Tom’s Transfer Talk: Essombe Signed By Port; Nabbed by Police

 

Port’s annual striker search is well and truly in overdrive, with rummy rumours about huge names all over the shop in the most recent round of gossip. The four names currently in the frame to replace Josimar are Bajram Nebihi, Dellatorre, Marcel Essombe and the big prize Jaja Coelho. Prepare yourself, because this story could well have a real sting in the tail! In other rumours, Port are in for two top Thai wingers, both of which would be excellent if pricey signings, and a couple of Port’s old guard are rumoured to be heading to Isaan.

 

The Foreign Strikers

 

Let’s start with the strikers. In ascending order of excitingness…

 

 

We covered the rumours linking Bajram Nebihi to Port in the last Transfer Talk and the conclusion was that as a replacement for Suarez he would be a good acquisition, but as an out-and-out striker he certainly isn’t what we are after. With the all-star cast on our radar, Nebihi is certainly the runt of the litter. Pass…

 

 

Dellatorre is a big, strong Brazilian forward who has been at Suphanburi for the last 2 seasons. He had a bit of an underwhelming campaign in 2016, notching just 10 times in 26 starts, but really clicked in to gear at the start of 2017, scoring 8 goals and making a further 5 in his first 13 games. Dellatorre struggled with injuries in the second half of the campaign, but still managed to net 14 goals in his 22 appearances, including 3 in 2 games against Port. If Dellatorre shows the form he usually displays against Port in the orange and blue next season, we will most certainly have one of the better forwards in the league.

 

 

Rumours have been going around about Ratchaburi’s Cameroonian forward Marcel Essombe for a while now, and the story has really heated up in the last few hours. I’m not going to lie, this is going to get wierd. Essombe was one of the stars of the first half of 2017, scoring 13 goals in his first 14 starts, and although he fell out of favour towards the end of the season, he still finished with 19 goals. Now, the latest news, which we have seen on both Goal.com and SMM Sport is that Essombe has already signed with Port, but has been loaned straight out to Police Tero for 2018. All together now… WHAT THE F*CK?! Are we about to see Maranhao-level tomfoolery rear its’ ugly head again? If this story is true, it would suggest that Port have either signed a bigger name already, in which case I’m not sure why they see the need to sign Essombe and then loan him out, OR they are playing a very risky game indeed by putting their eggs in what is most likely a Jaja shaped basket. Speaking of which…

 

 

The man who’s name just won’t go away, and undoubtedly Port’s main target for the last few months has been Buriram’s Brazilian battering ram Jaja Coelho. Yes, the man who bent time and space to convince the linesman that he was onside when Port visited the Thunder Castle has confirmed that he will not be at Buriram next season, whilst Muangthong will reportedly be sticking with Heberty and Assumpcao as their Brazilian forward line in 2018, meaning that the race for the 34-goal strikers’ signature is legitimately wide open. With Port having thrown away the chance for a top signing already, they’d better pray that they are in the box seat for Jaja’s coveted signature.

 

The Thai Wingers

Port To Sign Dom? Things Bodin Well…

 

In Thai transfers, Port are apparently in the frame for two potentially major signings. Youngster Nurul Sriyankem had an absolutely blistering year in 2017, scoring 8 goals and assisting an outrageous 18 for Chonburi, but has a 30 million baht price on his head, which apparently Buriram and Chiang Rai are both willing to stump up. Port can consider themselves well and truly in third place in the hunt to sign the pint-sized superstar.

 

 

In an interesting twist, though, if Buriram get their man then Port’s chances of landing 22 year old Buriram winger Bodin Phala could well get a huge boost. Port are apparently interested in the cultured attacking player – nicknamed Dom – who ran rings around Port defenders in a Bangkok Glass shirt back in 2015, and he could be available for a much more affordable 7 million baht. Interestingly, Bodin represented Port Futsal Club back in 2013 as a teenager. His excellent close control and short, sharp passing at speed is clearly a product of his futsal background. Bodin could also be a more sensible signing as he has more experience of playing on the left – where Port are in desperate need of an upgrade – than Nurul. There are srong rumours that this deal is close to being completed if it hasn’t been already. Exciting times…

 

The Dead Wood

 

Of course there are also rumours about outgoings too, and mercifully Wuttichai appears to be at the front of the exit queue. Behind him, waiting patiently for a permanent Port exit is left back Piyachart Tamaphan, who was on loan at Ubon in the second half of 2017. Both are apparently on Sisaket’s radar, and it would make a lot of sense for all involved for these moves to get done.

 

Tom’s Transfer Talk: Nebihi, or not Nebihi?

 

Transfer season is well and truly upon us, and unsurprisingly rumours are aplenty. The latest gossip has had Port signing a 12-goal midfielder, whilst teetering on the brink of losing a star player. But don’t panic everyone… Tana’s probably staying!

We start with the exciting news that Bajram Nebihi is being strongly linked with a move to PAT Stadium. The big Ubon attacking midfielder was integral in his team’s electric start to the season, scoring 5 times in his first 4 games, and he ended the season with 12 goals and 2 assists in the league, despite falling a little out of favour and completing 90 minutes just 4 times in the second half of the season.

 

 

29 year old Nebihi hails from Germany, but was born in Kosovo. The nomadic European played for 11 clubs across Germany, Turkey, Finland and Iran before being signed by Ubon in 2017. He is a big, strong player – 1.94m or 6 foot 4 – and that extra height and aerial ability could be just what Port’s attack needs in 2018. My only concern with this rumour is how exactly Port intend to use the big man. He performed best at Ubon playing ‘in the hole’ behind a striker, although he was used up front a few times too. If he is being touted as a replacement for Suarez in attacking midfield then I think he is probably an upgrade on the Spaniard, but he certainly isn’t a natural striker, and if he’s being signed as one then Port could be making a mistake. Thus, even if he is signed, the search for a Scary Foreign Striker should continue, although an even more pressing concern for Port has been the future of their main provider, the 18-assist dead-ball-machine himself…

Yes, the man who has been dominating the rumour mill over the last few days is our very own Pakorn Prempak. Fresh from coming third in The Sandpit’s player of the year poll – making him Port’s best performing Thai player of 2017 – Pakorn had been repeatedly linked with a move back to his old club Police Tero. Quite why Pakorn would want to make a backwards move to a club who finished below Port in the league was beyond me, but the most recent stories thankfully seem to suggest that Pakorn had been using the interest of his former club to coax a better contract offer out of Port.

 

 

SMM Sport reported that Jadet also weighed in yesterday, reminding Police that the Midfield Monk still has a year remaining on his contract and would not be going anywhere just yet. If Pakorn has indeed been using his former club as leverage to get a pay-rise then we can’t say we blame him. Pakorn, nicknamed Bas, has become Port’s most important Thai player in 2017, and his contract should probably reflect that. With Jadet having stood by his man and made his position clear, the club have now had to show that they are serious about backing him, and keeping Port’s star players. News has just now emerged that Pakorn has got what he wanted and joined El Capitan in signing a brand spanking new contract, so the Port fan groups’ #savebas hashtag can now be put to rest!

Tied in to the same SMM Sport article is a similar if as yet  not concluded story about Tana. Port’s erstwhile non-impact substitute is apparently also of interest to Police Tero, where he played for 4 years before joining Port. Incredibly, Tana banged in 25 goals in 2015, making him equal top-scorer in T2. What on earth happened?! Unfortunately, Tana also still has one year remaining on his contract and Jadet has issued the same ‘hands-off’ statement about the Karaoke Kid is he did about the Midfield Monk. Oh, well, swings and roundabouts…

 

The Whole Nine Yards 2017 Season Review

 

Goal of the Season

Josimar to make it 3-1 v Muangthong Away

It’s difficult to separate the quality of the goal from the situation it was scored in, but luckily this goal combines scoring against Muangthong with a top quality strike. The ever venturing up front Nittipong put in a great ball, teeing Josimar up. Josimar struck it like an exocet missile, and was grinning as soon as the ball left is boot. Kawin seemed to be knocked over in the wake of the strike. Pick that out of the net. It was the third of three excellent goals against Maungthong in the first half, it’s all got too much. Has someone spiked my drink with LSD? Walking in a Josi wonderland.

 

Away trip of the Season – Chiang Rai Away


 

Not exactly a surprising choice from me. My first Chiang Rai away trip, a large away group including about 20 or so Thai Port Importz. Brian wrote a great lyrical match report, well worth another read.

 

Game of the Season – Suphanburi Home

 

 

Suarez putting in a great performance reminding everyone when he’s on his game he can really push the rest of the team along. Up 1-0, down 1-2 then back to 3-2. A comeback win showing 2017 Port have a bit of character. Here’s Tommie’s Match Report

 

Player of the Season

1st Rochela

2nd Pakorn

3rd Josimar

All three of these players played a crucial role in their own area of the pitch. I’ve ranked them 1st,2nd,3rd but these top three are pretty difficult to separate. Take any of them away and Port would be a different team this year.

 

Quotes of the Season

Tim on noticing Genki’s balls,

“Genki put in one of those balls-out left wing shifts that made us all love him.”

Everyone, “Why is it called ‘The Sandpit’?”

After some boisterous Port fans were let into the tunnel at half time, the Chiang Rai owner,

“I think you need to leave now.”

“Is this why they go away? For victories? For the sum total of sweet success surpassing the sum total of sour failure? Of course not. It just doesn’t add up. They go away because it distills down what they value into shouts, jokes, grins and grimaces. A chance for reality to manifest itself right in front of you. When this is why you go, you always win away.”

……. last paragraph of Brian’s Chiang Rai Match Report.

Me at Chonburi away. “What pond?”

After five different Port fans had predicted Buriram would win convincingly at PAT Stadium. Peter Hughes a visiting Buriram fan,

“I think you boys will get a point today.” Cue huge laughs at what would turn out to be a correct prediction.

Achim, after another thrashing by Bangkok United.

“There’s only one word for that, arbeitsverweigerung.” (‘refusal to work’)

…there you were cheering together, thumping one another on the shoulders, swopping judgments like lords of the earth, having pushed your way through a turnstile into another and altogether more splendid kind of life, hurtling with conflict and yet passionate and beautiful in its Art.”

…..J.B. Priestley, from “I’m Zone D Hardcore till I die”

Tommie, “He’s worse than my Grandma, and she’s dead.”

Pang, “Zico is here long term, we are building for 2018.”

Jim, “You know what we need, we need a real shit bag playing for us, an utter

bastard.”

“Certainly, on capacity-full nights, under the lights, the mist rolling in from the klongs, gazing across at the orange and blue sea of shirts massed in Zone C, a tingle ripples down my spine.”

…….. Hockers “A view from the Terraces Part 2”

 

“Shiiiiiit on the Muangthong…”

Dave Baraclough, “SIT DOWN SHUT UP, SIT DOWN SHUT UP”

Muangthong fan in the Sportsman Pub, “I am sitting down.”

Dave Baraclough, “Well shut up then.”

Costa after the Samut Prakarn game. “I’m off to watch some football in Beirut next week.”

Keith’s review of my hi-so packed lunch.

“Weren’t you the one taking the piss out of me for having my Au Bon Pain sandwich at TOT Away? Today you’ve turned up with a croque monsieur and crème caramel for dessert!”

Keith, “I’m happy the drums aren’t here yet, it’s nice n’ quiet.”

Tom, “Combine the work-rate of Tana, the skill of Weera, the strength of Siwakorn, the positional discipline of Panpanpong and the sportsmanship of Suarez, and you have Sompong. He’s like the Frankenstein’s monster of shit footballers.”

Tim Walker, “That reminds me of the Archie Gemmill goal against Holland, that goal was so good I almost killed my dog.”

Me, “Amaretto anyone?”

Tim’s curse, “I began following Port F.C. in the summer of 2014, yet due to some curse put on me by a vengeful Burmese gypsy in Khlong Thoey market after I refused to buy her kumquats, as yesterday dawned I had still to see my team win an away league game.”

 

Giving something back

Great work from Spider Ming, great to see him rallying round and raising money from all of the Zones at PAT Stadium for one Port fan who had to have his foot amputated.

The fans and the club helping out with donations after the fire in Klong Toei. Good to see the website helping to raise money for a worthy cause.

Port it’s more than just a club.

 

Obscure Pun of the Season

“It’s a shame about Rayong”

Get that? …….No, I had to ask about it too. Andy Griffin was one of the 1% who got the reference.

“It’s a shame about Ray”, by The Lemonheads

 

Song of the Season

Winner “The Genki Nagsato Song”

You were working as a winger in Ratchaburi

When we met you

We picked you out, we signed you up,

We cheered you on

We turned you into something new

Genki

Gengki Naga

Genki Nagasato, Genki Nagasaaaaaaatoooo

Genki Nagasato, Genki Nagasaaaaaaaaaaatooo

Oh, Nagasato – you know I don’t believe you when you say you can play football

You’d better step it up or we will sign your sister,

Genki Nagasato, Genki Nagasaaaaaaatoooo

Genki Nagasato, Genki Nagasaaaaaaaaaaatooo

A close second the “A win away, A win away” song.

This song was not sung as much as I thought it would be, as Port actually had some great away wins this year.

 

Match Day Dinner of Year Award (vegetarian section)

Omelettes n’ rice at PAT, simple made to order, cheap as chips, no in fact cheaper than chips.

 

9 General High points

1) The debut year of www.portfcsandpit.com

2) 1st win against Muangthong in since 2009.

3) Random friendly in Hua Hin.

4) Secret away game Muangthong v Brisbane Roar.

5) A serene moment of peace at Honda away. I got there early went to a nice little restaurant by the lake, very relaxing. It turned out to be the calm before the storm.

6) My first futsal match, a rain delayed indoor match.

7) Pakorn scoring from a corner twice, after Leandro had tried to do it every single time he took a corner for two years.

8) Siwakorn named top yellow card collector with 13 bookings in 2017.

9) Finishing 9th

 

9 General Low points

1) 50 year anniversary celebrations? There’s a key ring for sale in the club shop.

2) Port in yellow shirts, Pang’s subliminal political campaign, we know your game madam.

3) Still no beer on the terraces.

4) Losing so many leads.

5) Pondgate fiasco, there should have been a gate next to that pond.

6) Astrubal fiasco

7) Maranhao mid season transfer fiasco

8) Kalu off early fisaco

9) Zico fiasco

The main highlight of 2017 for me has been this website. Since I started following Port in 2011 we have always had some online presence. It started with Marco’s blogspot site, then me trying to update things via the Thai Port Importz Facebook page. Now we have moved into a new era with a swanky website, one that is better than Port’s official site, and to be fair it’s better than Welling United’s website which makes me both happier and sadder at the same time.

Big thanks to Tim and Tom for all their hard work on the website and thanks to everyone that has contributed to its success.

Port’s 2017 Season: The Captain’s Verdict

 

The Sandpit interrupted Port captain David Rochela’s holiday this week to get his thoughts on the club’s 2017 season, and found him in good spirits, having led the team to a top-half finish, won the Sandpit’s coveted Player of the Year award, and, best of all, signed a new contract at the PAT for 2018! Here’s what David had to say.


Port had a very strong finish to the season to end up in 9th place, a great achievement for a promoted team. How satisfied are you with the season?

The season was great! I think we did some amazing games that the fans will not forget. So I’m very satisfied about the year. The change from T2 to T1 didn’t feel that  big and I think that we proved it. In my opinion we did really a great performance this season, proving that we can fight with all teams even coming up from T2.

 

The team suffered a mid-season slump when Jadet was replaced with Zico. How did this disrupt the team? What is it that has made Jadet so successful at Port?

Usually when you change something in one club you need time to adapt. With Zico we tried to do it as fast as we could but it was not enough.
And about Jadet…probably the key is that he works but is very close to the players, doing jokes and being one of us. The atmosphere is the key point.

 

What was the team’s best performance of the season in your opinion?

We did some amazing games this season but I will choose both games against Muangthong for what they mean to our fans. The feeling was amazing. I was a little bit sad because our fans couldn’t watch it live, but we know that for them it is the most important game of the season.

 

Which team was the toughest to play against? Which player was the most difficult opponent?

This season clearly Bangkok United, it was difficult for us this time but we will improve to face them next year! As for opponents, difficult to say…Chanatip, Diogo, Boskovic… there are many good players in T1.

Which of your teammates impressed you most this season? Who surprised you? Who would you say is the players’ player of the season?

I knew the potential of all of them but probably Nitipong is who moved his level higher during this season. Butour success this season came from a strong group so is difficult to say one: maybe Nitipong, Suarez, Josimar or Pakorn.

 

What was your personal favourite moment of the season?

My favourite one was the game against Supanburi at home. That day was my birthday, we won and all the fans gave me an amazing birthday gift by singing for me. A really special day!

 

And you were also voted The Sandpit’s Player of the Year again!

Yes! Just to say thanks to everyone who participated in the poll and have been supporting us during the season. And a special mention for The Sandpit for informing everyone about the team during the year.

What were your biggest disappointments this season?

We really had a lot of intention to do well in the cups so I have to choose the game with Air Force.

 

Next season will be tougher with 5 teams going down. What are Port’s ambitions for 2018? Where do you need to improve?

As I always said, the first goal must be to put 5 teams down and after that, try to have a relaxed and gratifying season as this one. We need to improve for sure, we need stay more compact in some moments of the game and keep more balanced in order to concede less goals.

 

And finally, the question everyone is asking – will you still be a Port player in 2018?

I will be at Port FC next year yes, and I’m very happy for that!


Thanks as ever to David for answering our questions, and see you in a Port shirt again in 2018! Enjoy your holiday!

 

From Wondrous Wins to Weera: The Best and Worst of Port in 2017

 

It’s been a season of extremes at Port, although ironically all the highs and lows have led to us finishing slap bang in the middle of the table. In this review of the 2017 season, I talk about the best and worst that Port and their opposition offered up throughout the year.

 


Best Match

There are quite a few contenders for match of the season. Port games certainly weren’t wanting for goals, and there were some riveting ding-dong affairs with late comebacks I could choose. The 3-2 win against Suphanburi at home was a great game with a near-full crowd, the 2-1 victory over Police at home likewise, and even the 0-0 draw with Buriram was riveting in its’ own way. I couldn’t possibly choose anything other than the stunning 2-3 win against the Muangscum, though. When you haven’t beaten your fiercest rivals in 8 years, then you come from a goal behind with a flying header and two volleys there’s just about nothing better. Except actually being allowed to go and watch the match, I suppose!

Worst Match

When you sit in a minivan for 4 hours to get to an away game, you generally expect the game itself to be more interesting than staring out of the van window. Unfortunately, the 0-0 draw away at Korat was such a turgid affair we would probably have been better off staying in that winery we stopped at on the way up.

 

 

Best Team Performance

The Muangthong performance was of course outstanding, but besides that incredible 4 minute spell, it was largely characterized by backs-to-the-wall defending and quite a bit of help from the woodwork. Port needed little help when they stunningly dispatched table-topping Chiang Rai in April. Port went a goal down, but kept their heads up and over the course of the 90 minutes battered their opponents mercilessly. Worawut’s penalty save was the turning point, and Port ultimately went on to record a comfortable 3-1 victory, with Pakorn turning in a man-of-the-match performance.

Worst Team Performance

Losing 5-1 against a team who got relegated is never good. Port were lazy, sluggish, bereft of ideas and the willingness to win any individual duels at Honda. Whilst some individual performances stick out for being particularly rank, this was a team effort, and the blame has to be shared.

 


 

Best Individual Performance

2 stunning volleys in 2 minutes against the Muangscum? Take the award Josimar, you’ve earned it! Honourable mentions for Adisorn, who made Buriram’s midfield look ordinary at PAT Stadium, and Suarez for his match-winning turn against Suphanburi.

Worst Individual Performance

After the corruption allegations leveled against former Port goal-allower Weera, this performance takes on a whole other level of bad. Port fans were already pretty disgusted when they thought it was just gross ineptitude, but to find out that there’s every possibility that he was intentionally sticking it to the club and the fans makes it worse. Much worse. It the allegations are true, he should never set foot on a football pitch again, unless it’s in prison. Even then I doubt he’d make the team. Siwapong comes in a distant second for his performance against the same team, which wouldn’t have been out of place in a girl’s under 11 game.

 

 

Best Port Player

For me, Port ended up in the top half of the league because of their attack, rather than their defence. Of course Rochela’s part in keeping defensive errors to a minimum is an important factor, but for me Pakorn’s creativity going forward won Port more points than any other player. Honourable mentions also go to Suarez, Josimar, Rochela and Siwakorn.

Worst Port Player

Weera. See Above. And Below.

 

 

Best Opposition Team Performance

Bangkok Glass, not for the first time, really dismantled Port at PAT Stadium. Port generally upped their game when the big guns came to Khlong Toei, but Glass’ fluid football, and an outstanding individual performance from Toti, meant they were chasing shadows for most of the game, and ended up losing 3-0, although it could have been a much more chastening scoreline. Honourable mention for Bangkok United, who smashed Port 6-2 at Thammasat Stadium.

Worst Opposition Team Performance

You would think Super Power would have this gong in the bag, but they weren’t that bad on either occasion that Port played them. Sisaket, however, were truly abysmal in the penultimate week of the season. They eventually ‘only’ lost 5-3 but it would have been 5-1 if Port hadn’t switched off for the last few minutes with the result already secured.

 


 

Best Opposition Individual Performance

Port put in a superb performance at home to Buriram, and were very unlucky to let the champions escape PAT Stadium with a point. Buriram ‘keeper Siwarak Tedsungnoen was unbeatable between the sticks, with a particular point-blank stop from a Genki header sticking in the memory. Honourable mentions to Toti of Bangkok Glass, Leesaw of Bangkok United and Chiang Rai ‘keeper Nont.

Worst Opposition Individual Performance

Do linesmen count? Because when Port visited the Thunder Castle, the linesman may as well have been playing for the opposition. Yes, Jaja and Rochela were running in opposite directions at pace, but he’s miles offside, lino! Bloody miles! The linesman’s attack of blindness ultimately cost Port a point, as they succumbed to a 1-0 defeat to the men in luminous yellow, I mean navy blue.

 

 

Best Goal

He didn’t score many in 2017, and his shooting was often more cause for concern for those behind the goals than the opposition ‘keeper, but his goal against Bangkok United early on in the season was an absolute peach. He beats a man, sets himself and curls an un-stoppable effort over the keeper and in to the back of the net. There wasn’t much to cheer that night, but Siwakorn’s screamer made the trip worthwhile. Honourable mentions to Tana for his superb long range effort against Suphanburi and Josimar for his volleys against Muangthong.

Worst Goal

Pakorn’s freekick against Super Power at PAT Stadium was more of a back-pass than a shot. Nevertheless, former Port goalkeeper Narong managed to let it squirm through his grasp and in to the net. Shocking. Honourable mentions must go to both of his other blunders in that game, and Todsapol’s tap-in at Dolphin Stadium when the Pattaya keeper thoughtfully dropped the ball at his feet in the six yard box.

 


 

Best Assist

Panpanpong has had a mixed season, but some of his crossing has been delicious. His finest moment of the season was the ball he lofted to the far post against Muangthong, while Suarez leaped like a salmon and headed in from close range. Great jump, solid header, but it was all about the cross. Of course Pakorn was Port’s main provider over the course of the season, exemplified by his perfectly-weighted through-ball to Suarez against Sisaket, but Panpanpong just edges him out here.

Worst Assist

There was nothing wrong with the way Rochela dispatched his penalties against Super Power, but there’s absolutely no way either of them should have been given. One was for a non-existent handball, and the other for a non-foul outside the area. The ref scoops the award for these two ridiculous assists.

 


 

Best Trick

Every time Pakorn caught a ‘keeper out with one of his devilish in-swinging corners from the left. You would think they know it’s coming by now, but time after time Pakorn catches T1 ‘keepers with their pants down. Pakorn’s pearlers yielded a couple of goals and assists throughout the season.

Worst Trick

Any one of Tana’s attempts to win a penalty by falling over in the area. It’s a combination of laziness, and a preemptive excuse for having messed up another attack. Find another club. Please?

 


 

Best Coach

Hmm, this is a toughie. Oh no, wait. Jadet put Port in the top half and secured remarkable upset victories against some of the league’s best teams along the way, whereas Zico masterminded a run of 1 win in 10 league games. Jadet, we should never have doubted you!

Worst Coach

Oh dear, Zico. It seemed like such a promising appointment, but couldn’t have turned out much worse. Port slipped a few places in the league table, and Zico’s reputation sank without a trace.

 

 

Best Tactical Move

Port were largely expected to get annihilated at home against Buriram, and Jadet’s team selection – pairing Josimar and Kaludjerovic up front in a 4-4-2 for the first time – seemed to to indicate that Port would just try to go for broke and outscore their opponents. Instead Port held their opponents to a 0-0 draw with a disciplined performance. Well played, Sir Det!

Worst Tactical Move

It’s no secret that I was getting very, very frustrated by Zico’s insistence on switching players’ positions, and the worst of all was when he had Pakorn and Nitipong swap positions against Police Tero. Guess what, Zico? If you put a player with zero defensive experience in defence, he’ll make mistakes. Yes, Pakorn has to take responsibility for dispatching a pretty harmless cross in to his own top corner, but he should have been nowhere near that part of the field in the first place.

 


 

Here’s hoping that in 2018 the peaks hit new heights, and the troughs don’t leave us too down in the dumps. Whatever happens, I’m sure it won’t be boring. It never is being a Port fan, and we wouldn’t have it any other way!

 

Porty by Nature: Tim’s Review of 2017

 

My daughter recently asked me if I liked rollercoasters. I almost replied that, being a Port fan, I’ve never found a rollercoaster that even comes close to the ups & downs of following Port FC – who needs Alton Towers when you’ve got the PAT? (Note to non-UK readers – Alton Towers is a British version of Disneyworld, only without mice). Since I started following Port in 2014 the club has had 8 coaches and 3 owners, been relegated & promoted, reached a cup semi-final, been docked points, and been banned from its own stadium. All in just over 3 years. Beat that Mickey, yer big-eared cheese-munching bastard yer.

So after a relatively stable, uneventful 2016 (just two coaches, a promotion and a cup semi), 2017 saw the old Port back with a bang in a season that veered from the sublime to the ridiculous and back to the sublime, with Port ending the season strongly and finishing in an impressive 9th place. With a strong squad, some good reinforcements apparently arriving and a coach on top of his game, 2018 could be an even better year. But before we cast our minds forward, here’s a reminder of Port’s eventful 2017…

 

January

Port unveil marquee signing, ex-Las Palmas forward Asdrubal Padron. ‘Marquee’ in that he’ll only be seen at weddings, and needs ropes to keep him upright. He’s joined by Serbian journeyman Andrija Kaludjerovic, a promising-looking striker who has scored goals everywhere he’s played. Could he be the Scary Foreign Striker we’ve been waiting for? No, he couldn’t.

 

Asdrubal signs for Port

 

In other Port striker news, Sandpit readers award Thiago ‘Cunta’ Cunha the 2016 Goal of the Season award for his strike against Muangthong. Cunha shows his gratitude by stripping naked, setting fire to the trophy, and jumping into the Chao Phraya whilst singing “I’m Henry the Eighth I Am”.

February

Port’s quest to sign every single foreign striker in Thailand continues, with Josimar Rodrigues and Edgar Manucharyan added to the ranks, the latter being poached from Ratchaburi the night before we play Ratchaburi, but not actually playing against Ratchaburi. Port draw their first game against Ratchaburi with a 95th-minute equaliser from Genki Nagasato, and the Human League chant gets its first airing.

 

Dom & Tim serenade Genki

 

Port go on to make it 2 out of 2 by beating Suphanburi at home, before the rollercoaster cranks into gear with a 6-2 defeat at Bangkok Utd, and normal service is resumed.

March

The most ‘Port’ month of the season begins with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Navy, before a trip to strugglers Honda sees Port go down 5-1 thanks to some comical (or possibly worse) goalkeeping from Weera Duckworth. This disaster is followed by an impressive 0-0 draw at home to Buriram, with Port just a goalpost away from a memorable win.

 

Weera organising his defenders

 

This burst of activity is followed by a 3-week break to allow Thailand girls U14s time to prepare for their upcoming friendly against the Turks & Caicos Islands.

April

In one of their most impressive months of the season, Port beat high-flying Ubon 1-0 at home, and manage away wins at Sukhothai (3-2) and, most remarkably, Chiang Rai (3-1) who were then top of the table. The result is purely down to The Sandpit’s Dominic Cartwright carrying the fair play flag out onto the pitch, and anyone who says otherwise is a liar.

 

Port players listening to Dom’s pre-match instructions at Chiang Rai

 

The only turd in the sandpit (rather than The Sandpit, which is home to several of them) is a 3-0 home defeat to a very impressive Bangkok Glass side.

May

May is the busiest month of the season, with Port playing no fewer than 7 league games. The standout is a spectacular 3-2 win at Muangthong, the latest in a run of several defeats for the 2016 champions. Port take the obligatory celebration photo in the away dressing room, which has seen so many away celebrations this month they’ve had to put in a bar and sound system.

 

The away dressing room at Muangthong

 

There’s also a curious 5-3 win over cellar dwellers Super Power, with Port being awarded two highly dubious penalties and Power boss Jason Withe losing his job after the game.

June

After another long break to allow Thailand’s over-60 side to prepare for their upcoming Anusol Cup match against Dutch Guyana, action resumes with Port beating Royal Thai Fleet 5-0 in the FA Cup, in a game appropriately played under water.

 

Port take on Royal Thai Fleet

 

After this game, Madame Pang stuns the Thai football world by appointing former Thai national team boss Zico as first team coach, right at the end of the transfer window so he has no time to bring in new players. In a sign of things to come, he begins his reign with a 3-0 defeat at home to Bangkok Utd.

July

Things get worse for Zico with defeats to Buriram, Ubon & Chiang Rai. Thiago Cunha pops up again after sparking a mass brawl at Ratchaburi & ending up with a broken nose, much to the amusement of absolutely NOONE at the Sandpit. Honest. Port begin their League Cup campaign with a hard-fought win at Ayutthaya. 

 

Thiago discusses the finer points of the game

 

There’s another break so Thailand can play King’s Cup games against Burkina Faso, Belarus and North Korea (I’m not making this one up).

August

Port’s transfer window clusterfuck reaches its apex in August. In June, Maranhao was brought into the squad at the expense of Kalu, and played very well at Suphanburi. Then Maranhao suddenly signed for Sukhothai, and was replaced with Kalu, thus using up the club’s two permitted foreign transfers. Matthias Jadue disappears again, and Asdrubal moves to Australia. Kalu comes back into the team and scores a couple of goals, then breaks his contract and returned to Serbia to be closer to his family, only to pitch up in New Zealand. This means Port are now one foreign player short, and have to play the rest of the season with only one striker (Josi).

 

 

On the pitch, Port beat Ayutthaya again in the FA Cup and then scrape a 0-0 draw at Bangkok Glass, which the team and staff celebrate as if they’d won the league, both cups and a meat raffle.

And there’s another long break so…you get the idea by now.

September

Another typically ‘Port’ month, with the team throwing away late goals against Sukhothai and Police Tero. A limp home defeat to Chonburi spells the end of the disastrous Zico Experiment. Jadet gets his old job back and immediately guides Port to a 5-2 win at in-form Pattaya, followed by a 5-1 FA Cup defeat at Bangkok Utd. TARUA!!!

 

Zico who?

 

October

Another limp cup exit kicks off the month as Port go down to an injury time winner at Air Force from former Port goal machine Kayne Vincent, before yet another break so a Thailand Soi Dogs XI can prepare for a friendly against Dusit Zoo. When play resumes, Jadet’s magic touch sees Port crush Nakhon Ratchasima and get a highly creditable home draw at at an empty PAT against Muangthong, who need an offside goal to take a point.

 

Thailand on the attack

 

November

Port finish the season with their only 100% month, with wins against Sisaket, Super Power and Ratchaburi, scoring 11 goals in the process. Bangkok floods as Jadet pisses himself laughing. Your editor sheds a tear as his two favourite players, Genki & Josi, bid farewell. Rebuilding for 2018 begins with the arrival of Korean midfielder Kim Sung Hwan. Amaretto becomes the Sandpit’s away trip drink of choice.

 

The Sandpit’s official sponsor for 2018

 

And, of course, we thank the players, management and staff of Port FC for a thoroughly enjoyable and reassuringly chaotic season. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve shouted, we’ve travelled all over Thailand, we’ve drunk far too much Leo, we’ve fallen in ponds, and we’ve loved every single minute of it, and we can’t wait to do it all over again in 2018!

 

Match of the Season

A tough call, but I’d have to go for the 0-0 home draw with Buriram. As goalless draws go this was one of the best, with a fired-up Port side matching Thailand’s best team punch-for-punch at a packed, near-hysterical PAT. But for a near-miss by Pakorn and a miraculous late save from a Genki header, it could’ve been a famous victory, but either way it was the perfect demonstration of why the PAT is the best place to watch football in Thailand.

Goal of the Season

It may not have been the prettiest (for that, see Suarez’ second against Sisaket), but it was certainly the most euphoric – Genki’s 95th-minute equaliser on the opening day against Ratchaburi was an opening of the pressure valve as several thousand people who’d been denied football at the PAT for almost 6 months finally got to celebrate together, and a new song was born.

Player of the Season

Siwakorn, a resurgent Suarez, Pakorn and of course Rochela are all contenders, but my award goes to Josimar. Playing a whole season as a lone striker in a team that doesn’t play to his strengths can’t have been easy, but the big fella uncomplainingly worked his swingers off for the team and managed to bag a decent haul of 17 goals in the process, and for that he’s my top man of the year.

 

 

 

The Sandpit’s Port FC Player of the Year 2017 is….David Rochela!

 

Last week we once again opened the polls for the Player of the Year competition, and voting was very lively with over 600 Port fans clicking on their favourite player. The last couple of days’ voting saw some rather suspicious voting patterns, with 36% of our site traffic coming from SPAIN, which possibly explains why it turned into a two-horse race between Port’s two Spaniards, with the rest of the candidates trailing in their wake.

Voting is now closed, and we can reveal the top 3…

 

1. David Rochela 38%

For the second year in a row, Port’s popular Spanish captain wins the award, though not with the landslide we saw in 2016. David has had another solid season at the PAT, leading by example, playing the game with honesty and respect, and even banging in 7 goals. The naysayers may point to Port’s poor defensive record this season, but it has to be said that without David, our Goals Against column would undoubtedly look even worse. As yet, we have no word as to whether the captain will lead Port in 2018 but our gut feeling says he will. Congratulations David, and hope you’re around to go for the hat-trick in November 2018!

 

 

2. Sergio Suarez 36%

You’d have got pretty long odds on this back in June, when many Port fans – myself included – were calling for Maranhao to take Suarez’ foreign player slot at Port, after the Spaniard had an inconsistent first half of the season. But in the second leg, Sergio was a different player and, had the vote been based solely on the last 5 months, he’d almost certainly have won outright. He’s been a lot more focused, given the proverbial 110% in every game, and weighed in with 14 goals – almost unheard of for a Port midfielder. As with Rochela, we don’t know if he’ll still be around next season but given his late-season form, we suspect he might.

 

 

3. Pakorn 6%

Thanks to the Spanish mafia monopolising the vote, the rest of the candidates are a loooooong way back, with the chasing pack led deservedly by the Midfield Monk himself, Pakorn. This was the season in which the Port winger finally realised his potential and added workrate and discipline to his undoubted talent to become Port’s most productive player with 6 goals and a staggering 18 assists. Sadly we are hearing very strong rumours that he may be returning to his old club Police Tero for next season, which would be bad news for Port and surely a backward step for a player who should be looking to get a national team place before long.

 

 

Thanks, or should I say gracias, to all who voted, congratulations again to David, and watch out for more Sandpit fan polls coming soon!

 

Uh-Oh, Weera in Trouble: Ex-Port Keeper Accused of Match-Fixing

 

The FAT (Thai Football Assocation) today launched a crackdown on match-fixing with several players and officials arrested and charged – including former Port keeper Weera Duckworth. The calamity keeper was released by Port and moved to Nakhon Ratchasima during the mid-season transfer window, and the charges are in connection with one of his games for his new club – which hopefully means Port are untainted by the scandal.

Following the bizarre goings-on at Honda earlier this season, when Weera was surprisingly picked ahead of Rattanai & Worawut and proceeded to have an absolute stinker, gifting Honda at least 2 goals in a 5-1 win, The Sandpit was concerned that the charges related to this game. Thankfully this does not appear the case, and Weera’s dodgy keeping – as shown in the GIF below – can, as previously thought, be put down to mere incompetence.  Update at 19:45 – the Honda game has now been added to the list of games that are of interest to investigators, and I suspect the clip below will be Exhibit A!

 

 

Weera was arrested alongside 4 Navy players (Sutthipong, Narong, Suwitthaya, Saksan), 2 referees (Poommarin, Theerachit), and 5 others including, we hear, a club official from Sisaket. If found guilty, the accused face heavy fines, lengthy bans and even jail terms.

Should he find himself in the prison showers we would advise Weera not to drop the soap, but we suspect that would be beyond him.

 

Tom’s Transfer Talk: Left Wing Wish List

 

This is tricky. T1 isn’t exactly awash with great Thai attacking players, and most of the stand-outs are already at Muangthong or Buriram. With Port reportedly doubling their 2017 budget though, there certainly should be some more cash allocated to hoovering up the best of the rest when it comes to Thai talent. Not forking out for Tana’s wages will help, too! Whatever we’ve been paying him, it’s far too much. My criteria is simply quality Thai attacking players who I think it is possible for Port to sign. Not likely, necessarily, but possible.

What I’m looking at specifically is a replacement for one Genki Nagasato. The Japanese winger finished 2017 with 5 goals and 3 assists, having started all but one league game, and playing a total of 2,364 minutes of T1 action. His contribution was just about enough to hold on to his place in the team, but in a side with more convincing attacking options, Genki may well have seen significantly less action. Changes to the foreign player quota mean that Port are very likely to replace him with a Thai player. Here’s just a few names that I would be more than happy to see as Port’s marquee Thai signing in 2018.

 

Nattawut Sombatyotha, Ratchaburi

 

 

This 21 year old attacking midfielder is a fantastic prospect, and really started to make his mark for Ratchaburi towards the end of 2017. If you watched his performance against Port on the final day of the season, you’ll have seen the number 9 make several dangerous bursts forward from midfield, as well as deliver some pinpoint corners – one of which was an assist – before popping up with a consolation goal in injury time. Nattawut looks at his best in the middle of the park, but has played about half of his 22 games on the wing.

What do the numbers say? Well, if we set the benchmark at a Genki-sized contribution of 5 goals and 3 assists, Nattawut makes the grade, with 5 and 5. Not only did he out-perform Genki, he did it having played 1,323 minutes to Genki’s 2,364.

Are we likely to get him? No, probably not, but it’s not outside the realms of possibility. He’s a young player at a club who has brought in some excellent young Thai talents, and made a point of giving them a fair crack of the whip, so it’s probably in his interests to stay right where he is. We could try offering him a big old pay rise, though! It could be a wise investment.

 

Surachet Sareepim, Bangkok Glass

 

 

This 31 year old striker certainly wouldn’t be an investment in the future, but would guarantee a tidy return in the short term. Surachet scored 10 T1 goals for Bangkok Glass in 2017, the most of any Thai player besides Teerasil, and has consistently scored just under a goal every other game in the top flight for the last few seasons. He can play anywhere across the front 3, and most unusually for a Thai player he has the height and strength to win balls in the air when he plays through the middle.

What do the numbers say? Add 2 assists to the aforementioned 10 goals, all of which were achieved in just 1,656 minutes across 23 games, and you have a forward who offers a significant upgrade on what Port had in 2017.

Are we likely to get him? Well, he’s already at Bangkok Glass where I assume he is quite happy. Moving to Port would probably mean a regular place in the starting XI, though, which could be a draw for the 31 year old. I assume Glass won’t want to let him go, so this one is also probably a non- starter unless he’s out of contract.

 

Jakkapan Pornsai, Bangkok United

 

 

Am I mental to think that Port could sign one of the most talented forwards in Thai football, who is already at the third best team in the country? Hopefully not, because he’s had an absolute nightmare since moving to Bangkok United in the middle of the 2017 season. Jakkapan, who tore Port to shreds with Glass in their 3-0 waltz at PAT Stadium, arrived at Thammasat Stadium to much fanfare, but remarkably has started just once and come off the bench 3 times since arriving. He’s a proper winger who has the skill and guile to beat a defender or two and deliver quality balls in to the box.

What do the numbers say? In 2017, they say that Jakkapan was grossly under-used. He played just 863 minutes, almost all of which were for Bangkok Glass, scoring 2 goals and providing 3 assists. He bettered Genki’s stats in both 2016 and 2015, though, scoring a remarkable 13 goals from the wing for Suphanburi in 2015.

Are we likely to get him? I don’t see why not. He can’t be happy about sitting on the bench for half a season, and if both parties agree it’s best to part ways, he will most likely be after a club like Port who can pay his presumably substantial wages and offer him first team football.

 

Siroch Chatthong, Muangthong United

 

 

Full disclosure: I have an irrational appreciation of this man’s talents. Yes, shock horror, the man with Elias Dolah’s name on the back of his Port shirt appreciates a rampaging lump with an uncommon talent for the physical side of football. Pipo, as he is widely known, burst on to the scene in 2016, making a key contribution in Ubon’s successful promotion campaign. He even earned a shock call-up to the national team, and immediately cemented his place in the squad with some gutsy displays and crucial goals. Since finally getting his chance in T1, though, Pipo has not had things his own way.

What do the numbers say? I’m not going to lie, they’re ugly. 6 assists isn’t too bad, but you just can’t be a T1 forward without contributing some goals. Pipo played as a central striker for most of the first half of the season for Ubon, failing to find the net even once, and after being signed by Muangthong he has primarily been used as an impact sub on the wing, with similar results. Would I still take him at Port? You’re damn right I would! Goal-drought aside, Pipo creates mayhem in the final third. He’s strong, quick, direct and keeps defenders busy, creating space for his teammates. His final ball does need an awful lot of work, but I am confident that once Pipo breaks his duck, his swagger will return and the goals will start to come with more regularity.

Are we likely to get him? With their striking options, Muangthong seem very unlikely to keep him, and Port would be a sensible destination for a player at his level. It may well be on a loan deal, but that would probably suit both parties quite well. This is also a rumour that did the rounds a few months ago, so a deal may already have been discussed by the two clubs.

 

Thanasit Sriphala, Suphanburi

 

 

This is another slightly sentimental pick based on how good I think he should be, rather than how good the stats say he is. Thanasit was the star of the Thai national youth teams up to Under 23 level, and made a splash in the top flight for Bangkok Glass in 2015, including a superb match-winning performance against Port. The 22 year old moved to Suphanburi in a deal which saw Jakkapan Pornsai move the other way, but whereas Jakkapan made an immediate impact at Glass, Thanasit struggled for game-time at Suphanburi. He’s a quick, tricky left-winger who likes to run at defenders and get in to the box, but can be a bit of a luxury player at times.

What do the numbers say? Again, they’re not too pretty. Thanasit has played just 659 minutes in 2017, scoring a solitary goal. That’s certainly not a return commensurate with his quality, and can probably be attributed with the fact that he didn’t start 2 consecutive games until October. In past seasons, Thanasit has performed much better, but he is certainly a risk if he’s being brought in to be a regular starter. It’s a risk I would be willing to take, though, as at his best he is unplayable, and he just looks so damn much like a young Ronaldinho!

Are we likely to get him? He’s a young player at a decent team who clearly thought a lot of him when they signed him, but considering how little Thanasit has played in 2017, I can see his head being turned by the promise of more regular football and more money. Suphanburi also seem to be very much on a downward trajectory, which the youngster may not be too happy about.

 


 

So, there is my wish list for 2018. Any one of those players, along with a top foreign striker, could help to transform Port’s fortunes next season. Assuming that Port hang on to key players like Rochela, Siwakorn and Pakorn, a couple of improvements could be all it takes to push Port well in to the top half next year. Now, recruitment people. Try your very, very hardest not to trip over yourselves like Tana in the penalty area.

 

,

How to Train Your Dragons: Ratchaburi Mitr Phol FC 2-3 Port FC

 

“We were somewhere around Samut Sakhon, on the edge of the desert, when the Amaretto began to take hold…”

 

I began following Port FC in the summer of 2014, yet due to some curse put on me by a vengeful Burmese gypsy in Khlong Thoey market after I refused to buy her kumquats, as yesterday dawned I had still to see my team win an away league game. Such was the gravity of the Russell jinx that there was widespread relief that I was out of the country for the recent trip to Super Power (though that may have just been relief at the fact that I was out of the country full stop), and I headed to Ratchaburi in hope (with Port on a run of 5 unbeaten games) rather than expectation.

 

The Farang Army

 

Ratchaburi is a short 2-hour journey away, and we pass the time with the usual erudite discussions on Port-related matters as well as the varying quality of hotel pillows, Japanese psychedelia and the health-giving properties of Amaretto, which for some reason Dom is passing around the bus. Possibly the first Amaretto-fuelled football away trip in history. Certainly in Thai history anyway.

Ratchaburi’s new Mitr Phol Stadium is, at first glance at least, very impressive: a modern, running-track free ground with a bloody great orange dragon covering the main stand. Up close it’s still suffering teething troubles though – there’s very little food or beer available, the beer at the away end runs out before kick-off, there’s only one ticket office, and the long-anticipated stadium pub is closed.

But once we’re in the away end, with comfortable seats and excellent views, and the sun sets spectacularly behind the main stand, it’s pretty clear that we’re in probably the best stadium in Thailand – it’s just a shame there are so few home fans in it. But the away end is packed and in good voice, and as the game kicks off Port tear into their opponents with the vigour we’ve come to expect in recent weeks, and take a mere 10 minutes to take the lead. Ratchaburi’s keeper makes a mess of a corner, his attempted punch as limp as one of the stadium sausages; the ball is swung back across the area, to be nodded into the centre by Rochela (22), and once again the keeper comes out waving to his mother (c Big Ron) and misses the ball, allowing Todsapol (6) to nod it into an empty net. It’s a great start and no more than Port deserve.

 

The beautiful Mitr Phol Stadium

 

Port continue to dominate for the next 20 minutes or so, with both Josimar (30) and Pakorn (9) coming close with long-range screamers. But on the half-hour mark Ratchaburi’s quality starts to show and they boss the remainder of the half. And right on the 45-minute mark their pressure tells, with big Congolese defender Joel Sami, a living monument to the fortifying effects of Um Bongo, muscling Rochela out of the way and nodding in a corner at the near post to make it 1-1.

Over half-time Changs (note to Mitr Phol: you can’t build a sexy new stadium and then stock it with the Devil’s Piss. You just can’t) the consensus is that 1-1 is pretty much fair. Ratchaburi have more quality throughout the squad than Port do, but Port have the team spirit and the intensity, and so in the second half it could go either way.

And what a second half it turns out to be, a fitting final 45 minutes of an enjoyable and often batshit mental 2017 season. Port are on top for most of it – I can hardly remember young Rattanai (17) having to make a save – and get the lead back on 66 minutes, when Josimar (yes, Josimar) skins a Ratchaburi defender, bursts into the box and unleashes a fierce left-foot shot which the keeper can only parry onto the foot of Suarez (5), who taps it in for 2-1.

 

Amaretto & cigars – who said Port fans were all hooligans?

 

Port continue to dominate and on 85 minutes get the third goal their pressure deserves, with Pakorn cheekily taking out three Ratch defenders and putting in a cross which skims off Josi’s boot onto the head of a defender and into the net for 3-1.

But just as I’m taking pats on the back from my colleagues in celebration of the lifting of the Gypsy’s Curse, Operation Fuckup briefly rears its ugly head on 90 minutes as Dragons’ striker Nattawut manages to calmly wander past six static Port defenders to get on the end of a pass and stick it past Rattanai. When the ref adds on 4 minutes’ stoppage time, the gypsy begins to rub her gnarled, wrinkled hands together and cackle over her kumquats, but luckily Port manage to play out the remaining time with a combination of possession and feigning injury, and finally, after over three years, the curse is lifted and I get to celebrate an away league win.

But tonight is all about Port ending a successful season on a high, with 16 points taken out of the last 18 and a top-half finish secured, in front of one of the biggest and most boisterous away crowds of the season. One of those nights when you forget the away drubbing at Honda, the home defeat to Pattaya, the existence of Tana, and the Zico Experiment, and just thank your lucky stars that you support this team and are surrounded by these wonderful, wonderful fans. We sing ourselves hoarse, Genki (18) sheds a few tears as he says farewell, and we head to the disco tuk-tuk to carry on the party in the car park.

 

 

Due to logistical issues our journey home is beer-free, which makes it somewhat less fun but also means we get home in 2 hours without having to make multiple toilet stops, and we bid sad farewells at Bang Chak and promise to meet again in 3 months’ time. Well, apart from the Thai FA Cup Final next Saturday of course. Oh, and there’s the futsal too. Football – and friendship – never stop.

 

Man of the Match: Josimar Rodrigues

Fittingly for his last game in a Port shirt, Josi put in one of his best performances of the season today, adding a few bursts of pace to his usual hard graft in the lone striker role, setting up the second goal for Suarez, and – possibly – staking a claim to the third. Whether he touched it or not, he’s beaten his 2016 goal tally and become the highest-scoring Port striker since Leandro, and tonight’s bustling, productive performance was a great way to bow out after a great season.