Super 8: Port Punish Pre-season Opponents

 

Port romped past two pre-season opponents early this week, scoring 8 goals and showing plenty of attacking promise. On Monday, Jadet’s first choice XI took on J1 side Sanfrecce Hiroshima, who have signed Muangthong striker Teerasil on loan, and recorded an excellent 5-2 win. Then on Tuesday, the second string faced off with Samut Sakhon – AKA The Proud Junk Ship – and cruised to a 3-0 victory.

First up were Sanfrecce Hiroshima, who ought to have presented a very tough test for Port. A J1 side – albeit one who struggled to a 15th place finish – would be expected to have the upper hand against Port, but Port showed a lot of attacking intent and some improved finishing to take a decisive first-half lead.

 

 

The first goal came courtesy of an appalling error by an opposition centre half. In attempting an ambitious pass forward, the defender only succeeded in finding Siwakorn’s (16) stomach, or where his stomach would be if he had one, and the ball fell kindly for Suarez (5). The Spaniard, whose selection with the First XI was surprising given that he started a riot in his last appearance, laid it off to Boskovic (10), who calmly side-footed home from 12 yards.

Next came two goals which upon further review I still have absolutely no idea who should be credited with. Both came from Pakorn (7) crosses which were delivered right in to the danger zone by Port’s dead-ball specialist. The first, a corner from the left, was turned home by either Suarez, Rochela (22) or a defender from a couple of yards out, then the second, an inswinging free kick from deep, was directed goalwards by either Suarez or a defender.

At half time Hiroshima made some changes, and seemed to have brought some quality off the bench. They got right back in to the game with a quick-fire double, with both goals following a very familiar pattern for Port defensively. Two crosses from the Port left, neither under any real pressure from a defender, found teammates in the middle who found the back of the net. For the first at least the goal-scorer was being marked by Rochela, although he couldn’t stop the ball being poked towards goal. Worawut (36), who looks certain to start the season as Port’s first choice ‘keeper with Rattanai (17) seemingly still not 100% after a string of injuries last season, will be disappointed not to have kept it out.

The second was a free header, with the attacker peeling away from Todsapol (6) in to far more space than there should have been just 8 yards away from the Port goal. Are Port ever going to address their painfully obvious left-sided issue? Four goals in two games have been conceded from there, with neither Panpanpong (19) or the left-sided midfielder taking responsibility for stopping crosses coming in. Last season it was clear there was a problem, although with Genki ahead of Panpanpong the damage done by his positional indiscipline was perhaps not as bad as it could have been. This season Port seem likely to be lining up with either Nurul (31) or Pakorn on the left hand side of midfield, and as much as they bring to the team on the creative side, they will not immediately be thinking about filling in for their left-back when they see him bombing forward. With pre-season almost at an end, though, Port have given very little game time to either Yossawat (28) or Jetjinn (51), who ought to have been given the opportunity to make a case for first-team inclusion.

Port were soon back on the offensive though, with Siwakorn once again putting enough pressure on his opponents to force a mistake. A loose pass in midfield was pounced on by the Thin White Duke, who rode two challenges before releasing Suarez who played in Boskovic. The Montengrin had the beating of the centre halves, who both simultaneously brought him down in the area. The referee pointed to the spot, despite the utterly ridiculous appeals of the defenders, and El Capitan Rochela stepped up to do the business. If pre-season is anything to go by Port will not be bottom of the penalties-awarded list this time around!

The final nail in the Japanese coffin was created by another typical Nurul incursion in to the box. Nurul had been busy throughout, often being on the receiving end of some robust challenges, and on this occasion was just about to pull the trigger when he was fouled. After being fed by Nitipong (34), the diminutive Southerner turned smartly in the box and his swinging boot was impeded from behind. The referee once again awarded Port the spot-kick, but this time Kim (8) was determined to show off his goal-scoring credentials. The Korean’s penalty kick looked well-practiced, meaning that in Rochela, Boskovic and Kim, Port seem to have three very capable options.

 


 

In Tuesday’s game, which your correspondent didn’t make it to by the way, Port faced off against T2 side Samut Sakhon FC. The ambitious Proud Junk Ship, who have finished first in their division for 3 consecutive seasons, were facing Port’s second string, with Jadet taking the opportunity to give a final audition to those still looking to break in to the First XI before the season opener two weekends from now.

 

 

The man most in need of a star turn was of course German Bajram Nebihi (14), who is locked in a head-to-head battle with Suarez for a place in Port’s 2018 T1 squad. Other contenders are Bodin (15), who is pushing Pakorn (7) and Nurul (31) for a spot on the wing, Dolah (4), who is in contention with Todsapol (6) in central defence, and Jetjinn (51), who purely by virtue of the fact that Panpanpong (19) is still in the team must not be far behind.

With the only video posted by the Port Facebook page today being a clip of Terens Puhiri attempting to sing, we have nothing to go by other than the list of goal-scorers and a couple of comments from those who watched the game.

New striker Arthit (29) opened the scoring, getting on the end of a pass from Bodin and putting Port one up just before the interval. About 5 minutes after the restart, Nebihi got the goal he desperately needed. He converted a freekick from about 20 yards out, and according to our sources it was the least he deserved for an excellent all-round performance. All we know about the final goal was that it was scored by Dolah and assisted by Chakrit (9), who had replaced Bodin just a few minutes earlier.

So, Nebihi did what he needed to do, and it will be very interesting to see who Jadet chooses for Friday’s final friendly against Suphanburi. Bodin will be pleased to have notched an assist, and Dolah will also be happy with a clean sheet and a goal to his name.

 


 

Port conclude their pre-season campaign against Suphanburi on Saturday 3rd February at 17:00. See you there!

 

Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting: Port FC 2-3 Suwon FC

 

What should have been a laid-back pre-season friendly ended up being a hard-fought 5-goal thriller involving a mass brawl following a spat centred around Sergio Suarez. Port ended up coming out on the wrong side of the 3-2 scoreline, but with some more clinical finishing the result could easily have gone the other way.

 

 

 

Jadet went with something pretty close to his first XI, with the two eyebrow-raisers being that Suarez (5) was preferred to Nebihi (18) and Bodin (15) to Pakorn (7). The first half, while it lasted, was a pretty even affair, with both sides having a few attacks and winning a penalty each, although we weren’t convinced entirely by either of them. Suwon were first up, as their left-winger ghosted past Nitipong, who the referee adjudged to have pushed his opponent in the back. From what we saw the Korean tripped over the ball, but Nitipong (34) – who regardless of whether or not he committed the foul was completely caught out by his opponent – may well have helped him on his way down. Suwon’s resident Brazilian hit the top corner, with Worawut (36) going the wrong way.

Then it was Port’s turn up the other end, with Boskovic (10) being sent through down the middle. The Montenegrin, who had largely been starved of service up to that point, looked to have delayed his shot too long, although his blushes were saved when a sliding challenge came in from his right, and he took a tumble which convinced the referee enough to point to the spot. From our angle it looked like a questionable decision, but we can’t say we’re not happy to have a forward with enough about him to win the penalty if he’s not going to score the goal. Boskovic handed the ball to captain Rochela (22), who still seems to be on spot-kick duty despite the arrival of his record-scoring teammate, and El Capitan dispatched it in to the top right corner with the usual ease.

What was a pretty low-key affair was about to turn very ugly indeed, though, and the man at the centre of the big first-half controversy was Sergio Suarez, who may well have bought his own ticket away from Khlong Toei with the way he reacted to a bit of handbags from an opposition player. Suarez came in with a late challenge which sent both players to the turf, then the Korean player appeared to throw a little slap in his direction. Suarez got up quicker than he ever has done in his Port career and proceeded to kick out at his opponent. Now, I’m not talking a Beckham-versus-Argentina little flick of the foot here but a full on studs-first attack designed to hurt his opponent. In an instant at least 3 Koreans were aiming myriad martial arts kicks at Suarez, who was forced in to a hasty retreat. Within seconds there were dozens of people on the pitch, with a fair few players pushing, shoving and having to be restrained by teammates and staff on both sides. Dolah (4) was summoned from the bench to remove Suarez, who was sat down and given what looked to be a pretty stern talking to by Madame Pang. Reports that Nebihi was seen grinning like a Cheshire cat are unconfirmed but almost certainly accurate!

Eventually, with Rochela, Kim (39) and Nitipong mediating on the Port side, peace was restored and incredibly the referee agreed not to send anyone off, but presumably insisted that both sides sub-off all of the offenders in a bid to restore sanity. Suarez, Todsapol (6) and Bodin went off for Port, but it was a long time before replacements Nebihi, Dolah and Pakorn saw any action. The first half was stopped, despite there having been about 30 minutes played, and there was a longer-than usual half-time break for all of the players to regain their composure. It seemed for a moment as if the Koreans weren’t going to be returning for the second period, with all their equipment disappearing from the side of the pitch, and the whole squad in the dressing room. Eventually they did reemerge to play the second period though, and within just a couple of minutes were back in the lead.

The move came down Port’s left, with a Suwon attacker getting the wrong side of his marker to head his team back in to the lead. Port tried to get back in to the game, with Pakorn and Dolah combining a couple of times from set-pieces to threaten the Korean goal, but despite the Thai-Swede’s significant height advantage he couldn’t find the target with his headers. There was also a moment of interest for fans of Delap-era Stoke City, with Kim (39) unveiling a very useful-looking long throw, although his teammates were not best positioned to take advantage of it. Now, I’ve never really seen a Thai team set up to try and attack a long throw, so Port may be best served letting Kim take a training session himself and teach his teammates how to wreak havoc in the opposition box with these deliveries. Port could well have a dangerous attacking weapon on their hands that few opponents will be prepared to defend against if they play their cards right.

Suwon had a few useful attacking ideas of their own, too, and just a few minutes after scoring their second they got a third. The attack once again came down Port’s left, which most Port fans will be used to with Panpanpong (19) ‘defending’ that side of the pitch. He was soon replaced, with Jetjinn (51) once again being preferred to Yossawat (28) as back-up in that position.

With the Koreans perhaps content with their two goal lead, though, Port really ratcheted up the pressure, and it was Nebihi who was at the heart of most of it. The ungainly German almost always seems to be about to lose the ball, before one of his long legs flicks it around a defender. At times he was embarrassing his opponents, with a superb piece of exhibition skill featuring a couple of cheeky nutmegs down the right between him, Pakorn and Nitipong drawing numerous cheers from the rowdy foreigners in Zone C.

The other star performer was Kim who, aside from his long throws, also impressed with his long passing. On a few occasions, searching passes from deep were aimed either forward at Boskovic, whose movement was excellent throughout, or wide to Pakorn, whose control and crossing was of the standard we’ve come to expect from The Midfield Monk. If Boskovic had been able to convert a one-on-one chance against the keeper, where the bounce of the ball seemed to foil him, or a simple volleyed chance from a Pakorn cross, then Port would have been victorious. He did get on to the score sheet late on, though, as Port were awarded the least controversial penalty of the night for a clear handball. This time, Boskovic stepped up to take the spot-kick, and rolled the ball home impudently, sending the ‘keeper helplessly in the wrong direction.

 

 

The final incident of note came from a freekick which Port were awarded just on the edge of the area in the dying seconds of the game. Boskovic, having just converted the penalty, was determined to take it, but Pakorn isn’t used to being challenged in this sort of position. Nevertheless, the fire-breathing Dragan got his point across and was allowed to take responsibility. His effort looked in for a second, but some combination of the gigantic Korean ‘keeper and the crossbar kept it out, denying Port a draw, which after the amount of chances they created in the last 20 or so minutes, was the least they deserved.

So, what did we learn today? Pre-game, Suarez had earned the right to start ahead of Nebihi, but quickly shot himself in the foot with his karate kid antics. If Nebihi was behind Suarez for the final foreign player spot, he has most certainly moved ahead of him with another superb 45 minute performance. Port are very dangerous going forward, but the defensive frailties are far from a thing of the past.

 

Port FC Man of the Match

 

 

Nebihi may have impressed again, but my Man of the Match this time was Kim in central midfield. We haven’t seen vision and passing as good as Kim’s at PAT Stadium for quite a while, and that long throw could come in handy, too.

 

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Crystal Balls 2018: Bangkok Utd

 

In our latest Crystal Balls, we hear from Svein Falk Lorentzen about Bangkok Utd. The Angels had another good season in 2017, finishing 3rd in T1 and making it to the FA Cup final, where they lost to Chiang Rai Utd. Since then they’ve lost star forwards Dragan Boskovic (to Port), Mario Gjurovski and Jaycee John, replacing them with players new to Thai football, so the jury’s out on their chances in 2018. But with excellent coach Mano Polking still in the dugout, they’re sure to remain a strong side…

 


 

What was your highlight of the 2017 season?

Winning the semifinal in the FA-cup (and Udon Thani getting promoted)

How will your team fare in 2018?

Hopefully top-3, but with all the major changes in the squad, it`s hard to predict where they will end.

Who is your most exciting new signing?

Don`t know anything about the 3 Brazilians as I don`t follow players at other clubs, but if the club signs Michael Falkesgaard, I will say him, as we really, really need a new goalkeeper.

Which departed players from 2017 will you miss the most? Who are you glad to see the back of?

Will really miss Boskovic. I`m sure nobody will get even close to scoring 38 goals this season. Also disappointed to see Mario go. Nobody I`m happy to see leave.

What changes would you like to see at your club? Or are you happy with the way things are going?

Only change I want is for them to move back to Bangkok. It was my local team when I started following them in 2009, but now there are many teams located closer to my home than Thammasat.

Which teams will be in contention for the T1 title, and who will win?

Buriram and Muangthong. 1 of them will most likely win.

Which 5 – yes 5 – teams will go down to T2, and which 3 will come up to T1?

Navy, Prachuap, Sukhothai, Ubon UMT and Chainat will go down, and Udon Thani, Chiang Mai and PTT Rayong up.

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2018?

Home against Buriram. They bring many fans and great if we beat them.

Thai football crowds are declining year on year. Why do you think this is, and what can be done to make the game more popular?

Reducing the number of breaks, and the length of them. Less mid-week games. Have sale of food and drinks (incl alcohol) at all stadiums. Leg 1 to end with league cup final.

Finally, give us your three wishes for the 2018 season.

1: Bangkok United to win a trophy.
2: Less changes to the fixtures than previous seasons.
3: Decision to keep T1 with 18 clubs for many more seasons.

 


 

Many thanks Svein! Want to preview your team’s 2018 season? Fill out our questionnaire!

 

Tom’s Transfer Talk: Sonic ‘Poom

 

Port have made further moves towards cutting the size of their squad, and by the start of the season could well have the 25 man squad that we suggested back in 2017. Some Port players who were released have also found new homes, including Ekkapoom, who has joined T1 rivals Air Force.

The latest departure, if he ever really arrived, is Chilean-Palestinian Matias Jadue. Jadue was brought in in ludicrous circumstances, with 7 foreign players already on the books and absolutely no route in to the team for a player who had most recently been struggling for form in Malaysia. As precisely everyone could have predicted, he managed nothing more than a few friendly goals during his time with Port, failing to even be registered in the league squad let alone make a competitive appearance. The closest he got to seeing meaningful action was a cup game in which he got injured in the warm-up. At least Jadue’s time with Port got his foot in the Thai League door though, as he has now been picked up by T2 side Krabi FC. We wish Matias the best of luck, and hope that Wikipedia’s Krabi squad, which shows 5 foreign players already on the books, is a mistake rather than the sign of more troubles to come!

 

 

Former Port favourite Ekkapoom could well be making his return to Port in 2018 with Port’s oldest rivals Air Force. Air Force, led by former Port supremo Sasom, have been splashing the cash upon their return to the big time, bringing in arguably the most fearsome three-pronged strike force in the country. After Jaycee John and Renan Marques arrived from Bangkok United and Chonburi respectively, The Blue Eagles have further bolstered their attack with Leandro Assumpcao from Muangthong. And then there’s the Poom! With Leandro mostly operating on the left, it seems Ekkapoom will most likely be used as back-up on the wing, but with any luck will get a reasonable amount of playing time. As long as he doesn’t score against us, we wish him all the best!

Speaking of former Port players and Air Force, we have also just heard that Kayne Vincent has finally fallen prey to the Air Force spending spree, and has been moved on to T2 Kasetsart FC. Vincent will be replacing Brazilian striker Jonatan Fereira Reis at Kasetsart, who scored 28 goals as The Emerald Nagas finished in 13th place. With Vincent unlikely to provide anywhere near that much firepower, we can’t say things look good for Kasetsart this season. The transfer also brings to mind a recent Instagram post from Port’s most arbeitsverweigerung striker, in which he wished former Buriram teammate Charyl Chappuis a Happy Birthday, and said “See you on the pitch.” Well, there’s always the Cup, I suppose. Chappuis, the rather more realistic of the two, replied “See you soon.”

 

 

Another Port player to have found a new home is midfielder Siwapong Jarernsin, who was released late in 2017. He has joined up with Khon Kaen FC, where he will with any luck be linking up with Tana, if he ever manages to find a move away from Port that is!

Assuming that Tana does eventually move on and one of Suarez and Nebihi also don’t make the cut, that will leave Port with exactly 25 players, all of whom you can find about at our freshly updated Squad page. For more on which one of Port’s attacking midfielders is likely to make the cut, and which one will get the chop, you can find Tim’s analysis here.

 

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Crystal Balls 2018: Muangthong Utd

 

After sweeping all before them in 2016, the team we Port fans love to hate meekly surrendered their title in 2017, with the League Cup their only trophy of the season. This time out they’ve lost Kawin, Theerasil and Teerathon (aka Hia Um), but have added Buriram’s 2017 top score Jaja Coelho, and are expected to be in the title race. Here’s MTU fan Grant Aitken to tell us what he thinks the season has in store for the Kirins…

 


 

What was your highlight of the 2017 season?

The ACL campaign was thrilling. That last minute winner against Kashima Antlers will live long in the memory.

How will your team fare in 2018?

1st or 2nd hopefully, best to wait a few games before making any firm predictions though.

Who is your most exciting new signing?

Only one contender here, Jaja. He’s a different level player and will make the difference.

Which departed players from 2017 will you miss the most? Who are you glad to see the back of?

We’ve lost 3 key players in Terrasil, Theeraton and Kawin, but with Peerapat and Adisak we have high calibre replacements for the two that are going to Japan. Kawin is less easy to replace and we’ll need to tighten our defence to compensate for the loss.

What changes would you like to see at your club? Or are you happy with the way things are going?

Losing players to clubs abroad is the major talking point for Muangthong this year, but I think the club has little option but to agree to let the players move on. Blocking moves would appear spiteful and make the next generation of players, that are good enough to play abroad, less likely to choose Muangthong to further their careers. It’s important the club thinks about its long term strategy rather than desperately clinging on to players who want to play elsewhere. We have a strong academy, several feeder teams and potentially a valuable parent club, unless I’m reading too much into the eventual destinations of Leicester City’s “Fox Hunt” development programme graduates.

Which teams will be in contention for the T1 title, and who will win?

Muangthong and Buriram will be the front runners. Although, I’m hoping Buriram will suffer from the same issues they had two years ago when they finished outside the top 3. I would like to see them hold their own on the ACL stage, but their squad looks weaker now then it did 2 seasons back so they will find it difficult being competitive on all fronts.

Chaing Rai and Bangkok Glass have improved, although not significantly. I think Mano Polking will re-group his side to be a strong outfit, but I feel they’ll still have problems taking points against the big 2. Port have some good attacking players, but I think they’ll struggle for consistency if Jadet is intent on playing them all at the same time and they could take a while to find their feet. Tero and Ratchchaburi will be hard to beat this year, but don’t quite have enough quality to mount a title challenge.

If I had to pick a winner I’d go with Muangthong, although its getting tighter so injuries, bust-ups or divine intervention could result in a surprise winner this year.

Which 5 – yes 5 – teams will go down to T2, and which 3 will come up to T1?

Chainat have seemed very quiet in the transfer market so far, and I think the shenanigans of last season will have a detrimental effect on Navy. Ubon have issues in many areas of the club, and I think Sukhothai will struggle this year too. Prachuap seem to have ambition but I’m not sure they can stay up, whereas Air Force have some good fire power up front and emerging young talent so they should be fine. I expect to see Suphanburi and Nakhon Ratchasima in the dogfight too, but I’m backing them to beat the drop.

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2018?

Bangkok United is probably my favourite fixture. The away game is not far to travel so we normally bring 4-5k fans. They, as well as ourselves, have a gifted manager, so I find it intriguing to see their tactics in action. Coach Ban got the bragging rights last season and Mano was the overall victor the year before. Buriram is a big game, but far more tense, and generally having more at stake so it’s not quite as enjoyable, but certainly a game I eagerly anticipate. I look forward to any fixture if I know I can expect the opposition to come and try and play some football. That generally rules out Ubon, and certain away fixtures where the playing surface is deliberately made unplayable. You can’t emulate EPL style football on a Sunday league playing surface. I hope the FA is monitoring next year and dishes out fines for repeat offenders.

Thai football crowds are declining year on year. Why do you think this is, and what can be done to make the game more popular?

There are many things clubs could do better but the main problem is that fans will not flock in their masses if the football is not entertaining. I think more support needs to be given to referees to show them how to help the game flow and make sure they’re punishing offenses that contradict entertainment values. I’d love the FA to set aside a budget to bring in a retired referee from Europe to scrutinize performances, not just for the big decisions, but for the little ones that annoy the hell out of spectators too.

Finally, give us your three wishes for the 2018 season.

1.Muangthong to progress to the ACL Group stage beating Japanese opposition on their own turf in the process.

2.Buriram to have a strong showing in the ACL group stage – it’s a necessary evil if we’re to keep chipping away at Australia in terms of coefficient points.

3.Somebody to put together a hilarious montage of Diogo’s face every time he takes a tumble in the penalty area, only for the referee to refer to VAR and book him for simulation.

 


 

Thanks Grant! Want to share your thoughts on the 2018 season? Fill out our questionnaire!

Due to technical issues entirely beyond our control some of you may see a picture of the 2017 Port team celebrating an away victory at the top of this page rather than a picture of Muangthong. We apologise for any inconvenience or distress this may cause.

 

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Crystal Balls 2018: Pattaya Utd

 

Last season Pattaya surprised many observers by finishing 8th in T1, after a long unbeaten run was only ended by Port in Jadet’s first match back at the helm following the Zico experiment. Following last season’s performance, despite losing star players Wellington & Stojanovic, optimism is high amongst Dolphins fans that they can improve on 2017. Here’s friend of the Sandpit Robin Lennon with his thoughts…

 


 

What was your highlight of the 2017 season?

The run of only 3 defeats in 17 in the second leg was pretty special, specifically the away draw at Muangthong, defeats of Bangkok United and Bangkok Glass in that run showed how far the team progressed through the season and could compete with the best.

How will your team fare in 2018?

Management are targeting 6th but I’d be happy with another top half finish to consolidate last season which should be realistic.

Who is your most exciting new signing?

Although the permanent signing of loanee Peeradol Chamratsamee was a huge deal showing the club’s ambition, I think all eyes will be on our new Brazilian attack of Lukian and Rafinha. ” It’s just like watching Brazil ” has a nice ring to it.

Which departed players from 2017 will you miss the most? Who are you glad to see the back of?

Wellington Priori and Milos Stojanovic are very surprising and disappointing exits, their contribution to last seasons success was huge and both were big fan favourites, particularly Wellington. However it’s the loss of loanee goalkeeper Somporn Yos without a replacement so far that worries me the most. Port fans who enjoyed the away game at Pattaya witnessed the kind of shambolic display between the posts I fear we may have to endure without Yos. No particularly negative opinions on departed players but I wasn’t overly impressed with loanee Mongkol Tossakrai’s contribution given the fanfare on his arrival.

What changes would you like to see at your club? Or are you happy with the way things are going?

I’m extremely happy with how the new owners are moving the club forward, what they have achieved from taking over only 6 weeks before the start of last season is impressive. I think it speaks volumes that our crowds improved last season given the breaks and what I felt was particularly poor home game scheduling.

Which teams will be in contention for the T1 title, and who will win?

I expect Buriram to win it but hopefully the next 6 or 7 including Port and Pattaya will be closer matched to make the chase for second and third spot exciting. Quite a few big changes in personnel at several clubs makes for an interesting season in the top half I hope.

Which 5 – yes 5 – teams will go down to T2, and which 3 will come up to T1?

I would hope at least 1 of the promoted 3 stay up so I would go for Sukothai, Navy and Nakhon Ratchasima to join them. I fancy Udon with the ex Pattaya M&M’s strikeforce of Milos Stojanovic and Milan Bubalo, hopefully PTT Rayong for another derby and Sisaket to return to T1

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2018?

It goes without saying the opener against Thai Port is the perfect curtain raiser to see how both teams new players fare and with a Sunday kick off I’m hoping we can bring a noisy respectable sized support to add to the occasion. Prachuap away in GW3 for a few days, a scenic train ride and a small stadium atmosphere and my first trip to the Leo stadium which I’ve missed the last 2 seasons.

Thai football crowds are declining year on year. Why do you think this is, and what can be done to make the game more popular?

Match scheduling and the continual breaks are the most frustrating aspects at the league organisation level, even though Pattaya bucked the trend with an increased average of just over 3,000 the fact we pulled in 4,000+ in our last 2 games when we had weekend evening kick-offs demonstrates the impact of TV scheduling and fixture planning. The TV deal is necessary to support the league but the breaks don’t appear to benefit anyone.

The clubs have to do everything in their power to provide a decent product on and off the field on matchday and market it effectively and I think that’s why our crowds improved. A big pre-season launch event, a good season ticket deal, continual communication via facebook and a thank you party for the fans after the last home game of the season were all positive steps within the club’s control not being done by the previous regime.

Finally, give us your three wishes for the 2018 season.

1) A committed cup effort from Pattaya, my one gripe last season was fielding a below strength team when realistically cup success is our only chance of a trophy.

2) That no clubs get cast adrift at the bottom early, with 5 going down a tight relegation scrap should make for more meaningful games for all clubs and hopefully decent crowds.

3) Away cup draws to lower league teams where I haven’t been before. Football and travel in Thailand, the perfect combination.

 


 

Thanks Robin & good luck to Pattaya this season! Want to tell us about your team? Fill out our questionnaire!

 

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‘Korn: Freak on a Lease?

 

Several Thai websites are reporting that Port right-winger & assist freak Pakorn could be heading back to former club Police Tero on a season-long loan. With the club having signed Thailand international right-winger Nurul, Pakorn could be faced with a choice of either playing out of position on the left or sitting on the bench, and it appears that the Midfield Monk doesn’t find either option particularly attractive.

Pakorn had a superb 2017 season with 6 goals and an amazing18 assists, and was on particularly good form after his somewhat bizarre mid-season spell at the monastery, working much harder for the team and playing much more unselfishly. There are few better crossers or dead-ball strikers in Thai football, and so it would be a shame to lose him. That said, Port clearly haven’t spunked 20mTHB on Nurul (the only T1 player with more assists in 2017) to play him out of position, so it would be no surprise to see ‘Korn try his luck elsewhere.

Of course, if Pakorn does leave, it means Port will be in need of a left-winger, with ASEAN winger Terens ‘Flash’ Puhiri not likely to get much game time due to foreign player restrictions. Watch this space for more news as we get it!

 

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Crystal Balls 2018: Buriram Utd

In our latest Crystal Balls we cross the palm of Buriram Utd fan Jamie Pinder to get his thoughts on how Thailand’s top team will fare in 2018. Buriram went through the 2017 season with only 2 defeats and won the league at a canter, but will start the new season without the services of top scorer Jaja Coelho and midfield lynchpin Ko Seul Ki.

 


 

What was your highlight of the 2017 season?

Easy. Reclaiming the title. Or maybe it was the photo shoot pulling faces to scare the opposition in the away changing rooms.

How will your team fare in 2018?

Top of the pile….. ish.

Who is your most exciting new signing?

Ummmm ….waiting ……so far I think the new Chang Mascot in his scrambled egg shirt.

Which departed players from 2017 will you miss the most? Who are you glad to see the back of?

Jaja for his goals but Seul-Ki is a greater loss. He missed the 2016 season and look what happened there.

What changes would you like to see at your club? Or are you happy with the way things are going?

Can’t really complain about much. Just need to fix the website and I’ll be a happy camper.

Which teams will be in contention for the T1 title, and who will win?

Chiang Rai will compete much better this year. Muang Thong will be close and Bangkok United will be trailing but ahead of the rest.

Which 5 – yes 5 – teams will go down to T2, and which 3 will come up to T1?

Any 5 from…..it’s a long list……. Of course the 3 promoted clubs are always in contention plus Swat Cats, Sukhotai and Ubon. 3 to come up will be Ang Thong, PTT and Krabi!! Need some good road trips.

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2018?

Any places I haven’t been before….e.g Sukhotai, Chainat and Air Force

Thai football crowds are declining year on year. Why do you think this is, and what can be done to make the game more popular?

Just play the games without the long breaks. All the fans agree that they lose interest the more this happens. Why can’t the FAT understand this…..

Finally, give us your three wishes for the 2018 season.

Buriram to win the Champions League 🙂 Muang Thong fight relegation and I meet everyone of the expats who are reading this and we enjoy a quiet beer before/after our respective games. Good Luck everyone.

 


 

Thanks Jamie! Want to do a season preview for your team? Just fill out our questionnaire!

 

Suarez, Nebihi & the Maranhao Scale

 

A few weeks ago I came up with the concept of the Maranhao Scale – a measure by which all future Port transfer fuck-ups will be judged, with the 2017 Maranhao/Kaludjerovic debacle earning a maximum fuck-up factor of 10, and other transfer shenanigans rated as follows:

Signing lots of new players for Gary Stevens then firing him before he can use them: 9

Serginho arriving at Port, running over & killing a pedestrian (allegedly), & buggering off back to Brazil pretty damn sharpish: 8

Signing Mathias Jadue on an 18-month deal and never registering him: 7

Manucharyan running away from Ratchaburi on the eve of the 2016 season, turning up at Port, then disappearing: 7

Loaning out Tatchanon for half a season when we don’t have any decent DMs: 6

…and so on.

This time round, Port’s transfer business has been decidedly efficient, timely and, it has to be said, spectacular – the Maranhao Scale has barely been mentioned in recent weeks as Port have signed up some of T1’s top players and built a side that many feel can mount a genuine title challenge.

But in the last week or so the needle has begun twitching, as Sergio Suarez and Bajram Nebihi square off over the last foreigner slot. One source told us that Port signed Nebihi believing he was a striker, and were somewhat surprised when, after putting pen to paper, he told them what everybody in Thailand – apart from, it seems, Port’s management team – has known for a long time: that he’s actually a midfielder. Another source told us that Nebihi arrived at Port believing he was filling the final foreigner slot, only to get a shock when informed that he’d be expected to compete for his job with the incumbent Sergio Suarez, last season’s second-highest scorer.

On the one hand you can see this as Port merely hedging their bets and making sure they start the season with a good foreign AM: on the other, you have the club legally bound to lose one quality player before the season starts; you have Suarez, who might reasonably think he’d done enough to guarantee his place for 2018, pissed off at the club signing a potential repacement; and you have Nebihi, thinking he’d joined Port as one its big swinging foreign dicks, finding out he has to sing for his supper. Right now it’s only a 1 or 2 on the Maranhao Scale but the potential is there for the needle to go into the red.

So who is going to get the nod? It’s a tough one. I’m not Suarez’ biggest fan – it took him half a season to get used to playing at T1 level, he was very inconsistent, and he has a tendency to get distracted on the pitch by running battles with opponents and referees; but he was arguably Port’s best player in the second half of the season and his tally of 13 goals in all competitions was very impressive. Nebihi scored more T1 goals last season, is physically more imposing, and is more of an attacking threat; yet he spent a lot of the second half of the season on the bench and the Ubon fans we’ve spoken to weren’t exactly heartbroken to see him leave.

It all comes down to what Port really need. Nebihi is very much an attacking midfielder, and as such has plenty of competition for his place from the likes of Bodin, and also Pakorn & Nurul who can play in his position. Suarez, whilst he spent much of 2017 shoehorned into an AM role, is happiest in central midfield, where Port have yellow card collector Siwakorn and…not much else. On that basis, and on the basis that he’s a known quantity, Suarez should probably get the nod. But on the basis of Nebihi being a strapping 6’4″ brick shithouse who can more easily fill in for Boskovic as a backup striker if needed, his slightly superior T1 goal record last season, and the fact that Jadet’s sole tactic involves putting in crosses to a big striker (even when no big striker exists) my money is on Nebihi being given half a season to prove himself whilst Suarez either gets loaned out or sits on the bench giving the burly German that smouldering Latin glare that can tighten referee sphincters from 20 metres away.

But whoever gets picked, it’s a nice dilemma for the club to have, and there’s no doubt Port are going to be a lot of fun to watch next season, both on and off the hallowed PAT turf.

 

 

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Crystal Balls 2018: Nakhon Ratchasima FC

 

In our second 2018 season preview, Nakhon Ratchasima fan Russ John looks at what the season may hold for the Swatcats. Having only narrowly avoided relegation in 2017, it may be another season of struggle for the Isaan side, especially with 5 teams facing the drop…

 


What was your highlight of the 2017 season?

Avoiding relegation

How will your team fare in 2018?

Hopefully finish above bottom 5

Who is your most exciting new signing?

Nothing too exciting but Yayah Kunath looks a decent acquisition

Which departed players from 2017 will you miss the most? Who are you glad to see the back of?

Victor Igbonefo was a high profile departure but due to his lack of pace and marking ability glad to see the back of him. Port picked up a couple of players from us, Chakrit Rawanprakone and Athibordee Arirat who will make decent squad players for Port.

What changes would you like to see at your club? Or are you happy with the way things are going?

Like all fans of all clubs, I would like the club to show more ambition, but I am generally happy to be a fan of the club as it is. My only expectation and hope is that they can become established as a TPL team and perhaps creep into the top ten.

Which teams will be in contention for the T1 title, and who will win?

The way Muang Thong and Bangkok United are heading, I think the way is wide open for Buriram to dominate. I am of the opinion that spending loads does not guarantee success – too many big names in a club can lead to friction, so although Port and Chang Rai will be there or thereabouts, I do not think they will challenge Buriram.

Which 5 – yes 5 – teams will go down to T2, and which 3 will come up to T1?

The 3 newcomers especially Prachuap will inevitably struggle. Navy, Tero, Swatcats,and Ubon will be in the relegation mix. I think Si Saket may come back up. Unlikely I know but the TPL needs more Isaan teams so Konkaen and Udon Thani.

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2018?

Buriram home and away and Pattaya and Chonburi away.

Thai football crowds are declining year on year. Why do you think this is, and what can be done to make the game more popular?

Everyone has lots of ideas on this one (as have I), but the simple and unpalatable truth is that the product is substandard and does not appeal to average “fringe fans”. Sure us diehards will always turn up but most Thais do not seem to be interested. Thus there is no easy answer – I think we are going to have to live with the fact that most teams will attract sub 5000 gates.

Finally, give us your three wishes for the 2018 season.

1. The Swatcats avoid the drop.
2. No more bloody dramas.
3. A continuous season with minimal breaks


Thanks Russ! Want to preview 2018 for your team? Just fill out our handy questionnaire!