Fan Ban Thank You Ma’am: SCG a No-Go for Port Fans

 

Following the recent news that official Port supporters’ groups were planning to boycott Saturday’s away game at old rivals Muangthong Utd, in protest at the home club’s inability to guarantee fan safety, the two clubs have announced a joint away fan ban for both games between the clubs this season.

Those Port fans who were still planning to go to the game will now have to watch it on a big screen which will be set up at the PAT which, if the last big screen game is any indication (home to Ubon in late 2016), will be a right old laugh. Possibly not as much fun as drinking Chang under a flyover whilst dodging flying bottles, but fun all the same.

 

The scenic splendour of Muangthong, Pearl of the Orient

 

It is of course a shame that away fans won’t be able to attend and take part in arguably Thai football’s fiercest rivalry, but a supporter boycott would have been rather embarrassing for MTU and caused them to ‘lose face’, and we can’t possibly have that, and so an away fan ban spares the blushes of all concerned. There’s also the risk of the two clubs being docked points should any trouble occur, and with La Pang investing upwards of 100mBHT in her squad this year, that’s not something she wants to happen.

See you at the PAT on Saturday (18:00) then!

 

Header image courtesy of www.thai-fussball.com 

A New Career in a New Town: Rating Port’s Debutants

 

Following a close season of lavish spending, Port took to the field against Pattaya on Sunday with three debutants, and another two coming on as subs later in the game. So how did the new boys fare on their first day in the office? Here’s our verdict…

 

Dragan Boskovic

The big Montenegrin striker with a beard you could hide a badger in came with a huge reputation and a price tag to match, and so expectations were sky high – and the Bosk probably exceeded them. He’s more than just a striker and was frequently found dropping back to midfield or moving out to the wing looking for the ball and creating chances for teammates – his interplay with Nurul in the second half was electrifying.

But scoring goals is what Dragan does best and he can’t have scored too many better than his debut effort for Port. In the 44th minute he picked up the ball on the left, ran into the box at high speed, pretended to overrun the ball, bamboozled two Pattaya defenders with some nifty footwork, and then fired an absolute thunderbastard of a shot into the far corner, before celebrating in front of a packed terrace – an unfamiliar experience for him after 3 seasons at Bangkok Utd.

DEBUT RATING: 5 stars

 

Nurul Sriyankem

The Thailand international also arrived with a hefty price tag, and before the game the talk was of how Jadet could accommodate both 2017’s top assister and Port’s own king of the assists, Pakorn, in the same team. He tried, Nurul starting on the left whilst Pakorn began on the right, but it wasn’t until the second half when the pocket rocket from Chonburi switched to his favoured side that we saw him at his best.

With incredible pace, lovely technique and a very low centre of gravity Nurul is a defender’s nightmare, and he gave Pattaya’s defenders a torrid time, winning a host of free kicks and drawing yellow and red cards, as well as creating Port’s second goal (his shot was saved and rebounded to Suarez) and striking up an early understanding with Boskovic. He was my MOTM and looks like one hell of a signing.

DEBUT RATING: 5 stars

 

Bodin Phala

In years to come, Port fans will be boasting that they were there when the young ex-Port Futsal player made his debut. Given just 15 minutes to make his mark, having replaced Pakorn from the bench, he grabbed the chance with both hands and made himself the main post-match topic of conversation.

After crashing a shot against the post with his first touch, he then took on free-kick duties and curled in a sublime Ronaldo-esque effort in the last minute to give Port a 3-0 win and close out the game, before celebrating by doing the funky chicken in front of Zone C. A brief debut, but he crammed more into those 15 minutes than last year’s left-wing substitute Tana has managed in two seasons.

DEBUT RATING: 5 stars

 

Kevin Deeromram

The young Thai-Swede only joined on deadline day and so hadn’t had much preparation time with his new teammates, but with only Panpanpong and Jetjinn for competition he went straight into the first team and didn’t disappoint. Like Panpanpong, Kevin likes to get forward and has a cracking cross on him (his 7th minute free kick almost led to a goal for Todsapol); unlike Panpanpong he doesn’t require a motorbike taxi to get him back into position and he fulfilled his defensive responsibilities admirably.

It was a solid, unspectacular start for the defender, which is exactly what you want from a left-back, and a rare clean sheet for Port was testimony to the fact that we no longer have a weak link at the back.

DEBUT RATING: 4 stars

 

Terens Puhiri

The inch-high Indonesian had a flash symbol shaved into his head in readiness for today’s game, ready to delight his army of Indonesian (and, increasingly, Thai) fans. Sadly The Flash only got a couple of minutes and didn’t get a touch, though he’d have been away if Boskovic had picked him out late in the game. So it would be unfair to give him a rating, but his proximity to the first team suggests we’ll be seeing a lot of him in 2018.

 

 

 

Bodin Phala: The Fresh Prince of Klongtoey

 

If you’ve been following Port for long you’ll have noticed what an incredibly high turnover of players there is year on year. This isn’t unique to Port – it’s not unusual for Thai teams’ transfers to get well in to the double figures on a regular basis – but with the influx of money at Port it has been particularly pronounced. With this bi-annual merry-go-round keeping us writers busy just reporting the ins and outs there is precious little time to take a really deep dive in to any of the signings. Most signings will get a paragraph or two on Transfer Talk and a brief description on the Squad Page, but I thought it would be interesting to take a particularly close look at one of Port’s new boys, particularly as he made such a big impact in the opening day win over Pattaya.

The new boy in question is left winger Bodin Phala, who signed for Port for a reported 7 million baht from champs Buriram. At just 23, Bodin has already played for four T1 sides and broken in to the Thai national team, but our look at Bodin’s career starts all the way back in 2010 when he was in high-school.

Bodin studied at Wat Suthiwararam high school, whose alumni features a handful of Thai national team football players, but we’ve only managed to find pictures of young Bodin representing his school on the futsal court.

 

Bodin representing Wat Suthiwararam

 

Yes, that’s him having his shirt almost pulled off. After graduating Bodin apparently had his pick of Thailand’s futsal clubs, and chose to join a certain Port Futsal Club, donning the number 18 shirt and helping Port to a second place finish in 2012-13. We managed to dig up some old highlights of games he played in for Port, the best of which is probably this rather lengthy Surat Thani highlights package.

 

Bodin in 2018; Bodin in 2013

 

With the futsal world at his feet though, Bodin decided to switch disciplines, signing for Rangsit FC in the fourth tier of Thai football. Bodin’s 4 goals in 16 appearances helped Rangsit in to mid-table, but before the end of the season, parent club Bangkok Glass spotted that they had a star in the making and promoted him to the first team.

 

 

Bodin notched up 5 appearances at the tail end of the season, including a start against a Singtharua FC side, managed by Dusit, featuring the likes of Leandro, Sikimic and Chanin.

 

 

With Port hovering just above the relegation zone and Glass having nothing to play for Port snatched a dramatic win in the 93rd minute. Bodin, wearing the number 16 shirt, played on the left wing, coming close with a cross-cum-shot in the 24th minute and playing a part in Glass’ second goal.

 

 

In 2015 Bodin continued to feature regularly for Glass, although it wasn’t until July that he got his first start, an away game against Gary Stevens’ Port.

 

 

Glass once again did the business, although it was young teammate Tanasith Siripala who starred that day, with Bodin having a quiet game on the left wing. Although it ended in a 1-0 loss, the highlights to this game are a real treat, with Lee Ho skinning the entire Glass defence before shooting agonizingly wide, and the original Nurul – sensational Japanese winger Saruta – being absolutely pole-axed by a Glass midfielder who gets a straight red card for his troubles.

 

 

After starting against Port, Bodin went on to be an ever-present for Glass in the remainder of 2015, scoring 3 goals as Glass went on to achieve an impressive 6th place finish. With Port suffering relegation Bodin wouldn’t face Port in 2016, so I’ve picked Glass’ 2016 encounter with Chainat to look at next, which is notable as Bodin started in central midfield, with Glass employing a back 3.

 

 

Bodin clearly reveled in his new position, forcing a superb save from Cheating Chainat’s ‘keeper in the first half and then finding the back of the net in the second with a calm, side-footed finish.

 

 

Perhaps using Bodin in a similar role at the expense of Siwakorn is something Jadet should think about this season, as it could accommodate Pakorn, Nurul and Bodin in the same team. We’d probably only like to see that trialed against some of the weaker teams in the league, or as a solution when Siwakorn inevitably picks up his fourth, eighth and twelfth yellow cards this season!

 

 

After 3 more goals and an assist in Bodin’s first 8 games in 2016, big-spending Chiang Rai came calling, adding Bodin to their promising crop of pricey youngsters. Despite starting regularly, Bodin struggled a little for goals, netting just 2 more times before the end of the season, including this deflected effort against Buriram.

 

 

Ultimately Bodin didn’t quite kick on as he could have done up North, and with Chiang Rai willing to sell at the end of 2016, underperforming Buriram brought Bodin to Isaan.

 

 

Buriram decided to use him on the right flank in 2017 – a natural enough decision for a right-footer – but Bodin struggled for form and failed to record a goal until just before mid-season. When the goal did come, in a 2-0 win against Navy, it was an absolute peach!

 

 

But Bodin was clearly not on his best form, and he spent most of the second half of 2017 on the Buriram bench as they went on to clinch the T1 title. He did manage to make inroads in the Thai national team squad though, managing 3 friendly appearances and a substitute appearance in the 2018 World Cup Qualifier against UAE. On the club front things weren’t really working out though, and Buriram accepted Port’s 7 million baht offer for the winger in early 2018.

In pre-season Bodin got plenty of playing time, but was in and out of the first XI, with Nurul and Pakorn being preferred on the flanks. Nevertheless, a determined Bodin seized his chance with both hands when it came on the opening day of the season, replacing Pakorn and immediately smashing the upright, before opening his account with what must be the goal of his career to date. The words “He’s going to try and Ronaldo it, don’t try and Ronaldo it” were muttered (by some terribly cynical non-believer in Zone B) seconds before Bodin well and truly Ronaldoed his freekick in to the top left corner, capping off an excellent cameo with an early contender for Goal of the Season.

 

 

So, there’s my look at The Fresh Prince Bodin Phala, if you want any other players profiled in this way, feel free to leave your suggestions in the comment section.

 

Wicked ‘Vic: Port FC 3-0 Pattaya Utd

 

The most hotly anticipated Port FC season in living memory kicked off at a jam-packed PAT last night with a win over a Pattaya side who were organised and physical but lacked a cutting edge up front. Stunning debut screamers from Boskovic (23) and Bodin (10) sandwiched a Suarez (5) goal to give Port just the start they wanted and to increase fans’ appetites for what is to come.

 


 

Ah, the first day of the season. The familiar taste of Leo and ice in a plastic glass. The meeting up with old friends. The unveiling of a rather tasty new shirt, then being told you can’t buy it until next month. Some things never change.

Quite why new Port shirts are treated with the kind of secrecy normally afforded to MI5 missions or buying beer on Buddhist holidays is a mystery; an even bigger mystery is how the club can spend over 100mBHT on new players but still not get the club shop stocked for the opening day of the season. Yes, I was given a free can of Leo with my season ticket, but I’d rather have had the option of BUYING A BLOODY SHIRT. Sort it out.

 

It was easier to find a Super Mario outfit than a new Port shirt

 

OK, rant over, because apart from the annual shirt debacle there was nothing whatsoever to moan about. The decision to put ModernDog on stage before the game was an inspired one, with their derivative but highly anthemic Thai rock music working the local fans up into a frenzy of excitement before kick-off. With Zone B visibly filling up, we took our seats 30 minutes before KO and found the stadium already full to the rafters, and Port’s performance will ensure that’s likely to be the norm this season.

Port, as expected, went at their opponents from the whistle, and although their first half performance wasn’t quite as fluid as it would become later in the game, the result should’ve been done & dusted by half-time. Boskovic in particular was serving notice that he’s here not just to score goals, and his all-round play, dropping deep or moving out to the wing to look for the ball, was a revelation to fans so long starved of a genuine Scary Foreign Striker. On 4 minutes, the bearded Montenegrin bombed down the wing, skinned two defenders and fired in a low cross, which rebounded off a Pattaya defender straight back onto his head, forcing the Dolphins’ excellent keeper into the first of many smart saves.

Port came closest to opening the scoring on 7 minutes when an excellent inswinging free kick from new left-back Kevin (97) found the head of Todsapol (6). Tossa directed his header into the corner but somehow the keeper pulled off a miraculous, Gordon Banks-esque save to keep it out. And on 15 minutes Pakorn (7), sensing that he’s no longer the only game in town when it comes to dead balls, hit the crossbar directly from a corner.

Despite their superiority, it took Port until the last minute of the half to break the deadlock. Suarez fed Boskovic down the left and he appeared to overrun the ball before cutting back, leaving two defenders for dead with a sublime bit of trickery, and firing an unstoppable strike into the top corner sparking scenes of delirium on the terraces. Port finally have a real SFS, one who can create goals out of nothing, and it feels damn good.

 

The PAT at its best – packed to the rafters & in full voice

 

Half-time saw the kind of frenzied beer queueing not seen since the repeal of prohibition, so your correspondent decided to forego the usual HT bevvy and thus made the start of the second half. 10 minutes in the referee – who had a generally poor game – awarded Pattaya what I initially thought to be a highly dubious penalty. But after using the VAG system – Video Assisted Guesswork – I can see that Pattaya’s big no9 Lukian has a wrestle with Rochela (22) on the edge of the box, the cap’n goes down, then has a little kick at the Brazilian as he tries to get away. Well spotted ref, and it looks as if Port’s penchant for piffling penalties is continuing into 2018. Thankfully Worawut, with his only real action of the night, pulled off a stunning save to keep it 1-0, with Suarez amusingly appearing to tell the ref where he could stick his penalty.

This proved to be the first of two incidents that turned the game, the second being a red card for Pattaya on the hour mark after Nurul was – for the umpteenth time – upended on the edge of the box. It was now 11 v 10 and, with Nurul restored to his preferred position on the right, Port were playing some champagne football and looking dangerous every time they crossed the halfway line. And yet the next chance fell to Pattaya, with a cross from the left spectacularly volleyed over Worawut but against the Port crossbar.

On 73 minutes, Port finally got the second goal their football deserved. Pakorn picked out Nurul in the box and his shot was again brilliantly saved by the Pattaya keeper, only for the rebound to fall to Suarez who gleefully blasted it into the roof of the net for hopefully the first of many goals this season.

It was Pakorn’s last act of the game as he was replaced by new boy Bodin (10), who almost announced his arrival in the most spectacular fashion, smashing a shot against the post in the 76th minute. Five minutes later, Nitipong (34) went down in the box and the referee, for reasons best known to himself, decided it was a penalty (the VAG tells me Niti was going down before the defender, who played the ball, touched him). Rochela, still taking pens despite the arrival of Boskovic, stepped up to take it but his shot was weak and the keeper saved it comfortably.

Seasoned Port fans may have seen the penalty miss as the beginning of Operation Fuckup, that post-80th minute phenomenon that seems to kick in every time Port have a two-goal lead; but thankfully this team is made of sterner stuff and they put the game to bed on 89 minutes, with the boy Bodin curling a delightful free-kick into the top corner and celebrating with a funky dance routine in front of Zone C. Nurul then went off to a standing ovation and to have the rare experience of being replaced by someone smaller than him, with Terens ‘Flash’ Puhiri making a late debut. Sadly the popular Indonesian didn’t get a touch, but his time will surely come.

So a comfortable, and thrilling, 3-0 win to start off this most anticipated of seasons, and the job done in very impressive fashion. There wasn’t a weak link on the pitch, with the defence solid, the midfield quick and creative, and the forward players often dazzling. Pattaya may not have been the strongest opposition Port will face this season, and they offered little goal threat, but the way Port dispatched them – and, for once, closed out the game – bodes well for 2018. The four new players all made quite superb debuts, and the incumbents visibly raised their game to match their new superstar teammates. Jadet has the winning start he wanted – and needed – and with Kim Sung Hwan soon to take his place at DM, the future is surely bright for Port. Hopefully starting at Muangthong next week!

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match – Nurul

A very, very tough choice this week, with all 11 starters, plus Bodin, staking a claim for the coveted Sandpit MOTM award. I was initially going to give it to Rochela, who put in a masterclass in calm, unflustered defending, however his giving away a penalty at one end and missing one at the other mean he misses out. Boskovic was also a contender, as was Suarez, who revelled in his new free role. But the award this week goes to debutant Nurul who, particularly once he switched to the right, absolutely terrorised the Pattaya defence, drawing fouls, free-kicks and cards almost every time he got forward. Only a miraculous save from Pattaya’s keeper prevented him from scoring on his debut, and his partnership with Boskovic looks like a recipe for goals.

 

The Portlist 2: Deadline Day Defensive Shake-Up

 

Deadline Day is as good an excuse as any to publish our second Portlist. Port’s two arrivals, two departures and news of injuries and recoveries slightly reshape the Portlist in the week before the T1 season finally restarts!

 


 

1 (1) Dragan Boskovic

If anything, the decision to keep Suarez over Nebihi just makes Boskovic even more important. Whereas Nebihi would have been able to function passably as a back-up front man, Suarez is clearly not cut out for that role, meaning that at any given time Port are one injury away from the completely unproven Arthit leading the line.

2 (2) David Rochela

El Capitan will have been happy with Kevin Deeromram’s arrival, as he should now be spending more time where he belongs in the centre of defence, and less time covering for errant full backs.

3 (3) Kim Sung Hwan

There are suggestions that the knock Kim picked up in last week’s friendly could keep him out of the opening day clash with Pattaya. What’s Korean for ‘get well soon’?

4 (7) Sergio Suarez

Suarez finally overcame Nebihi and kept hold of his place in the squad, but the big German being loaned out to Chiang Rai will create an interesting opportunity to compare their relative performances this season. Regardless, Suarez now has to focus on trying to perform as well as he did in the second half of last season for the whole of this season. If he can do that he will move still higher up the Portlist.

5 (4) Pakorn Prempak

Little changed for Pakorn on deadline day, although Kevin Deeromram will provide a left-footed option from corners and free kicks that could decrease Pakorn’s stock a little.

6 (5) Siwakorn Jakkuprasart

Kim’s potential injury just reminds us how much we rely on Siwakorn to move the ball around in midfield.

7 (6) Nurul Sriyankem

Nurul’s job on the left wing will hopefully have been made a little easier by the arrival of Kevin Deeromram. If these two can strike up the kind of productive partnership that Pakorn and Nitipong had last season, then Port will have significantly strengthened their first XI on deadline day.

8 (9) Nitipong Selanon

There is now a legitimate argument against Nitipong being Port’s best fullback.

9 (NE) Kevin Deeromram

But Kevin’s got some work to do. First he’s got to be picked ahead of Panpanpong, and then he’s got to do what Panpanpong couldn’t and find the right balance between defence and attack to keep Port tight at the back, and provide a useful attacking option. If he does this he will quickly lock down a place in the team.

10 (10) Rattanai Songsangchan

Video of Rattanai bouncing around the goal in training suggests that Port’s stopper is at or very near full fitness. Good, timely news!

11 (11) Todsapol Lated

In deadline day signing Worawut, Todsapol now has one more competitor with a legitimate chance of taking his place in the team. A clean sheet on Sunday would go a very long way to securing his place in what is now Port’s most competitive defence in some years.

12 (13) Bodin Phala

Bodin can expect a run-out off the bench in Port’s season opener, but he will have to deliver goals and assists in order to break in to the first XI.

13 (16) Adisorn Daeng-rueng

The prospect of an injury to Kim reminds us how big a role Adisorn could still play this season.

14 (17) Arthit Butjinda

Arthit is now the man Port will turn to in case of an injury to Boskovic. He could have very little to do, or he could find himself carrying enormous responsibility for this ambitious Port team.

15 (14) Elias Dolah

Dolah should still be starting on the bench come Sunday, but he now faces an even tougher challenge to fight his way in to the Port team after the arrival of Thai under 23 star Worawut.

16 (15) Worawut Srisupha

The fitter Rattanai gets the less we have to think about Worawut throwing his fists at crosses this season.

17 (18) Terens Puhiri

His off-field antics just make him more and more likeable by the day.

18 (19) Meechok Marhasaranukun

The final spot on the bench, where Meechok can expect to spend a lot of time in 2018.

19 (12) Panpanpong Pinkong

The biggest loser on deadline day, and the biggest Portlist faller. If you spend 40 million baht on a full back, surely you intend to play him ahead of your weakest link!

20 (NE) Worawut Namvech

An exciting loan signing for Port, who will hope to fight his way on to the bench and then in to the first XI. If his SEA Games performance was any indication, he’s got a decent chance.

21 (22) Athibordee Atirat

If Kim’s injury rules him out on Sunday that should mean a spot on the bench for Athibordee.

22 (23) Pummared Kladkleep

Or Pummared.

23 (25) Chakrit Rawanprakone

Still fifth choice winger, and unlikely to displace either Bodin or Terens on the bench any time soon.

24 (20) Jetjinn Sriprach

On deadline day Jetjinn went from being second choice left back with a decent chance of breaking in to the first team to third choice with little hope of getting anywhere near the first team save an injury crisis.

25 (26) Watchara Buathong

Third choice goalkeeper, with both number 1 and 2 looking fit.

26 (24) Thanakorn Saipanya

As yet unregistered in Port’s T1 squad, Thanakorn might be sent to add a bit of experience to Port’s B team, rather than wasting his time as back-up to the back-up’s back-up.

27 (27) Chanayut Jejue

With Port’s paucity of strikers it is possible albeit unlikely that Chanayut will be called on at some point this season.

28 (28) Sarawin Phakdeekan

With Worawut’s arrival Sarawin went from having almost no chance of seeing any first team action in 2018 to having actually no chance of seeing any first team action in 2018.

99 (99) Tana Chanabut

Number 11 on paper; number 99 in our hearts. But there’s more than just my instinctive distaste for mustachioed moochers that goes in to these Portlist placings. They’re calculated by maths and stuff.

Bear with me while I struggle through some simple addition. Firstly, the Portlist tells us that there are 26 players in the first team squad. Port B, the u16s and the u14s ought to have average squad sizes of about 24 (because it’s convenient for my calculations) which means a total of 72 youth players. 26 first teamers plus 72 youth teamers makes a total of 98. And who better to bring up the rear than that bloke who doesn’t even turn up to training because he’s doing a 4 month police training course?

 

Tana Chanabhut

 

Sandpit Songs of the Season 2018: Week 1

 

Introducing a new feature in which we dedicate a song to our opponents of the week. Pattaya are in town on Sunday, so here’s Shed Seven with a highly appropriate and long-forgotten mid-90s indie disco favourite

 

 

A Season In The Sun Or Another False Dawn? Port FC vs. Pattaya Utd, 11 Feb 2018

 

Anticipation (n): A feeling of excitement about something which is going to happen.

Delusional (adj): characterized by, or holding idiosyncratic beliefs or impressions that are contradicted by reality or rational argument, typically as a symptom of mental disorder.

 


 

Anyone who has followed Port over the past few seasons will recognize both states of mind, and, as the new season approaches, will no doubt be embracing the first, while waiting anxiously for the alternative to rapidly kick-in. You have to be mental to follow Port at times.

And, to be honest, there does seem something not quite right about the coming season. It all started when news of Port’s new signings filtered through. Boskovic? Didn’t he score 38 goals last season for Bangkok Utd, the same Utd who stuck 11 goals past us without breaking sweat? Then, to follow: an imperious Korean midfielder, a 2010 AFC Champions League winner to boot. More impressive signings followed, amongst them, Nurul, a budding Thai International winger. Then, this week, came the bombshell; we had pinched Kevin Deeromram right from underneath the noses of the MuangScum to solve our problem left-back slot. What started off as a worrying trend had become a full-blown epidemic.

 

Kevin Deeromram

 

Even more significant for denizens of Zone B, we now have a ready-made song to replace the popular, and ever so catchy, “Gen-ki Na-ga-sa-ko.” This new one is inspired by a 1963 Crystals hit, ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’. Sometimes it pays to be old.

 


 

Dee Rom Rom, Ram, Ram, Dee Rom Rom Ram

 

Saw him on a Sunday; my heart missed a rev

Dee Rom Rom, Ram, Ram, De Rom Rom Ram

Someboy told me that his name was Kev

Dee Rom Rom, Ram, Ram, Dee Rom Rom Ram

 

Yeh, his name was Kev,

Yeh, and it rhymes with Trev

He said F**k Off Muang Thong

Dee Rom Rom, Ram Ram, De Rom Rom Ram.

 

It needs a bit of work. Here’s the original.

 


 

Then, with Port in the throes of building up a decent team, it got really weird. The fixtures for the whole season were released in one go. Altogether. At once. February to October, with seemingly minimal interruptions. 7, A4 size pages. No shit.

Imagining this was all a bad dream, I wandered down to Port for a couple of friendlies and I was IMPRESSED. For the first time, in my now nine years as a Port fan, I thought I might be witnessing something special. This was confirmed this morning with a Bangkok Post article proclaiming Port as potential title contenders. Next thing we know, the season tickets and new strip will be available for collection on Sunday!

And this set me thinking about what this might mean for me, and my fellow Sandpit correspondents.

 

WTF are we going to write about now that we might actually be good?

 

Will our pens be dipped in sickly honey rather than essence of deadly nightshade? Will our bitter barbs become sycophantic superlatives? Surely, they couldn’t do it to us. Then I noticed that Tana was still on the teamlist, at 11. That’s not 99, in numerical pecking order somewhere down the Sukhumvit Road towards the Cambodian border, but 11, about as close to the first 11 that 11 can get. And then it dawned on me; this was Madame Pang’s comic gift to the Sandpit. The venerable bard, Shakespeare, had moments of comic relief in his tensest dramas, so why shouldn’t we? Tana could be the Falstaff to Rochella’s Prince Hal, the Malvolio to Boscovic’s Duke Orsino. He might even take to the pitch in a pair of yellow stockings or one of those floppy hats with bells on to confirm the analogy.  When we are 6-0 up against Muang Thong in yet another, crushing, processional victory and yawns are spreading across Zone B like a blanket of fog, on will come Tana to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and all will once again be well in Klong Toey. Pencils sharpened, the words will flow in a venomous stream of invective. So, to the game.

 

Things That Have Impressed Me

 

Dragan Boscovic has added pace and power and will be a go-to man to relieve pressure through the occasional long ball, expertly delivered by the impressive, classy Kim.  Josimar was at his best with his back to the goal, spreading it wide and getting in the middle to knock in the resultant cross (sometimes). ‘For a big man’, Boskovic is quick and will chase the ball down, at the same time scaring the shit out of most Thai defenders, as he did with Bangkok Utd. Backing him up will be Suarez and Siwakorn, who bring different strengths to the game, but both looked sharp pre-season, with Suarez always capable of goals.

 

Dragan Boskovic

 

On the flanks, Nurul (and Terens) look tasty, whilst I confess a growing admiration for Pakorn, now that he has improved his decision-making. I hope I’m not being delusional when I say that I think we will score goals.

 

Pakorn and Nurul

 

At the back, Worawut is in mostly by default; the full backs and Rochela pick themselves, while I feel Todsapol is solid on the ground and in the air and can sneak a goal at set-pieces.

So, my preferred starting eleven in 4-2-3-1 formation is:

 

 

Dolah, Terens, Bodin amongst the subs.

 

The Dolphins

 

Our opponents, Pattaya Utd, enjoyed an excellent 2nd season back in TI finishing a respectable 8th, just one place above Port after losing only 3 games of the final 17, the most memorable from our point of view being our ‘phoenix from the ashes’ 5-2 victory heralding Jadet’s welcome return.

Pattaya’s Sandpit correspondent Robin Lennon, optimistically predicts a top six finish, an accomplishment widely associated with Port in these heady, pre-season days. A key battle will no doubt be between the Dolphins’ twin Brazilian strikers Lukian and Rafinha and Todsapol/Rochela. The Samba strikers are a bit of an unknown quantity even for Pattaya fans but they are Brazilians for Chrissakes so it’s sure to be fun. Siwakorn’s battle with Peeradol Chamratsamee, who after a 6-way swap period with Muang Thong is now a Dolphin player, should also be interesting. Boscovic’s tussle with the Dolphins’ Korean captain, Lee Won-yeong could be bruising.

 

Lukian (9) and Rafinha (10)

 

This will be my eighth full season as a Port fan and the excitement as match day approaches never really diminishes. Last year I wrote a personal reflection on the opening day and I am hoping this year will be much the same, apart from the result!

 


 

The match will be shown live on True 4U and True Sport HD2 at 19:00 on Sunday 11 February, 2018. For those who can’t make it to PAT Stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound if you ask them nicely. Mention the Sandpit or wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount. For those who are coming along, remember to get there early as we’re expecting a full house!

 

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Crystal Balls 2018: Chonburi FC

 

In our final Crystal Balls for the 2018 season, we hear from long-time Chonburi fan Dale Farrington, who is fully forgiven for handing in his homework late as he’s been busy organising The Wedding Present’s first ever Bangkok gig (19 April). Dale, we salute you.

Despite not having the greatest of seasons, Chonburi managed to finish in 7th place and also did the double over Port (booooo). But they appear to have done little to strengthen their squad during the break and with Port, Chiang Rai, Glass and even Police improving their squads, they may find it difficult to reach those heights in 2018. Dale is certainly less than enthusiastic about the new season…

 


 

What was your highlight of the 2017 season?

Aside from the performance against Buriram Utd in the League Cup, there was very little for us Chonburi fans to get excited about. Therefore, the highlight was when it ended and we could look forward to our weekends again.

How will your team fare in 2018?

With a new (unknown and untried) coach, a whole host of new players and many others leaving, it’s difficult to say. I’d like to think we’ll improve on last season’s performance, but I’m not holding my breath.

Who is your most exciting new signing?

Centre half, Kim Gyeong-Min is the only one who has really featured in pre season and he looks to be a very solid addition at the back. I can’t really comment on the rest, as I haven’t seen enough of them.

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

Nurul will be the biggest miss. He had his best season for a while last year – so we sold him! No-one in particular from the second category. Apart from the aforementioned Nurul, all the other departees are pretty much of a muchness.

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

Far too many to mention here. The management has really lost touch with the fans – which is a shame, as we used to be a pretty tight knit club. Maybe if this issue was addressed, then things could start to improve generally.

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

Buriram Utd and Muang Thong Utd. The former, if they aren’t too distracted by the AFC Champions League. The latter if their rivals take their eye of the ball domestically to chase continental honours.

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

Down: Air Force, Nakorn Ratchasima, Navy, Prachuap and Sukhothai.
Up: Khon Kaen, PTT Rayong and Udon Thani.

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2018?

Prachuap away. A new ground and the chance for a weekend break.

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?

I think it was always going to be difficult to maintain the high crowds we saw during the boom period and, to a large extent, they have plateaued. I prefer to come at from the angle that attendances are much higher throughout the leagues than they were ten years ago. When you’ve sat in grounds watching top flight football in front of a few dozen people, anything else is a bonus.

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

Entertaining football.
No injury faking or time wasting.
No-one will buy our new THB2,200 shirt and the club will realise the folly of its deal with Nike.

 

Big thanks to Dale for sharing his thoughts with us, and you can follow Chonburi’s 2018 season on his website, which we believe to be the oldest English language fan website in Thailand. 

 

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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! 

 

ModernDog Day Afternoon: Port Reveal Opening Day Programme

 

The new season is a mere five days away, and with Mme Pang splashing the cash on young Thai talent like an oil rig worker on shore leave, it’s no exaggeration to say this is the most hotly anticipated Port season in living memory.

As per usual, the opening day will consist of more than just a game of football, with the club laying on a veritable cornucopia of entertainment to get fans into the stadium early.

Opening Day Programme – 11 February 2018

(NB – the programme is only available in Thai and so my esteemed colleagues Earls & Cartwright have had a stab at translating it, and we apologise in advance for any errors)

15:30 – ‘check paperwork’ – we are unsure if this refers to season ticket collection or some kind of lucky draw. I’m assuming the former, given that there’d be little point having a lucky draw before people actually arrive

16:00 – welcome speech from La Pang. Weeping crowds. Flowers. Farang eye-rolling.

16:15 – video presentation of new kit – as yet it is not clear if said kit will be available for purchase. Based on previous experience, I wouldn’t get your hopes up

16:30 – La Pang thanks the club sponsors and poses for pictures with them. Farangs prostrate themselves at the feet of the Leo representatives

17:00 – ModernDog live. ModernDog are a pretty decent Thai rock band – if memory serves me correctly they supported Mogwai in 2011 and were quite good

18:00 – ModernDog leave the building, Elvis-style (ie sitting on a portaloo eating burgers)

19:00 – the small matter of Port FC vs Pattaya Utd

21:00 – post-match drinking and discussing how long Jadet is going to keep his job if they carry on playing like this

Essentially it means up to 6 hours of drinking, so you are strongly advised to write off Monday, and possibly Tuesday if we win.

The club have also released a short and fairly pointless video teaser, with the club’s 2018 slogan “Never Stop”. I would share it here but unless you were hitherto unaware that David Rochela had a beard you wouldn’t learn anything from it, so here is another, much better video also entitled “Never Stop”.