on the pitch by players and of course better standards of refereeing.
Editor’s Footnote: What Is a Swat Cat?
Whenever we post anything about Nakhon Ratchasima, someone always asks us “WHAT IN GOD’S NAME IS A SWAT CAT?” And it’s a very good question. ‘Swat Cat’ may not be the silliest team nickname in Thailand, far from it, but it is one of the most mysterious. I know exactly what a Raging Mackerel is (I’ve seen a few in my time), and I can even get my head around the concept of a Glass Rabbit. But finding out what a Swat Cat is took me a considerable amount of research (OK, 30 seconds on Google).
Far from the snarling, sabre-toothed bastard of the NRFC badge, a Swat Cat – actually Si Sawat Cat to give it its correct name – is a cute & cuddly pedigree cat breed from Korat.
My research would appear to indicate that they are popular amongst connoisseurs of the feline form, and there is even a Korat Cat Conservation Club, which, if this picture is anything to go by, looks like a whole load of fun:
Anyone wanting to dive into the sordid, Bacchanalian world of Si Sawat cat appreciation can find out more on the somewhat worryingly named Cat Fanciers’ Association website.