Higher Sights: The Sandpit’s Big 2018 Preview

 

How things can change in the space of a year. 12 months ago newly-promoted Port were shopping in the bargain basement and hoping to avoid relegation back to T2. A year on, and the club have signed up some of the top players in Thailand and are aiming a lot higher than mid-table. Optimism is running high amongst fans, players and staff with the club looking like genuine title contenders. So here are the thoughts of the Sandpit team as we head into what promises to be a thrilling 2018 season…

 


 

TIM RUSSELL

 

Which new Port signings are you most excited about?

Obviously Boskovic and Nurul are exciting signings – you can’t fail to be excited when your club sign the top scorer and top assister from last season – but for me the key signing is Kim Sung Hwan. If you asked any fan what was missing from Port’s team last season I suspect the majority would say “a good defensive midfielder”, and if his friendly performances are anything to go by, he’s just that. Port’s defence was very leaky and prone to conceding penalties last season precisely because they lacked a midfield shield – Kim looks like the man to provide that. He also likes to get forward and has a tasty long throw on him too.

The late signing of Kevin Deeromram is also fantastic news, as Jadet’s favourite Panpanpong was the team’s weakest link last season. It’s so good to see Port signing up the best young players – and gazumping Muangthong.

Having met him the other week I’m also looking forward to seeing Terens get some game time. He is going to be a real fan favourite and is quite a character, so hope we get to see him on the pitch.

Which 2017 players were you sad to see leave? Which players won’t you miss?

Obviously I had a lump in my throat when we said sayonara to Genki last season. It was also a shame to lose a committed player like Ekkapoom. But not a surprise they’ve left given Port’s sudden attack of ambition. I certainly won’t miss Wuttichai or Siwapong, and hope Tana follows them through the exit door before too long.

Which areas do Port still need to strengthen?

You can’t win the league without a decent goalkeeper, and in my opinion Port still don’t have one. Rattanai is very promising but gets injured going for a piss, whilst Worawut doesn’t instil much confidence in me.

is Jadet the right man for the new, big-spending Port?

I hope he is. His stock rose after the Zico debacle and his record at Port isn’t in question, so he deserves to have a crack at driving a Ferrari instead of a Lada for a change. But he’ll be under pressure from day 1 and if Port fail to hit the ground running, I’m sure Mme Pang will have no hesitation in pulling the trigger. But nothing would give me greater pleasure than seeing the big fella lifting a trophy this season. Well, a few things would, but this is not the time or the place.

Tell us your ideal Port starting XI, and why…

 

 

Deeromram is a huge signing who can potentially transform Port from a top 6 side into genuine title contenders – surely even Jadet can’t rate Panpanpong ahead of him? I’d also start Bodin ahead of Suarez as he looks to have more attacking nous about him – the competition between those two for a starting place will be intriguing to watch.

Where will Port finish in T1?

All depends on whether they can play to Boskovic’s strengths. On the assumption they can, I think we will finish top 3 and if we can avoid injuries and our new players gel from the start, we can even win it.

Which games are you most looking forward to in 2018?

Muangthong home & away for obvious reasons. This is one of the biggest fixtures in Thai football and it’s criminal to play it behind close doors purely because MTU are incapable of policing a game properly. Also looking forward to a weekend in Prachuap, and to renewing hostilities with Cheating Chainat.

Which teams will be in the T1 title hunt, who will go down, and who will come up from T2?

It’s hard to see beyond Buriram & Muangthong, though Buriram are gambling on two strikers new to the Thai game and may not be the force they were last season. Outside those two, I think Port, Chiang Rai, Glass and Bangkok Utd will form the chasing pack, with maybe Police as dark horses. Port have the quality to win it but we cannot rule out Operation Fuckup cranking into gear at some point.

In the drop zone, I think Navy, Nakhon Ratchasima, Ubon and Prachuap will all struggle badly, and with 5 going down, I think Chainat and Sukhothai will be fighting it out to avoid the last spot.

Finally, what are your 3 wishes for the 2018 season?

1. For this team I’ve supported since 2014 to win a trophy. It would mean so much to the fans, both locals and Importz. Just the thought of Supachalasai taken over by the Khlong Thoey Army gives me the shivers.

2. Port to start picking players based on form & ability rather than age/experience. In the last couple of years we’ve lost the likes of Tatchanon, Hansson, Pinyo & others whilst sticking with the likes of Tana, Wuttichai & Panpanpong, for no other reason than seniority. Let’s hope the same doesn’t happen to Bodin & Yossawat this time round.

3. That the season isn’t interrupted by stupid long breaks. The fans hate them, the players hate them, the club owners hate them. It’s become obvious they don’t help the national team either, so keep them to 1 week max the way Europe does.

 


 

TOM EARLS

 

Which new Port signings are you most excited about?

For me, the six big signings have been Boskovic, Kim, Nebihi, Nurul, Bodin and Kevin. With Nebihi out and Bodin looking like starting the season on the bench, it’s got to be one of Boskovic, Kim, Nurul or Kevin. Any or all of the four could end up having a huge impact, and with this being Port any or all could end up falling flat, but my money is on Boskovic to make the biggest impact. The goals will come, with assists aplenty for Pakorn, Nurul and Suarez, but the Montenegrin will ultimately show that killer instinct in front of goal that Port have struggled to find in recent years. Kim will also have a huge impact coming in for Adisorn in midfield, and Nurul will show more pace and creativity on Port’s left than Genki, hopefully being ably backed up by Kevin.

Which 2017 players were you sad to see leave? Which players won’t you miss?

Josimar, Genki and Ekkapoom will all be missed for their attitude and application, although with Port strengthening so much in the transfer window letting them go was the right thing to do for all concerned. Josimar and Genki have been replaced by Boskovic and Nurul, whilst Ekkapoom’s role as fan-favourite back-up winger has been enthusiastically taken on by Terens Puhiri.

Ittipol was also a useful squad player and a good experienced guy to have around, and Pinyo had a lot of potential, although injuries prevented him from fulfilling it at Port.

I won’t miss Wuttichai, and I hope none of Port’s new arrivals take up the ‘entitled gobshite still dining out on a couple of decent performances in 2015’ mantle.

Which areas do Port still need to strengthen?

If you’d asked me a couple of days ago I would have undoubtedly said “The defence,” but a couple of signings later and all of a sudden things don’t look to shabby at the back.
Port could struggle a bit between the sticks if Rattanai spends as much time on the treatment table as he did last season. Whilst Worawut is a very capable shot-stopper, he doesn’t exactly inspire confidence under the high ball.

is Jadet the right man for the new, big-spending Port?

Tricky. Yes, if only because he’s shown himself adept at dealing with Madame Pang in a conflict-free way, and he arose from the Zico debacle smelling like roses. Port need a manager with the confidence of their owners, which they now have. However, does he have the smarts to take this group of players in to the top 5? I’m skeptical, but don’t think it’s outside the realms of possibility, either.

Tell us your ideal Port starting XI, and why…

 

 

My team is probably the same as Jadet’s, besides Dolah. Kevin being given the chance to make that left back spot his own is a no-brainer, and I think that particularly after Nebihi being given the boot Port will need the extra physicality that Dolah provides.

Where will Port finish in T1?

6th, just behind Bangkok Glass but ahead of Chonburi.

Which games are you most looking forward to in 2018?

As always, the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ away games in places like Ratchaburi, Prachuap and Chonburi are minibus trips to look forward to, and a final day Saturday trip to Pattaya will undoubtedly be a weekend to remember! The home game against Muangthong should also be belter in terms of the famous PAT Stadium atmosphere!

Which teams will be in the T1 title hunt, who will go down, and who will come up from T2?

There are question marks about all of the potential league challengers this year. Will Buriram’s new Brazilian striker Edgar make the grade? Will Muangthong struggle for firepower after loaning out Teerasil and Adisak getting injured? Is Peerapat anywhere near as good as Hia Um? Spoiler alert, he’s not. Will Nebihi play a starring role for Chiang Rai? Will Bangkok United’s new foreigners gel quickly enough to mount a challenge?
I think of those four any could make things interesting, with Bangkok Glass, Port and Chonburi lagging a little behind.
Navy will finish bottom, with Prachuap, Ubon, Sukhothai, Chainat and Nakhon Ratchasima fighting for survival. I’ll give Nakhon Ratchasima the edge because of Rangel’s goals, but it should be close.

Finally, what are your 3 wishes for the 2018 season?

1) Port continue to play exciting football.
2) Port take 6 points off Muangthong.
3) FAT do as little as possible and stay out of everyone’s way.

 


 

DOMINICK CARTWRIGHT

 

Which new Port signings are you most excited about?

Boskovic and Nurul, the leading goal scorer and the player who set up the most goals last season. I can’t wait to see these two put on their Thai Port shirts and run out at PAT. Finally we have a decent striker! Nurul looks like he has the attitude of Ekkapoom already a fan favourite and it’s only pre-season.

Which 2017 players were you sad to see leave? Which players won’t you miss?

Although I always saw Ekkapoom as a back up left wing, he was a great impact player for the energy he brought on the pitch, and the spirit he had for Thai Port. Everyone wanted him to do well. I will never forget him scoring a header, yes a header against Air force or was it Luuk Tap Faa?, anyway I remember the last minute goal. Extra time header sneaks in, it can’t be…. Yes it’s only bloody Ekkapoom, great bloke, great memories.

Who won’t I miss? I can’t remember any other players that left, Wuttiwho?

Which areas do Port still need to strengthen?

Written on February 2nd …. “Left back, we said it all last season, Panpanpong(19) can cross well and is a reasonable tackler. But far too often he drifts forward and leaves Port exposed at the back. How can we spend all that money on the squad and not upgrade the biggest hole on in the starting 11? Lord only knows.”

Written on February 6th,…. After a late night phone call, Pang followed my advice, we now have one of the best left backs in the league things are looking pretty good for the starting 11. If there is one problem Port have now it’s what happens if Boskovic gets injured. Now Nebihi has gone our back up is the inexperienced 23 year old Butjinda or using Suarez as a forward. This is also a problem if Jadet ever felt the need to play two strikers, it’s happened once or twice in the distant past. In midfield and defence we have options and utility players but we don’t have a decent back up striker.

Is Jadet the right man for the new, big-spending Port?

In a word YES. Jadet was the last manager to run Buriram/Munagthong close in the league. He’s maybe not the best tactical mind in the game, but he has shown he has support in the dressing room and he can work with Pang. These are the two vital skills at Port. How long will he be given to bring a new team together, I’m guessing about 7 games. Good luck Sir Det.

Tell us your ideal Port starting XI, and why…

 

 

Bodin, and Terens being used regularly as impact subs. Bodin starting some matches especially against a slower opposition midfield vulnerable to the quick passing game.
The Dolah vTodsapol choice is a close one, Dolah gets the edge for being less injury prone and a bit more imposing. If we are playing a wing back system with Kim, Rochela, + 1 as a back 3 Dolah might be the better choice.

Where will Port finish in T1?

4th.

Which games are you most looking forward to in 2018?

Prajuap away missed it last time, when we were both in T2. Everyone said they were a great bunch of fans, they even laid on free canteen food in the away end. It’s near the seaside, wouldn’t mind going down to Sam roi yord for another away day plus holiday.

Pattaya away, last game of the season, carnage.

Which teams will be in the T1 title hunt, who will go down, and who will come up from T2?

In the hunt for top spot, Burirram, Muangthong, Chiang Rai, Bangkok United and ……us.

Going down, Cheating Chainat, pleasant Prajuap, Unbelievably Chaotic Ubon, and Navy will run aground, we will miss the puns. One more ? Police, yes Police, if Scott Cooper loses 3 games and the owner decides this is unacceptable, even though they are in 6th place or so. Cooper leaves before the mid season transfer window, the players he’s brought in drift away and opposition teams run riot at Boonyachinda Stadium.

I think Sisaket, Udon Thani and PTT Rayong will come up again. Sisaket, great fans and have been working on their stadium. Surely they will want the newly finished stadium to host T1 football. Will be interesting to see if they get an injection of cash or fade away. Udon Thani have already tried to buy their way into the league, let’s see if they can do it legally, the money is there so it’s definitely on. PTT Rayong are a bit of a plastic club but they have the best T2 stadium. Also Hockers will be in a good mood about getting another trip to the seaside which he loves so much.

Finally, what are your 3 wishes for the 2018 season?

A team other than Buriram or Muangthong winning the league. Continued domination with two clubs is only interesting if you’re in a specialist nightclub in Patpong.

Port Silverware
It would be great for us to win something, we’ll be dancing in the streets of Klong Toei, grown men will cry, the streets will flood with free flow Leo.

Pang hot or cold?
Solid information about what Pang’s plans are for the club after the 5 year leasing agreement is up. It’s always tease tease tease, …. Will you stay, or will you go now? If you stay there will be trouble, if you leave it could be double.

 

The season kicks off on Sunday 11th Feb at 19:00. Follow all the season’s ups & downs at www.portfcsandpit.com! 

 

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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