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