Never again let it be said that Thailand lags behind the footballing powerhouses of the world. The Brazils, Spains and Germanys of this world may produce technically wonderful players and world class clubs, but when it comes to the sack race? Give me Thailand every time. Indeed, so renowned is Thailand becoming for its’ mastery in the under-appreciated art of sack-racing, they have even exported their craft to the home of football itself – England. Premier League champions Leicester, no less, saw their miraculous league-winning tinkerman unceremoniously shown the trapdoor by top Thai sack-merchant Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.
On the day that Thai sack-racing cemented its’ supremacy, pundits and journalists alike said it simply couldn’t be done. The lovable granddad who overcame 5,000-1 odds to lead the Foxes to the most remarkable league triumph in modern history couldn’t just be replaced by some chubby bloke no one had ever heard of called Craig. But replace him they did, and it paid immediate dividends, as the chubby bloke oversaw two stunning wins in his first two games in charge.
Meanwhile, back in Thailand, Sisaket boss Dusit Chalermsan was the first out of the door after just three games, and once again his sacking was rewarded by an immediate three points. Maybe there’s something to this managerial merry-go-round malarkey. If there is, then you’ll want to put a few shekels on Super Power Samut Prakan and Sukhothai picking up three points this weekend, as their managers Chalermwut Sa-ngaphol and Somchai Makmul have just got the chop after game week five, essentially guaranteeing The Power (yes, really) and The Fire Bats victory.
So what of the undisputed 2015 sack-race champions, not just of Thailand but the world? A breathtaking run of five managers in a single season put Port FC atop international sack-race standings, although they were not exactly rewarded with the success on the pitch, suffering TPL relegation. The following season, Port supremo Madame Pang tried another approach, experimenting with just two managers and winning promotion back to the top flight. In 2017 though, the same manager who brought Port back to the big time is looking increasingly likely to be the next to go, after some bizarre team selections have resulted in two humiliating defeats away from home.
Jadet Meelarp, who led Chonburi to a league triumph in 2007, has increasingly been drawing criticism from the Port fans for his inconsistent and downright confusing decisions in recent weeks. For the opening three games, he steadfastly refused to pick Tatchanon (39), widely regarded as Port’s best holding midfielder. He finally relented for the home tie with Navy, where Port kept their first clean sheet and Tatchanon gave a midfield master-class which surely assured his place in the team going forward. But no, for the away trip to Honda Tatchanon was dropped from the matchday squad altogether, and lost boy Siwapong (97) was given what should be his first and last start in a Port shirt before being hauled off early with the game already as good as lost.
Jadet’s next head-scratcher was the inclusion of flappy bird Weera (1) in goal. The man who you wouldn’t trust to hold your beer while you tie your shoelaces was inexplicably preferred to excellent young stopper Rattanai (17) and obvious second-choice Worawut (36). He proceeded to fumble and bumble his way through 90 calamitous minutes, being directly responsible for two of the five goals, and proving every Port fan right who nearly choked on their Leo after seeing his name in the starting lineup.
And this is just the game at Thai Honda. The week three clash with Bangkok Utd away saw the inexplicable inclusion of 34 year old Suchon (11) while natural right-winger Nitipong (34) was played in defence against one of the finest attacking teams in the league. Suchon looked a mile off the pace throughout, while Nitipong looked like a fish out of water in defence as Port shipped six and never looked like getting in to the game.
The trend that seems to be emerging if we look at all of these decisions as a whole, is that Jadet seems to want to just give everyone a go on the pitch. It doesn’t matter how good you are; as long as everyone gets a turn, then that’s the most important thing. With this attitude, Jadet will do a fine job coaching a school team once he does get sacked by Port, but this is T1 and if you want to stay in the league, picking your best players week in week out is a pre-requisite.
Jadet’s situation isn’t quite as simple as I’m making it out to be, though. Is he even the one picking the team every week? We know he isn’t giving the pre-match team talks, and that there is a constant presence on the bench with authority far greater than his. The extent to which this is a factor we just don’t know, but with that presence set to remain in place for the foreseeable future, would a change in management likely give the team a lift, and could another manager given the prevailing conditions get more out of this squad? I think so, and most Port fans seem to agree.
With a three week break coming up after Saturday’s tough test against giants Buriram, it would seem to be the ideal time to make the change in the likely event of Port’s first home defeat of the season. With former Port managers Dusit Chalermsan and Gary Stevens in the market for a job, speculation is understandably rife that Port’s axe-wielder-in-chief will ensure that Port finish fourth in the sack-race and that Jadet will be looking for a new job come Sunday.
I for one will have mixed feelings. Do I think Jadet is a great manager? No. Do I think Port will be better off with a new man at the helm? Yes. But do I think sacking him is likely to remove the root of the problem? I’m afraid not.