Yesterday afternoon Port announced what we’d all known since midway through Wednesday’s second-half capitulation against Chonburi: Zico has left the building, leaving the club looking at their 8th coaching appointment since the start of 2015 and raising more questions about the competence of the club’s management.
It was not quite a reign of Frank De Boer-esque brevity, but at 3 months and a mere 10 league games it was pretty damn close, and whilst Zico’s stats are slightly better than Frank’s, the figures are still pretty damning – 1 win in 10 league games (against doomed Thai Honda), 3 draws, 6 defeats, 6 points from a possible 30. It’s that last stat, and its comparison with his predecessor Jadet, that truly damns Zico. Under Jadet this season, Port averaged 1.70 points per game – enough to give them 58 points over a whole season. Under Zico, that figure plummeted to 0.6 points per game, or just over 20 points per season – guaranteed relegation.
You could of course argue that Zico was given a bad hand. He joined Port at the end of a transfer window which had already seen the Maranhao/Kaludjerovic debacle as well as the departures of Hansson, Asdrubal, Tatchanon & Pinyo, leaving him little time to improve a threadbare squad – anyone doubting the poverty of Zico’s resources would merely need to have looked at the bench on Wednesday and observe Wuttichai, Tana and Siwapong sitting on it to realise that Port’s player cupboard is bare. And there were some good performances under Zico, notably the home defeat to Chiang Rai (when only a miraculous goalkeeping display from Nont deprived the home side of 3 points) and the 0-0 draw at Bangkok Glass, one of the team’s finest performances of the season.
But what really undid Zico was a string of poor performances against struggling teams that Port would’ve expected to beat. That laboured away win at Ayutthaya in the League Cup for example, or the pitiful late capitulations against Sukhothai and Police Tero. Zico would’ve known that making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear is part of the job description for Port coaches, and whilst Jadet was adept at getting his players to punch above their weight, Zico appeared to lack his predecessor’s inspirational powers. A few vignettes stick in the mind: Port’s goalkeeping coach interrupting Zico’s cosy chats with Madame Pang to alert him to what was going on on the pitch; substituting Suarez in the middle of one of his rare good performances (against Sukhothai) to replace him with the hapless Siwapong; telling Pakorn, the club’s finest attacking talent, to play in defence at Police Tero; and in the same game, Zico & his mates on the bench having a good laugh after Josimar missed a header. The impression was of a man who had no idea how to get the best out of a limited but enthusiastic squad, and who didn’t really care that much either.
For Mme Pang of course, the appointment was only ever a PR/marketing exercise, and on those terms at least, it has been a success. Brand Port has been all over the media, raising the club’s profile (if not necessarily its stature), whilst Brand Pang has also been burnished, showing the big swinging dicks at Buriram & Muangthong that she too has the metaphorical balls to pull off the big moves. If things didn’t work out on the footballing side, so what? Port will still, barring a miracle, be a T1 club next season, so what does a little mid-season chaos & disruption matter?
What next for Zico? Well, as one who doesn’t follow the Thai national team I take as much interest in Zico now as I did before he joined Port, ie very little. What matters to The Sandpit is what’s next for Port. It seems that Mme Pang has given Jadet his old job back, with a fresh (and no doubt improved) two-year contract, but the old problems still remain – an inadequate playing squad, a leaking defence, an utterly clueless recruitment policy, and most significantly, La Pang’s limited contract as chairwoman which prevents any long-term planning. Pang needs to extend her tenure as soon as possible, and give Jadet – or whoever is in the post come the end of the season – complete autonomy (and a proper T1 budget) in the transfer market. A dedicated defence coach would help too.
As it is, the latest episode in the ongoing Port FC soap opera – Dallas meets Mike Bassett – is now over, and we await the next drama with morbid interest. In years to come, Thai football historians will look back on Zico’s brief reign as they do on Kayne Vincent’s Port career, the departure of Maranhao or the existence of Siwapong – by scratching their heads and asking themselves “What the fuck was THAT all about?”