Dom’s Thai Port Thai: Lesson 1 – Going to the Match

 

Football is a universal language – you can have a great day out at Port without knowing any Thai. Positive and negative comments hurled from the terraces are fairly easy to tell apart and beer is the pretty much the same word (เบียร์ – “bia”). So you have all the vocabulary you need there. I speak a bit of Thai so here is lesson 1 in my Thai Port Thai football vocabulary course!

 

Getting There

PAT Stadium is at 444 Sunthon Kosa Road, Khlong Thoey, Bangkok. See our info page for full directions.

As Tim said in the intro few taxi drivers have heard of Sunthon Kosa. I’d say only about half the taxi drivers I speak to follow Thai football.

You can ask a taxi driver  for Thai Port. Thai Port F.C.is normally referred to as ท่าเรือ Taa Rua,  the word for Port.

ไปสนามฟุตบอลท่าเรือ  pbai sanaam footbon taa rua?

=  go to Thai Port stadium

or

ไปสนามกีฬาท่าเรือ  pbai sanaam gila taa rua?

=  go to the Thai Port sports stadium?

 

If you’re nearby:

ฟุตบอล footbon taa rua

Football Thai Port

 

If you’re on the other side of town and want to get close:

ไปตลาดคลองเตย  pbai talaat klong toei?

=  go to klong toei market ?

Klong Toei Market is a five-minute walk away from the Thai Port stadium.

 

Away Games

Away games are a bit tougher. Some football stadium names are very long and unpronounceable. I spent ages trying to pronounce Thupatemi Stadium สนามกีฬาธูปเตมีย์ correctly. Then found out just saying Air force would have been better.

I normally just ask for football stadium and the club name and hope.

 

ไปสนามฟุตบอล………  pbai sanaam footbon …….?

=  Go to the football stadium of ………………?

 

pbai sanaam footbon …..Bangkok Glass ?

pbai sanaam footbon …..BBCU ?

 

Sometimes this still draws a blank, but there’s always another taxi or Uber.

 

Buying a Ticket

If you are wandering around the stadium and you say “ticket” in English to someone they will normally point you in the right direction. It’s at the corner of Zone B and Zone C. If you are still getting quizzical looks this might help.

 

ซื้อตั๋วที่ไหน ,    suu tua tee nai?   =  Where can I buy a ticket?

ตั๋ว ,  tŭa   =  a ticket

Normally I hear people say tŭa but also bat is used for ticket.

บัตร  ,  bàt   =   a ticket , = a card
The football vocabulary is largely from pickup-thai.com , not Thai for picking up but a good website for learning Thai. This page has the essential vocabulary and all-important sound files for the football words and phrases  http://pickup-thai.com/a-glossary-of-football-terms/  We can write out vocab in English, but to really get the sounds  right it’s good to listen to the sound files.

Lesson 2 coming soon!

 

MATCH REPORT: Port FC 3 – 1 Sukhothai

 

Port ran out 3-1 winners against Sukhothai in Thursday’s friendly at PAT Stadium. Port went 1-0 down early on, but equalized before half time and put in an excellent second half performance to secure a comfortable win.

Port started with Weera (1) in goal, Rochela (22) and Dolah (40) in central defence and Meechok (20) and Panpanpong (19) as full backs. Siwakorn (16) and Piyachat (28) operated in central midfield, with Suarez (4) tucking in behind striker Asdrubal(24). Both Genki (18) and Nitipong (34) were surprise selections on the wing, although Jadet is of course still experimenting with his team.

Sukhothai looked lively going forward in the early stages, but new signing Elias Dolah showed that he will be a force to be reckoned with this season with with some strong, fearless challenges in the air and on the ground. It was surprising, then, when Sukothai took the lead from a corner. Dolah was beaten – for the only time in the half – to a near post header, and the ball flashed past Weera into the Port goal.

Port responded with a sustained assault on the Sukothai goal. Genki, who is rumoured to be leaving the club when a suitable replacement can be found, missed three chances that he would have expected to do better with. If we was trying to convince Jadet to keep hold of him in 2017, he wasn’t going about it the right way.

Asdrubal, making his first appearance for Port, looked strong on the ball despite his diminutive stature. He turned a hopeful punt up the right wing in to an attack by out-muscling the opposing defenders and playing a smart pass inside when it looked like he had nowhere to go. He didn’t make the most of a good shooting chance from the edge of the area, but we’ll let him off as the playing surface was problematic for everyone.

Port looked a little lop-sided at times, with most of the good play coming through the middle of the park or the right hand side. Meechok got forward well from right back and made some dangerous overlapping runs past Nitipong, but on the left hand side Panpanpong and Genki showed little in the way of attacking intent.

Port’s equalizer came just before half time from a set-piece. Piyachat whipped a dangerous ball in, and Dolah stuck out a long leg to divert the ball goalwards. The ‘keeper managed to block the shot,but Dolah was on hand to bundle the ball in to the net and draw Port level.

 

An auspicious full moon over the PAT

 

As we’re used to seeing in friendlies, there were several changes made at half time, from both Port and Sukhothai. Worawut (36) came on for Weera in goal, and in defence Todsapol (6) and Piyachart (23) replaced Dolah and Panpanpong. New young signing Tatchanon (27) replaced Piyachat in the centre of midfield, while Pakorn (9) and Ekkapoom (8) took over from Nitipong and Genki on the wings. Maranhao (29), no longer a Port player but still training with the club, came on for Asdrubal in attack. Rochela, Meechok, Siwakorn and Suarez stayed out for the second period, but were all substituted later in the half.

Port’s left hand side looked much improved in the second period. Piyachart offered much more going forward than the more defensively-minded Panpanpong, and Ekkapoom played in his usual energetic and direct style.

It was to be Maranhao and Pakorn who would really turn the game in Port’s favour, though. Pakorn, looking slightly more slender than last season, was a constant menace down the right. He curled in a couple of fantastic shots which missed by just a few inches, and provided a trademark cross which Maranhao narrowly failed to connect with.

On the hour mark, though, Maranhao put Port in to the lead. He made a clever run in behind the defence, collected a through ball from midfield and side-footed a composed finish in to the bottom corner. Maranhao saluted the fans behind the goal,who were pleased to see him rediscover his early-2016 form. He may not be playing for us next season, but we wish him all the best wherever he goes.

Maranhao turned provider for Pakorn in the 78th minute. He twisted, turned and beat his defender on the left before showing excellent awareness to find Pakorn, who was in space on the right hand side. Pakorn powered his shot past the Sukhothai ‘keeper in to the bottom left corner, getting the goal that his second half performance deserved.

The pace dropped in the final 10 minutes, but Port comfortably held on for a well-deserved 3-1 win. Sukhothai finished 8th in the TPL last season and knocked Port out of the FA Cup with a convincing 4-0 win. Although this was only a friendly, a comfortable win represents a step in the right direction for a Port side aiming for a top half finish this season.

Lineups

1st half

Weera, Meechok, Rochela, Dolah, Pinkong, Siwakorn, Piyachat, Suarez, Genki, Nitipong, Asdrubal

2nd half

Worawut, Meechok (Pakasit, 76), Todsapol, Rochela (Anisong, 81), Piyachart, Tatchanon, Siwakorn (Siwapong, 72), Suarez (Wuttichai, 67), Ekkapoom, Pakorn, Maranhao

 

 

Crystal Balls 2017: Pattaya Utd

 

There’s more to Pattaya than Russian gangsters, ladyboy muggers, and Germans throwing themselves off hotel balconies – they’ve got a T1 football team too, and here’s Pattaya Utd fan Robin Lennon with a look at what 2017 may hold in store for the Blue Dolphins…

 

How will your team fare in 2017?

New owners, a new manager and virtually an entire new team make this campaign likely to be as unpredictable as last season. From the depths of post season despair when it looked like we were Udon bound, there is a renewed sense of excitement and optimism associated with the ownership change. The new manager is a former Pattaya manager who has brought what is hopefully the cream of his Bec Tero crop with him, but it is the return of fan favourites Milan Bubalo, Wellington Priori and ” The Helicopter ” Lee that have got the fans buzzing. Throw in 4 Muang Thong loanees and a few stalwarts from last season, if the manager can get them to gel over this next month in pre-season training and we get a kinder opening fixture run than last year I would hope for a mid table finish. We did it under less favourable circumstances last campaign.

Who is your most exciting new signing?

Who doesn’t want to see Brazilian flair, so for me it’s Wellington Priori. I wasn’t around at the time but I keep replaying the you tube clip of his astonishing goal on his original debut for the Dolphins, it would be up there for a goal of the season anywhere in the world. Worth a watch.

Which departed 2016 players will you miss the most?

On my Brazilian theme again, it was sad but inevitable that we’d lose last season’s goal machine Junior Negro and midfield playmaker Antonio Pina. Throw Soony Saad into the mix and the trio on their day made us an exciting attacking team last season.

What changes would you like to see at your club?

It was my first season following Thai football and Pattaya United and I was shocked at the complete lack of commercial and retail marketing presence supporting the club, travelling to the other cities/clubs put these deficiencies into perspective. The biggest change has now happened, ownership, and I’m hoping that the family conglomerate who’ve now taken control will develop the successful promotional model you see at clubs like Buriram, Muang Thong, Chiang Rai etc. I’m sure there is significant potential to expand the fan base if the club is actively promoted and marketed.

Hopefully a bit of momentum behind the club might encourage a bigger travelling away support. There was some seriously impressive turnouts from other clubs at our stadium last season.

Which teams will finish at the top of T1?

If it’s not Pattaya United, hard to see past Muang Thong, ( sorry ), Bangkok United and Chiang Rai. I want to see the title winners rotate each year to keep interest growing in the league.

Which teams will go down to T2?

I’ll give the newcomers the benefit of the doubt since I haven’t seen them play. I’ll go for Navy who I thought would have gone down last season had it been completed, the new incarnation of Osotspa and (Udon) Bec Tero.

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2017?

All away games but the shortest trip and local derby against Navy was a highlight of last season, they have a great pre-match live music and beer set-up. Unsurprisingly it was our biggest travelling support and the covered away section amplifies the noise level and is situated right next to the young Navy recruits packed singing section, bouncing atmosphere. Thai Port if your owner does selfies with the away fans.

Finally, if you could change one thing about Thai football, what would it be?

If it happens, the ability for another club to jump the promotion queue by buying and relocating another with no thought for the fan base of the acquired club.

 

,

Kaluderovic Signs For Port

 

Serbian striker Andrija Kaluđerović has become Port’s third foreign signing of the season. The 29-year old goal machine is fresh off a season where he banged in 20 goals in 19 games in the Lithuanian top flight, making him the league’s top scorer. We don’t know a lot about the standard of Lithuanian football, but we’re pretty sure that means he knows where the goal is.

If his history is anything to go by, Kaluđerović doesn’t like to stay in the same place for long. He has played for a pretty remarkable 18 clubs in a 14 year career that has included stints in Serbia, China, Spain, Cyprus, Switzerland, Australia, Qatar, Lithuania and now Thailand. He must have been through a few passports! The highlights of his nomadic adventures include playing for Serbian giants Red Star Belgrade (29 goals in 43 games), second tier Spanish side Racing Santander (3 goals in 18 games) and A League side Brisbane Roar (5 goals in 10 games).

Milica Stanisic

The trivial business of playing football and scoring goals aside, perhaps the most impressive achievement of Kaluđerović’s career to date is his marriage to Serbian TV presenter Milica Stanisic. We don’t know if she will be watching the games at PAT Stadium, but we are pretty sure that the Zone A regulars will tell us about it if she does.

Kaluđerović has become the Port’s fourth foreign player, but because of the 3+1 quota system, only three of Kaluđerović, Asdrubal, Suarez and Rochela can be on the pitch at any time. With Rochela’s place in the side assured, and Suarez looking fantastic in midfield, it may be a shootout between Kaluđerović and Asdrubal for the starting role up front. We haven’t seen either of them in action for Port yet, but it looks like an intriguing battle, which we will we be watching with interest throughout the season.

We’re going to leave you with this video of Kaluđerović scoring goals at will for Lithuanian side Zalgiris last season. Welcome to Port FC, Andrija!

 

 

Crystal Balls 2017: Nakhon Ratchasima FC

 

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.

 

GRRRRRR!!!

 

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.

 

Crystal Balls 2017: Chonburi FC

 

The Sandpit will soon be publishing an in-depth preview of Port FC’s 2017 season. In the meantime, we asked fans of other T1 clubs to share their thoughts and predictions for the new season, and we begin with Chonburi FC fan Dale Farrington, the brains behind Chonburi’s English language fan website.

 

How will your team fare in 2017?

Hard to say. We offloaded most (all!) of our influential players from last season, and are left with a paper thin squad, made up of youngsters and players who are well past their prime. As things stand, I’d settle for a top ten finish.

Who is your most exciting new signing?

None of our new signings particularly excite me. Renan Marques could prove to be the best of a bad bunch.

Which departed 2016 players will you miss the most?

How long have you got?! Adul, Leandro, dos Santos, Jong Pil all went. They were the first four names on most fans’ “to keep” list at the end of last season. That tells you a lot about our club’s current (lack of) ambition.

What changes would you like to see at your club?

Being allowed to eat and drink inside the ground would be a start. Other than, for the current owners to sell up and let someone else have a go.

Which teams will finish at the top of T1?

In no particular order:
Muang Thong Utd (Boooooo! Ed)
Bangkok Utd
Buriram Utd

Which teams will go down to T2?

Osotspa (Super Power)
Tero if they move to Udon (that would amuse me)
and – hopefully – P*ttaya U*d

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2017?

None. I’m dreading it!
But, if pushed, I always enjoy Ratchaburi and Sukhothai away. Plus I’m looking forward to visiting any grounds I haven’t been to before.

Finally, if you could change one thing about Thai football, what would it be?

I’d leave it exactly as it is. If it wasn’t for all the off field shenanigans, we’d only be left with the football – and that’s nowhere near entertaining enough to sustain interest.

 

Get Yer Crystal Balls Out! Season Previews Wanted

 

As the 2017 T1 season approaches, we’d like to hear from supporters of other top flight Thai clubs to find out how you think your team’s season, and the season in general, will pan out.

We can’t promise to use all submissions but if it’s well-written, interesting & entertaining then we’ll definitely publish it! So to let us know how you think your team will fare next season, follow this link, fill in the form and submit. If you need any further incentive, all those whose previews are published will get a bottle of Leo when they visit the PAT next season!

 

Sergio Suarez: Super Agent?

 

Sergio Suarez has been Port’s most impressive player so far in pre-season, but could he be having even more impact off the pitch than he has had on it?

The 29-year old Spaniard began his career in Las Palmas, where he progressed through the ranks alongside his twin brother Francisco. The two were loaned out to Castillo to gain experience in 2005-06, and impressed so much that there was apparently interest from Barcelona. As you might have guessed, Suarez didn’t end up making the move to the Nou Camp. Not this Suarez, anyway. He stayed at Las Palmas for a further six seasons – scoring 15 goals in 125 games – before eventually falling out of favour. After being loaned out to CD Mirandes in 2012, Suarez returned to Las Palmas and was not even given a squad number.

That’s when he decided the time was right to move on. He joined Police United in the TPL, then the following season moved South to Songkhla in Division 1. His two seasons in Thai football have yielded an impressive 13 goals in 52 games, but Port have already benefited in a different and perhaps unexpected way from Suarez’ presence before a single competitive game has even been played.

Sergio and Francisco Suarez, 29

Whilst still at Songkhla, Suarez facilitated the transfer of his twin brother Francisco to The Southern Fighting Bulls, but Suarez’ agenting skills have since come back to haunt Songkhla and help Port. Since making the move to Khlong Toei, Suarez has been instrumental in convincing both Elias Dolah (a former Songkhla teammate) and Asdrubal (a former Las Palmas teammate) to join him at PAT Stadium. Port have struggled in the transfer market in recent seasons, so after deals for Frenchman Saer Sene and Argentine Bernardo Cuesta fell through, Port fans could be forgiven for fearing the worst. But now things are really starting to look up. Suarez has not only looked the real deal on the pitch, but has brought with him the fire-power that could prove crucial in T1 next season. And with two more foreign players to come in, should we be poring over lists of Suarez’ former teammates to figure out who will be arriving next?

Regardless, we’re certainly happy with what we’ve seen so far from Sergio Suarez. We hope he continues to prove his worth on the pitch, and bring us as many of his best former teammates as he can!

 

Tom’s Transfer Talk – 7 Jan 2017

 

The big news is that former La Liga forward Asdrubal has become Port’s third Spanish signing, as regular readers of The Sandpit will already know.

A lot else has happened since the last Transfer Talk though, so we’ve got a lot to cover here. Let’s start with what didn’t happen.

Bernardo Cuesta, 28

As we suspected a couple of weeks ago, Frenchman Saer Sene didn’t do enough to earn himself a contract, meaning that attention turned to the ‘mystery Argentine’ – the subject of our last Transfer Talk – who was expected to be unveiled after new year. It was eventually revealed that the forward in question was Bernardo Cuesta, but he ultimately decided to stay with FBC Melgar in Peru. With no potential signings on the horizon and the start of the season getting closer, eyebrows were starting to be raised.

Then came Asdrubal. The relatively short but stocky 25 year old forward has been at Las Palmas since the age of 6, but decided to join the ever-growing Spanish contingent at Port as he was stuck on the fringes of the squad, unable to force his way in to the First XI. We’re absolutely delighted that we’ve managed to bring in a player of his calibre with La Liga experience, and somehow we don’t think he’ll have the same problem here!

In other news, Transfer Talk favourite Panpanpong Pinkong’s move to Khlong Toei is now confirmed, meaning he will battle it out with Piyachart (23) and Suchon (11) for a regular starting berth at left back, The Sandpit are already sharpening our puncils.

Watchara, 23

The battle to be next season’s starting goalkeeper has also claimed it’s first victim. Watchara (1), who was loaned to BBCU last season, will once again make the temporary move to The Pink Panthers, leaving Worawut (36) and youngster Rattanai (17) to slug it out for a starting place.

Now after all of that confirmed news, we finish with our bread and butter: good old fashioned gossip.

As we reported earlier in the closed season, all of last season’s foreign players from 2016 besides talisman David Rochela are likely to be replaced. With Rochela already being joined by countrymen Sergio Suarez and Asdrubal, two foreign spots remain; one for any nationality, and one for an Asian player (Dolah is not included as he is half Thai). We are hearing whispers that the final two foreign players will be announced next week on January 11th, the day before the team go for a 6 day training camp to Hua Hin. Once again there is no word on who the new signings might be, but it seems likely that the club will be going after a left winger to replace Genki, and either another striker or an attacking midfielder.

Tom’s Transfer Talk will be back to be discuss the results – or lack thereof – of the January 11th announcement. We hope to be reporting more good news!

 

Dolah Swaps Krona For Baht

 

Just days after The Sandpit suggested that Elias Dolah should be considered for selection by Thai national team coach Zico, the Thai-Swedish centre half has declared his intention to represent the War Elephants at international level.

Dolah started his career in Sweden, where he played for Lunds BK and then FC Rosengard. From there he made the switch to Thai Division 1, signing with Songkhla United where he played 23 times last season. Despite suffering an injury setback, the 6 foot 5 colossus impressed enough to attract the attentions of some of Thailand’s biggest clubs, including Buriram United and Bangkok Glass. Dolah was reportedly even offered trials by clubs in Japan, but the youngster chose Port FC, citing the atmosphere around the club and the fans as key factors in his decision.

Elias Dolah, 23

“I came to practice with the team, and they gave me a very warm welcome. My friend [Sergio Suarez] also recently moved to the club. We both work well together.”

“I was impressed by Port FC last season when we played at PAT Stadium. The fans were full of passion. If I compared them to a team in Sweden, it would be AIK. The atmosphere is similar.”

Turning his attention to his hopes for the future, Dolah said recently in an interview with Skånesport that he has set his sights on playing for the country of his father’s birth.

Of course, the Thailand national team is the best team in Southeast Asia. They recently drew with Australia in their World Cup qualifier. I hope that I will get to that point, but I have to play in the top league first. And now I am here.”

So, what of Dolah’s chances? At 1.96 meters Dolah offers something unique to the national team: height. Thailand have struggled defensively with long balls and set pieces for as long as I’ve been watching them. Playing in the recent Suzuki Cup with other South East Asian nations this was rarely an issue, but in the World Cup Qualifiers when Thailand have faced more physical teams like Iraq and UAE, their weakness has been brutally exposed. Surely a player of Dolah’s stature would help the team in a way that current starting central defenders Adisorn Promrak and Prathum Chuthong, who both stand at 1.75 meters, just can’t.

The switch to 3 centre halves that Zico first trialled with great success in the draw against Australia also opens up room in the squad for another defender. Pravinwat Boonyong from Bangkok Glass came in to the recent Suzuki Cup squad, but was distinctly unimpressive the few times he played, meaning Zico is likely to be looking elsewhere when he picks his next squad in March.

If Dolah makes a good start to the season, striking up a strong partnership with captain David Rochela and getting on the end of Pakorn’s ever-threatening deliveries, then Zico would be well advised to take a very close look at Dolah. He took a risk on young, inexperienced but physically dominant Ubon forward Siroch Chatthong last year, and ended up unearthing a gem.

Port fans will be hoping first and foremost that Dolah’s performances for his new club merit this kind of recognition, as a strong central defensive pairing will be crucial in next season’s push for a top 10 finish.