Port face a very difficult trip to high flyers Bangkok Glass this Saturday (5 August, 19:00), so to whet your appetites for one of Thai football’s longest-established Bangkok derbies, we had a chat to Glass’ long-serving Australian defender, and captain, Matt Smith…
How has the 2017 season been for you so far?
I feel BG had a good but mixed first leg. I feel the football we have played at times has been positive and attractive and we’ve put in some good performances and controlled games. However, I feel that we have let ourselves down by some sloppy results against the lower positioned teams in the league. For us to develop further we must continue to grow mentally and become more consistent.
I’m very happy with the team and professional manner in which the players have conducted themselves and feel we have a good squad. I’m confident we can take this into the remaining games and finish the season strong.
Which other teams have most impressed you this season?
I think the most complete team I’ve played against this season is Buriram. Although we beat them earlier in the season I feel they have a good mix of structure/ approach (both in attack and defence) and individually have some good players that can change games.
This is your third season at Glass, which counts as long service in Thai football! What’s kept you at the club for so long?
I guess you’ll have to ask the club… : ) Before I arrived at BG I conducted a lot of research about the club and the league before I decided to leave Brisbane. Supasin (VP) and Ricardo (former coach) flew to Brisbane to watch me play and we spent the next day discussing everything football. At that point the direction and vision that both the coach and the club had excited me and enticed to me to sign. I feel this is important as a player because I believe in working towards something greater and I wanted to align my ambition and character with that of a club with similar mentality.
Since being here my approach and attitude hasn’t changed to what I would desire to achieve here with BG, both individually and more important collectively. Hard work, professionalism and commitment are things I feel are minimal standards for football players.
With all this in mind, I guess I can and cannot control some things. But what I can help control and shape is the direction, professionalism and culture needed for players and the team to progress. I hold high standards of myself and others and believe in the collective progression.
I do not know what will happen in the future and I’m unsure even if I have answered this question, haha! You’ll have to ask the club why I have stayed here for the current time, but while I am here at BG I’m committed to helping develop this club.
During your time in Thai football, who’s the best opposition player you’ve faced?
There are some very good local and foreign players that I’ve played against during my time here. For me I look for consistency of quality and players that step up when the challenge is there.
Therefore, the best local player is Messi J. And best foreign player is Diogo.
You’re famously vocal on the pitch, to teammates and opposition players alike. Thai players are notoriously thin-skinned – have any of your colleagues or opponents ever taken offence? Do you shout in English, Thai or both?
Haha, famously vocal… interesting. I guess my football education in England and Australia was culturally very different to Thai football behaviour. I am always very conscious of my actions and behaviour here but to a limit that I don’t change myself as a player too much. I have some fantastic teammates that understand my behaviour both on and off the pitch. I truly respect Thai culture but also want to help create a positive environment of mutual accountability and high standards where all players, young, old, foreign or Thai have the ability and freedom to express themselves.
What about other cultural differences – what are the hardest things for foreign players coming to Thailand to adapt to? What advice would you give to foreigners thinking of moving here?
With any move to a new league and club I feel the player should always do his/her homework. Once making the decision to come to Thailand don’t drop your standards and keep pushing to be better and be successful. For any player, the moment you get in your comfort zone is the moment your standards drop.
You recently stated that you want to become a coach, possibly here in Asia, once your playing career is over. What’s the first thing you would train Thai defenders to do better?
Yes I do want to become a coach. This is not something new and have been studying it for a long time now.
One of the things I would improve is… I think collectively and generally defending here is a little reactive as a team to many situations. I would like the defensive aspect of my team to think patterns and passes ahead of when they occur. Basically for defenders to make better and faster decisions.
Whilst we all love Thai football, it has to be said that it is far from perfect. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the Thai game and what can the authorities do to address them? What one thing from foreign football would you like to see introduced in Thailand? And is there anything about Thai football that would improve the game elsewhere?
There are many things in my opinion that could be improved for Thai football. From the development of grass roots for the future generations to go to a World Cup, or the ground standards across the league(s). All in all football in this country is still developing and we have to understand that this takes time. It is an exciting period because football is taking steps forward and not backwards which is important.
Pinpointing just one… I would like to see a rise in stadium standards. There are some nice playing stadiums in this league like BG, Buriram, Muangthong and Ratchaburi. I understand that it is an expense but something as simple as maintaining a high level playing surface is something that can be achieved in a short period of time. I feel if the surface is of high standard, so will be the standard of play which in turn makes it more exciting for the spectators.
Finally, Glass face Port at the Leo Stadium on 5 August. What do you think of Port’s 2017 season so far? Which players will you be keeping a close eye on? What do you think the score will be?
I don’t keep an eye on Port… ; ) After gaining promotion last season I expected them to be in the top half of the league. With the squad they have they should be finishing in the top 10. They have some good players and the next game between our two teams will no doubt be an entertaining game.
Of course I am for a home win. BG 2-0!
Many thanks to Matt for taking the time to answer our questions! The Sandpit wishes you & Bangkok Glass the best of luck for the rest of the season – apart from on 5 August of course, when we hope you’ll continue not keeping an eye on Port…