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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!

 

Tim Russell

Tim Russell

The founder and editor of The Sandpit, Tim has been in SE Asia since 2003 and in Bangkok since 2012, where he runs a travel tech business. Tim has followed Port FC since 2014, and is also a fan of his hometown club Coventry City, and French club AS St-Etienne. He has written for the likes of Football365, ITV.com, NME and The Quietus, and is a regular contributor to God Is In the TV. He's a keen photographer and his work can be seen on his website.

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