Sandpit Songs of the Season: Week 8

 

Port travel to struggling, managerless Police Tero tomorrow in search of another 3 points to keep pace with leaders Buriram and put a bit more daylight between themselves and the chasing pack.

Normally I avoid the obvious choices in this feature but come on, there’s only one possible tune this week. All together now: “Tarua will SWAAAARM/On any motherfucker in a red uniform…”

 

 

Arrested Development: Police Tero FC vs. Port FC, 1 April 2018

 

High-flying Port travel to under-performing Police Tero on Sunday looking to make it two wins in a week. Police, on the other hand, find themselves second from bottom and are looking for something – anything – to reverse their fortunes and kick-start a campaign in which many tipped them as potential surprise packages. It has been a surprise, but not in the way we thought it might be!

Manager Scott Cooper was absent for Police’s last game – he is currently on ‘leave’ visiting his sick mother (get well soon, Mrs. Cooper) – and it is widely expected that he will no longer be Police manager by the time he returns. Things haven’t gone to plan for a club who seemed to have brought in an excellent manager and supplied him with a much-improved squad. What has gone wrong? Let’s have a look-see…

 

Police Tero

Players to Watch

 

Tero have gone top-heavy in their foreign signings in a big way. Last season’s top-scorer Michael N’Dri (9) has been joined by Brazilian duo Marcos Vinicius (91) and Douglas Tanque (80), and all three seem to want to play as out-and-out strikers. Similar to Air Force, who Port overcame last week, Cooper has had to incorporate three players in to what would normally be two positions, and his tinkering and crowbarring has not produced results.

Vinicius has been the pick of the bunch with three goals, N’Dri – reliable as ever – has come up with two goals, whilst Tanque has just the one. With Cooper absent last week, caretaker manager Darren Reid went with Vinicius and N’Dri, with Tanque sitting out, but seeing as they slipped to a 2-0 loss at Suphaburi, there could well be further changes for Port’s visit.

 

Michael N’Dri and Marcos Vinicius

 

Assisting the SFS’s is a man very rapidly running away with ASEAN signing of the year award. Anyone who had seen Aung Thu (10) play for Myanmar knew that there was serious talent there, but would T1 be too much of a step-up? No, sir! Aung Thu certainly needs a bit more polish to reach his full potential – he gives the ball away like it’s going out of fashion – but it’s a small price to pay for the carnage he wreaks in opposition defences. Fast, skillful and most of all unpredictable, Aung Thu is certain to give whichever Port defender he faces a tough afternoon. The issue for Police is that, with all the tinkering, Aung Thu hasn’t really found a regular home in the side. He’s played right across the front line, so your guess is as good as mine as to where he’ll start on Sunday. I’ve been most impressed with him on the right, but that’s where Thai national team regular and sharp-elbowed yellow card factory Mongkol Tossakrai (17) calls home. Aung Thu is returning from an international break which saw him miss Wednesday’s trip to Suphanburi as he was busy facing off with Macau. I bet Cooper was thrilled about that!

 

Aung Thu

 

Why on earth are there so many players to watch in a team that sits in 17th place?! Next on the list is Thailand’s best young goalkeeper Nont Muangngam (20). Nont has had some surprising competition for his spot this season. After the Thai-Frenchman was forced to sit out against his parent club Chiang Rai, 39 year old Pongpanot (1) impressed enough to stay in the team for a further couple of weeks, before Nont returned on Wednesday. Expect lightning reflexes from the 20 year old. Lightning!

 

Nont Muangngam

 

Finally we’ll look at Port’s former players. Police smartly snapped up Niran Hansson (8) when he became a free agent following his Port exit, and although Hansson hasn’t nailed down a first-team place, he’s seen a hell of a lot more action than the 15 minutes he managed at Port! Hansson is likely to start on Sunday, having played 90 minutes for the first time this season on Wednesday. The sickest of all notes, Pinyo Inpinit (11) was certainly a risky acquisition for Police, with him having suffered injury on top of injury for the last two years, but Pinyo has taken part in five of seven games so far, with all but one being substitute appearances.

 

Form

 

Police have collected just four points in their first seven games. It’s gone like this…

 

 

An average run of fixtures and a horrific points return. Why? Well, it’s very early to be drawing conclusions, but I’m noticing some parallels between this season’s bottom dwellers. The current bottom three are Air Force, Police and Chainat. All three have three foreign strikers in their T1 squad (Air Force being a slight exception as Nigerian-born Jaycee John is an AFC player). Did no one tell them the quota system has changed? Whereas in previous seasons you could have had one more foreign centre back or midfielder along with your embarrassment of attacking riches, this season your Thai players have a lot more responsibility. Now personally I think that, unlike Air Force and Chainat, Police have the quality among their Thai players to get out of trouble, but they’ve got to up their game in a big way. Starting from next week, preferably!

 

Port FC

Bold Predictions

 

Just so you know your previewer has a record of hitting the nail on the head when it comes to Port team selection, here’s an excerpt last week’s preview…

“Fresh off an international break where Bodin (15) showed that he’s not only ahead of Pakorn (7) in the Thai pecking order, but was even brought on before Nurul (31) in the final, it’s got to be about time to give the guy a chance.”

 

 

Two goals and an assist later, Pakorn says no.

Jadet did spring a huge selection shock though, dropping top scorer Suarez (5) for Adisorn (13) and moving Kim (8) into attacking midfield. It paid off for 45 minutes, with Port putting in an excellent first half performance, but as Kim tired and the defence fell asleep Port once again looked better when Suarez was brought on to help retain the ball.

I have mixed feelings about this move. Yes, it worked pretty well against a team rooted to the bottom of the table, but I wouldn’t like to see Kim moved too far away from his defensive duties against better teams. That said, Jadet could reasonably decide to give it another go against Police, before switching back to the tried and tested against Bangkok United and Buriram.

Then there’s Kim’s fitness. After being the target of quite a few nasty kicks on Wednesday, the Korean looked to be hobbling throughout the second half. To be honest, he hasn’t looked fully fit all season. Jadet ought to be considering giving him a rest against Police to make sure he’s ready for the top teams in upcoming games, although there’s no denying that would be a risky strategy.

I’m still far from convinced that Port have got things right at the back. Athibordee (35) continues not to make glaring errors, but Port are conceding goals with him in the team. First choice Todsapol (6) will certainly come straight back in to the side if and when he is fit, but Dolah (4) is also well worth considering against a big, physical forward line.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 

Oh, And One More Thing…

 

 


 

The match will be shown live on True Sport 2 at 19:00 on Sunday 1 April, 2018. For those who can’t make it to Boonyachinda Stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match with sound if you ask them nicely. Mention the Sandpit or wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount on drinks.

 

Top Guns! Port Cruise to Another Win: Port FC 3-1 Air Force Central Utd

 

 

Air Force flew into Khlong Thoey last night, and with the visitors glued to the bottom of the table and Port riding high in second, it looked like mission impossible for the boys from Don Muaeng. But it turned out to be a very competitive and highly entertaining game, and whilst the scoreline may make the result seem cut & dried, in reality Air Force could easily have sneaked a win.

Eyebrows were raised before kickoff with the news that Jadet had decided to drop top scorer Sergio Suarez (5), and replace him with DM Adisorn (13). A tactical masterstroke, or was the big fella losin’ it? It was a risky business for sure, but as it turned out it was just what Port needed. Suarez thrives on the edge and in the usual midfield chaos of Thai football, and whilst that’s fine when you’re battling against the likes of Muangthong, it can be a liability when you’re expected to boss the game against inferior opposition – so Jadet put SS on the bench, replaced him with Adisorn, and moved the calmer, unflappable Kim (8) into the AM position, and the result was the best 45 minutes of football Port have played all season.

Air Force started without Port legend Ekkapoom, and whilst they may have a few good men up front with the likes of Assumpcao, Marques and Jaycee John, their midfield and defence were the poorest I’ve seen all season and Port set about them with relish, aided somewhat by the visitors’ inability to hold onto the ball for longer than a few seconds. I don’t know what the possession stats were but it must’ve been at least 70:30 in Port’s favour in the first half.

 

 

Port’s new midfield cocktail was fizzing from the off, with Pakorn (7) firing an early warning shot just wide of Air Force’s post, and Nurul (31) blazing a volley over the bar after being set up by Kevin (97). Pakorn, who was making all the right moves all evening, came close with a couple of free kicks before Kim took over free kick duty and brought a terrific save from the Air Force keeper, and Kim was unlucky to have his attempt blocked when set up by Nurul. Port were far and away the better side and playing some champagne football, and finally got the breakthrough they deserved on 38 minutes – Air Force’s keeper threw the ball out pretty lazily and Siwakorn (16) nipped in to steal it and passed it to Pakorn, whose pinpoint cross landed right on the head of Boskovic (23), and the big Montenegrin nodded it into the net.

If that was champagne football, what came next was vintage Dom Perignon, as on 43 minutes that man Pakorn picked up the ball a few yards outside Air Force’s area. There appeared to be nothing on, but a quick drop of the shoulder put the winger into space and he absolutely blasted a shot into the back of the net. One of the finest goals I’ve ever seen at the PAT, and even the usually placid gold members in Zone A were on their feet.

So 2-0 at half time, and it looked like Air Force were headed for oblivion. Fortunately for them, Port’s defence came out for the second half with their eyes wide shut and just 8 minutes into the half, Marques blasted home from 20 yards to put them back in the game. Their joy, however was very short-lived – around 90 seconds – as Port hit back with yet another goal of the finest quality. Some lovely interplay on the edge of the Air Force box ended in a delightful chip from Nurul straight onto the toe of Pakorn, who buried it into the roof of the net to restore Port’s two-goal advantage and send those of us who’d moved over to Zone D at half-time into ecstasy.

 

 

This was the cue for Air Force to send on former Bangkok Utd striker Jaycee John, and with all their big three strikers now on the pitch, the visitors were suddenly a different proposition and set about causing chaos in Port’s defence which, with Rochela (22) having picked up a silly booking earlier in the game, Athibordee (35) playing out of position at CB, and Kim playing in a more advanced role, was starting to bear a worrying resemblance to the shambles of 2017. The difference from the first half was like knight & day. Fortunately Worawut (36), who has come on leaps & bounds this season, was equal to everything the Air Force strikers could throw at him, and Port made it to the whistle with their lead intact to maintain their 100% home record.

So a real game of two halves then. Port totally dominated the first half but were on the back foot for much of the second against a team who have bags of quality up front, but nothing in midfield or defence. Jadet’s tactical tinkering worked a treat, and whilst Port’s defence was at times shambolic in the second half, they were unstoppable coming forward. Pakorn, Kevin and Nurul are starting to gel nicely and create havoc in opposition defences, whilst Boskovic seems to have found his goal form and, whilst at times he doesn’t look like much of an upgrade on Josi, his hard work & selflessness create acres of space for his teammates. The win puts Port second behind Buriram and with a bit of daylight between them and a clutch of teams on 13 points. The next game is a winnable away trip to struggling Police Tero this Sunday, but what comes next – games against Bangkok Utd & Buriram – will tell us if this is a real title challenge or just early season high spirits.

 

Sandpit Man of the Match – Pakorn

It was one of those nights where you couldn’t have thrown a dodgy half-time sausage on the pitch without hitting a Port MOTM contender. Kevin was absolutely phenomenal down the left, Siwakorn had by far his best game of the season, Adisorn was the usual bundle of energy, and Nurul had Air Force’s defenders crying for their mummy every time he had the ball.

But with an assist and two of the best goals ever scored at the PAT, it simply has to be the Midfield Monk himself Pakorn. After La Pang showed the colour of money and splashed the cash on Nurul we didn’t think we’d be seeing much of Pakorn this season, but he’s risen to the challenge and reached a new level and is now Port’s first choice on the right. If he carries on like this, a national team call-up surely has to come soon.

 

2018 King’s Cup Roundup

 

Thailand’s King’s Cup Campaign ended in disappointment with a final defeat against a strong, experienced Slovakia side. After playing out a pretty poor 0-0 draw with Gabon, Kawin helped Thailand triumph in the semi-final shoot-out, before – despite a spirited display – they were relatively comfortably dispatched 3-2 by Martin Skrtel and co.

In keeping with my usual national team coverage on The Sandpit, I’ll be looking at each of Thailand’s players and giving my thoughts on their performances. Hey, there are even some Port players to talk about this year!

 

Kawin Thamsatchanan (1, goalkeeper)

Not only is he a great shot-stopper and very comfortable under the high ball, Kawin is a penalty specialist. His last few shoot-out performances have all resulted in victories for Thailand, with captain Kawin starring each and every time. The semi-final was no exception. In the final there wasn’t a great deal Kawin could have done with the 3 goals, particularly the third which was an absolute peach of a finish.

 

 

Philip Roller (13, right back)

One of Thailand’s weakest link in this tournament. Rajevac likes his full-backs to stay back, and you could tell that Roller was constantly fighting the urge to bomb forward down the right. This made him pretty ineffectual in the semi-final, when miserable Mongkol struggled to get any joy down the flank in front of him. Then in the final, when up against a winger much bigger and stronger than him, Roller really had a torrid time. Slovakia’s first goal pretty much summed it up, with Roller being comprehensively out-muscled as Slovakia’s winger broke in to the box and pulled the ball back for a simple goal. His one redeeming moment was his well-taken penalty in the semi-final.

 

Pansa Hemviboon (6, centre back)

This guy just keeps getting better. Not only is he the best Thai centre back by a country mile, on his form over the last season and a bit I would have him over most of the foreign defenders, too. Aside from his fine defending, the Buriram man almost broke the Gabon keeper’s wrists with a powerful strike in the semi final, netted the winning penalty with aplomb and scored from a set-piece in the final.

My player of the tournament for Thailand, narrowly beating out Kawin and Thitipan.

 

 

 

Chalermpong Kerdkaew (4, centre back)

I thought the Korat centre half was good in the semi-final, and didn’t do much wrong in the final either. He doesn’t do anything spectacular, he’s not great on the ball but he doesn’t make mistakes either, and that’s why Rajevac likes him.

 

Peerapat Notechaiya (2, left back)

With Tanaboon still out injured, Peerapat must take his place as the most overrated Thai player in the national team. Whoever allowed him to take another penalty this year needs a good slap. In last year’s King’s Cup, he smashed his effort a mile over the bar, and this year he passed it straight down the middle. Similar to Siwakorn in the Leo Cup for Port, everyone knew he was going to miss, except apparently him. Kevin can feel pretty aggrieved not to have played at all over the 2 games.

 

Thitipan Puangchan (8, centre midfield)

My player of the tournament in last year’s King’s Cup, and once again one of the best players on the park across both games. As well as his driving runs forward he must have made as many tackles as the rest of his teammates combined in the semi-final. In the final he had a compelling running battle with Slovakia’s bigger, stronger number 8, but such was his determination that he by no means came off second best. I’ll keep saying it: he is one of very few players in Thailand’s team with the guts to stand up and be counted when heads start to drop around him. He always puts in the work, he always wants the ball and he will put his body on the line like no one else.

 

 

Jakkaphan Kaewprom (7, centre midfield)

Largely anonymous across the two games, until he popped up with a tap-in in the final. His performances throughout the last season at Buriram have rightly earned him this opportunity, but I didn’t see anything to convince me that he will contribute much at international level.

 

Mongkol Tossakrai (11, right wing)

Probably Thailand’s worst performer, although Teerasil ran him close. As ever, Mongkol played with no creativity, and was unusually poor when he got himself in to the threatening positions that he has scored a decent number of international goals from. Rajevac gave him barely an hour in the first game, before rightly hooking him at half time in the final.

 

 

Theeraton Bunmathan (3, left wing)

Well, he didn’t really play on the left wing. Theeraton was all over the place throughout both games, and once again I just don’t think he contributes as much when he has the freedom to go wherever he wants. Drop Peerapat, stick Theeraton at left back, let him get forward as much as possible so he can deliver those wonderful left-footed crosses to Teerasil. How many goals has this formula provided over the years? I rest my case. Theeraton was also typically reliable form the spot, with his stutter-step technique continuing to prove successful.

 

Chanathip Songkrasin (18, attacking midfield)

What a superbly talented player. His first half performance in the final was absolutely vintage Messi-Jay, and the way he was doubled-up on and fouled in the second half showed just how scared of him Slovakia were. With Thailand chasing an equaliser late on he nearly had the shirt ripped off his back, much to the chagrin of the home support. Still needs to add more goals in order to really take his game to the next level, though.

 

 

Teerasil Dangda (10, striker)

What a let-down. The striker who has done well since arriving in Japan this season certainly didn’t show much of that promise over the two games. His touch was heavy, he wasn’t strong enough and was just frustrating for a player who has the ability to do so much better. Thankfully he did manage to keep his head when the goalkeeper passed the ball to him in the area, playing an intelligent pass to Jakkaphan who converted the chance easily. Also made no mistake from the spot, although if the ‘keeper had gone the right way he would almost certainly have saved it.

 


 

Bodin Phala (15, left wing)

Played about an hour in total, and looked pretty darn good. He was outshone by Nurul in the semi final, but still had quite a few threatening moments in both games. Bodin’s season so far has consisted of 8 substitute appearances in 8 games. If only he could get a start for Port every now and then!

 

Nurul Sriyankem (14, right wing)

Also used twice from the bench, where he was threatening and dynamic at times in both games. Was unlucky not to score with a chip in the semi-final, but came through with an assist for Thailand’s second goal in the final. If I’m honest it looked like an awfully miss-hit cross that made it’s way through to Pansa at the far post, but we’ll take it!

 

 

Siroch Chatthong (22)

Typical Pipo, really. Used his physique to create a promising break in the final, then booted the ball way too far in front of him, allowing the ‘keeper to gather comfortably. The promising Pipo of a couple of seasons ago is becoming a more and more distant memory, I’m afraid.

 


 

All photos by Umim Supatchana

 

Sandpit Songs of the Season: Week 7

 

After an international break of quite staggering pointlessness, T1 returns this week with Port taking on lanterne rouge club Air Force at the PAT on Wednesday night (20:00). The Flyboys may be bottom of the league but with a front line featuring the likes of Marques, Assumpcao, Jaycee John and former Port legend Ekkapoom, Port’s defence will need to be on their guard.

Talking of Ekkapoom, I imagine that when he announced to his friends & family that he’d signed for Air Force, it went something like this bit of sub-Sgt Pepper whimsy from a very youthful Bee Gees. “Mother, I don’t care what my father might think/Perhaps it’s going to drive him to drink…It’s better, it’s better than being alone.” Given their performances so far this season, I’m not so sure about that.

 

 

Air Farce: Port FC vs. Air Force Central FC, 28 March 2018

 

Port welcome Air Force to Klongtoey on Wednesday with some popular old faces set to make well-received returns to PAT Stadium. Of course it makes it easier to applaud opposition players and managers when they’re clear underdogs; indeed, despite possessing some enviable foreign-made offensive weaponry, Air Force have completely failed to get off the runway in 2018. Having sat forlornly at gate 18 for the first 5 weeks of the season, Air Force finally started taxiing in the right direction in week 6, but Port will be trying to make sure that their first flight is postponed for a few more days while Klongtoey’s finest sweep pig’s blood and pungent fish water from the runway. But enough about the walk home through the market, let’s talk football.

 

Air Force Central FC

Players to Watch

 

At the start of the season, many were speculating that Air Force would have one of the most fearsome forward lines in T1, and why not? With Renan Marques (14) fresh off a 27-goal season for Chonburi, Leandro Assumpcao (10) a 26-goal season for Sisaket and Muangthong and Jaycee John (22) scoring 10 in just 12 appearances for Bangkok United as he returned from injury, there was certainly reason for optimism. This bunch aren’t exactly spring chickens, though. At a combined 99 years old, this forward line has seen better days, but Port should certainly be weary of players with as much ability as this bunch. If and when they do fire up the jet engines, they will take some stopping.

 

Renan Marques and Leandro Assumpcao

 

It’s also worth mentioning that all three have seldom been used simultaneously. Manager Sasom has made like Ranieri and tinkered unyieldingly with his squad in an attempt to find the perfect formula, and it’s fair to say that his experimental alchemy has, so far, blown up in his face. Marques, Assumpcao and John have started together on just one occasion – a 2-0 loss against Pattaya – and between the three of them, they have managed just three goals in 2018. If I had to guess, I would say that after securing a 2-2 draw in their last outing, Sasom will stick with Marques and Assumpcao, with John being brought off the bench in the second half.

 

 

Then there are Port’s old flames. Manager Sasom is still a well-liked figure in Klongtoey, and he has called on his Port connections to bring in the likes of former Port captains Kiatjaroern Ruangparn (now retired) and Jirawat Makarom (7), as well as the most recent arrival: legendary winger Ekkapoom Potharungroj (36). Jirawat has been in and out of the team in central midfield, but Ekkapoom has played a part in every game to date, starting three and coming off the bench in the other three. Both players are largely as we remember them: polar opposites of eachother. Jirawat often struggles for pace in midfield but is capable of excellent quality given the opportunity, whereas Ekkapoom is a hard-working speedster who creates great opportunities for himself which he almost always squanders. Both are 32 years of age. I’m noticing a pattern here…

 

Jirawat and Ekkapoom

 

And right on cue to upset the narrative is Montenegrin centre half Aleksandar Kapisoda (5). Air Force captain and a reliable, physical presence at the back, Kapisoda has played every minute of the campaign so far, and is a relative spring chicken at the age of 28. It’s not every day, or indeed possibly ever before, that T1 has seen two Montenegrins face off, but Boskovic (23) vs. Kapisoda should be a key battle on Sunday.

 

Aleksandar Kapisoda

 

Form

 

There isn’t much to say that I haven’t said already on the form front. Air Force have scored just three times, making them by some distance the least potent attacking team in the league. They have lost to Sukhothai (1-2), Ratchaburi (0-1), Muangthong (0-1), Ubon (0-1) and Pattaya (0-2), before finally taking a point at home against fellow strugglers Chainat (2-2) in their last outing. So much for all those 4-3s we were expecting from the Eagles this term!

 

Port FC

Stick or Twist?

 

Jadet, me old mucker. Listen, big fella. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to give the Fresh Prince a start. Fresh off an international break where Bodin (15) showed that he’s not only ahead of Pakorn (7) in the Thai pecking order, but was even brought on before Nurul (31) in the final, it’s got to be about time to give the guy a chance. Fair enough, last season there was very little depth in Port’s squad, and it made a lot of sense to stick with the same XI whenever possible, but money has been spent, the squad drastically improved and there are now legitimate attacking options that are worth being tried for 90 minutes, not just 25. And don’t even get me started on The Flash (28)!

The only other potential change to Jadet’s XI is once again at the back. I expect that when Todsapol (6) returns to fitness he will return to the centre of Port’s defence, but as always with Todsapol, that could be next week or next year. Athibordee (35) hasn’t done a lot wrong since he’s been brought in, but I’m not going to be persuaded that a 5 foot 10 midfielder is anything other than an emergency stop-gap.

The rest of the side should remain as-is, with Port looking to bounce back after letting a 2-1 lead slip away to the ten men of Sukhothai a week and a half ago. They would do well to follow the lead of their B Team, who got back to winning ways in T4 by overcoming Airforce Robinson FC 1-0, with young superstar Chaowala Sriarwut (57) scoring in the first half to take his tally for the season to four. Time to mend some fences, fellas!

 

Predicted XI

 

I’m feeling brave. When I feel brave, I’m almost always wrong. Unfortunately, when it comes to predicting lineups, fortune decidedly does not favour the brave.

As we’ve seen a tactical innovation or two in recent games, with Port adopting distinctly different formations with and without the ball, you get two lineups for the price of one today. Firstly, here’s Port without the ball…

 

 

And when Port win the ball and Kim has waved his arms about a bit and shouted at a couple of people…

 

 


 

The match will be shown live on True Sport 2 at 20:00 on Wednesday 28 March, 2018. For those who can’t make it to PAT Stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match with sound if you ask them nicely. Mention the Sandpit or wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount on drinks.

 

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The FAT Catwalk: All 2018 T1 Kits Rated & Slated

 

It’s a little known fact that the Sandpit team are all hardcore fashionistas. Dom writes for Vogue Thailand, Tom is one of Bangkok’s most popular Youtube makeup vloggers, and I am a former Calvin Klein underwear model. Honest. So this week is Sandpit Fashion Week as I take a look at this season’s lineup of T1 kits and separate the Versace from the Primark, in descending order of quality…

 

1. Chiang Rai Utd

I’m not generally a fan of Puma shirts but Chiang Rai’s new strip is a very tasty little number. I was so taken with it when I first saw it at the Challenge Cup Final a few weeks back that I almost bought one. Simple, clean, not overburdened with sponsor logos, and no silly swirls or frippery. Looks very good on the pitch too, a consideration which shirt designers often overlook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Bangkok Glass

Glass have a track record of envy-inducing kits and despite their fortune teller-induced rebranding, 2018 is no exception. I am slightly biased towards this one being a Coventry fan as it is sky blue, but it is damned sexy, and is only let down by particularly obnoxious sponsor logos which clash horribly with an otherwise stylish design.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Royal Thai Navy FC

Navy may be T1’s most nondescript club – the recent match-fixing scandal is the only interesting thing to happen to them since I started following Thai football four years ago – but there’s nothing nondescript about their 2018 kit; it’s a cracker. Again I’m biased as they’ve gone for the classic St Etienne green-black-white trio, but it’s a very smart, clean shirt with just the two fairly inobtrusive sponsor logos. Hello sailors!

 

 

 

 

4. Suphanburi FC

Like Navy, Suphanburi are a club who probably bore even their own fans, but their 2018 kit is everything a shirt should be – smart, simple and respecting the traditions of the club. Warrix have come up with some excellent designs this season and this is the best of the lot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Nakhon Ratchasima FC

Another winner from Warrix, The Swatcats look sleek & feline in this slinky orange number, with sponsor logos following the brand rather than ruining it. Only let down by some unnecessary background patterns, which are a pet hate of mine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Bangkok Utd

The Angels look rather divine in this smart all-red number. Although it’s somewhat overloaded with sponsor logos, it’s still one of T1’s most stylish kits, though the figure-hugging cut makes it a no-go area for most farang football fans. The black away shirt gives me serious kit envy, though the white away shirt with blue flecks looks like a urinal cake.

 

 

 

 

7. Prachuap FC

This season’s surprise package – 4th in the table as I write – also place highly in the kit rankings thanks to this bold design from Warrix. Would be higher were it not for the background pattern and the incongruous sponsor logo, but still a damn fine effort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Pattaya Utd

You can generally rely on the Dolphins to be well turned out and 2018 is no exception with this simple, straightforward Ari number. The rather silly cracked glass effect lets it down a bit, but that sky blue camouflage away shirt is an absolute belter – perfect for clandestine missions down Walking Street.

 

 

 

 

 

9. Buriram Utd

You know what you’re getting with a Buriram shirt – dark blue, big Chang logo in the middle, no fannying about. This year’s version is as classic – and as boring – as ever, though the collar makes it look more like a polo shirt and, again, there’s a rather pointless background effect going on. Full marks however for their round-necked AFC Champions League shirt which I would happily wear if it didn’t have a Buriram badge on it.

 

 

 

10. Port FC

By Port’s fairly lamentable standards, 2018’s shirt isn’t that bad. There’s only so much you can do with orange & blue stripes yet the design team at Grand Sport do insist on fannying about as much as they possibly can. The more orangey right-hand side is much better than the mess on the left, so why they didn’t make the whole shirt look like that is a mystery. But more than any other T1 shirt, it is ruined by sponsor logos, in particular that horrible big blue square on the front which completely obscures the shirt design; the bizarre black V in the collar; and the Air Asia logo that looks like it was thrown on at the last minute by a blind darts player.

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Chonburi FC

An otherwise simple Nike template design, with all-white sponsor logos (can the FAT make this compulsory please?), let down by two things: some rather pointless, wishy-washy stripes, and the fact that Chonburi are charging 2200BHT a pop for them – more than they charge for a season ticket. That said, owning a new shirt is probably a more pleasurable experience than watching 17 Chonburi games, so maybe it isn’t such bad value after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

12. Chainat FC

Cheating Chainat’s 2018 shirt, hard to track down online, seems to be based on the same Warrix template as Prachuap’s, but is ranked much lower for three good reasons – it’s pink, it’s Chainat, and they’ve almost copied Port’s “We Are the Legend” slogan from 2016, in an even more grammatically incorrect fashion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

13. Air Force Utd

Air Force have had some very nice kits in the past (2016’s Uruguayesque shirt being a particular favourite) but the 2018 effort – modelled here by Port legend Ekkapoom – isn’t one of them. Again it’s befouled by obtrusive sponsor logos, looks more like a polo shirt, and has a two-tone fade look that makes it appear as if it has been sent to a cheap backpacker laundry. The Poom deserves a lot better.

 

 

 

 

 

14. Muangthong Utd

Who’s this in the relegation zone? Why, it’s our old friends Muangthong. For their 2018 effort, Grand Sport have done a commendably half-arsed job, taking the template for Port’s 2017 strip (grandad collar included) and simply changing the colours. Which is about as much effort as such a foul garment deserves. I’d wander around Bangkok in a Make America Great baseball cap before I wore one of these.

 

 

 

 

15. Sukhothai FC

We’re really getting down to the dregs now and Sukhothai’s 2018 shirt is a shocker. Whether it’s the faded orange colour, the dated collar or the tacky flames at the bottom of the shirt, it’s a disaster all round, only slightly mitigated by tasteful application of sponsor logos. With 3 going down it’d be just about enough to keep them up, but sorry boys, it’s 5 this year so bye-bye.

 

 

 

 

16. Ubon UMT Utd

No surprise to see Ubon in the bottom 3, in either fashion or footballing terms. Last season’s kit was one of the worst in T1, and this year they’ve pulled it off again with what looks like the kind of shirt Albania’s 239th-ranked tennis player might wear. The gold stripes look like the shirt has been driven over by a car (a tempting proposition given their performance at Port last week), and bizarrely they appear to be sponsoring themselves. Surely there must be rules about that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

17. Ratchaburi Mitr Phol FC

Screaming “Ansells Bitter Sunday League 1987”, this monstrosity looks like it was designed using MS Paint. By someone who really hates Ratchaburi. Everything about it is horrible, from the sponsor logos on the shoulders to the huge, dated-looking Mitr Phol logo on the front. No wonder all their coaches quit after a couple of weeks. An effort which would normally condemn them to the wooden spoon, however…

 

 

 

 

 

18. Police Tero FC

Anyone wondering why FBT don’t seem to get many T1 shirt contracts these days need wonder no longer. This is truly horrific, and looks like they ran out of money and had to stitch together a shirt made up of half a dozen different old kits. Possibly the one shirt in this list which would benefit from having 27 sponsor logos slapped on top of it to hide the designer’s work, assuming there was a designer involved, which is unlikely. Police haven’t been made to look this bad since the Rodney King video.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fencegate, Fetishes and Marauding Malagasy: Sukhothai FC 2-2 Port FC

 

 

Two of the surprise packages of the T1 League season met at the picturesque, lakeside Thung Thalay Luang Stadium on Saturday for a game that turned out to be anything but placid, especially on the terraces. Port, still smarting from a dismal first half away display at Bangkok Glass knew that they would have to dredge up all of their reservoirs of strength and shore up the defence if they were to navigate their way out of this one.

The first half demonstrated just why these two teams have started so well. Both played pacey, incisive, neat football with the Fire Bats looking to release 6 goal Salvadorian striker Bonilla, while Port were relying heavily on Nurul (31) and Pakorn (7) setting up the chances for Boskovic (23) to use his superior height and power against the Bats’ classy captain Yuttapong, who spent most of the game with his head heavily bandaged after a nasty collision following a corner. Whether Bosko was the culprit was difficult to tell. It was unlikely to be Nurul.

With Bonilla generally well shackled by Rochela (22) and Aithbodee (35), it was left to the diminutive Madagascar international John Baggio to torment the Port defence with his trickery and pace, ably supported by fellow Malagasy, Njiva Rakotoharimalala (try getting that on the back of your shirt). As early as the 8th minute, Baggio whipped a left foot shot narrowly wide of the post, while Boskovic had the ball whipped off his feet at the other end just as he was about to pull the trigger.

Then, just before half-time, it all kicked off. The ball had gone out for a Port throw and was retrieved by a Firebat player who was reluctant to hand it over to Kim, who was equally keen to get the game going. Kim tried to wrestle the ball from his opponent, with what seemed like minimum force, but it was enough for virtually the entire white-shirted Sukothai bench to surround Kim in what can only be describe as an aggressive manner. The nearest Port players came to Kim’s rescue, quickly followed by a few home players intent on rescuing the coaches. It was vaguely reminiscent of the fall-out from a drunken stag party picking a fight with a motor-cycle taxi driver. Calm was eventually restored and at least two Sukothai coaches were banished to the stand. All spiffing fun really.

(Editor’s note: a combination of beer & distance have led to Hockers’ confused view of the incident. Actually it was Sukhothai’s head coach who came on the pitch to angrily hit the ball with his hand, at which point Kim quite reasonably pushed him out of the way so he could get on with the game, at which point it all went off, and the Sukhothai coach was quite rightly sent to the stand…)

However, up in the away end, this was all a bit too much for some of the watching Sandpit contingent, who looked for the nearest defenceless object on which to vent their spleen, which, oddly enough, was actually a fence, one of two separating Port fans from the ‘enemy’. One fan who shall remain nameless, no doubt testing to see if it was made of real Sheffield steel, was the first to give it a rattle; the Brit, followed, as always in a battle, by an American who had to go one better with a more vigorous shake, just to prove once again that although we may start things, they will saunter in when it is nearly all over to claim victory. This commotion did not go unnoticed by the Sukothai supporters sitting next door and an ugly confrontation was only averted by the swift action of the Port mediators and security guards. All a storm in a teacup really but it was to have a severe impact on what was unfolding on the pitch at the time.

Inexplicably, while we were distracted by all this wire-mesh excitement, Sukothai had somehow worked the ball from our bust-up throw-in to a threatening position to the left of our box. Whether the Port defenders were distracted by what was going in the stands behind remains to be seen but it clearly upset Rochela enough to see his clearance ricochet off Bonilla into the path of the one player we did not want anywhere near the ball at this stage, Baggio. The next few seconds seem to take place in slow-motion, with an extended Nooooooooo! screaming inside your head as Baggio prepared to pull the trigger. 1-0. Minutes later, another thrilling run by Baggio finished with a lofted pass to Bonilla who fired over. At the other end, Siwakorn (16) should have done better with a header on the edge of the six-yard box or taken the better option of control and shoot. Possibly the most exciting 5 minutes, for all sorts of reasons, of the season!

An analysis of the exciting action was conducted over yet more beers at half-time and somebody also brought up the football.

Njiva went close for the Fire Bats early in the second half before, on 59 minutes, a mistimed headed back-pass in the Sukothai box was chased down by Boskovic on the touchline, to flick back to Suarez (5), who turned it in past the flailing keeper – an excellent opportunistic goal which inspired a flurry of Port action, culminating, ten minutes later, in one of the most bizarre but quite thrilling goals you will ever see and will need a whole paragraph to itself.

 

At last! Bosk doubles his tally for the season – Nurul shows his, er, appreciation

Nurul, cutting in from the left, hits a fairly harmless, speculative shot, which the keeper spills at the feet of Boskovic, who works the ball free for a shot. In quick succession, shots or headers from Suarez (3 times), Nurul and Boskovic are blocked, cleared off the line or hit the bar, before Boskovic finally lashes home. It was reminiscent of those mass games in the school playground when both teams are kicking into the same goal. The Port fans go wild but the fence remains intact.

Two minutes later Fire Bat Ekkasit was sent off for a wild kick at Kevin and Port seemed to have all the omens in their favour for a famed away win. This illusion was to last 5 minutes; Bonilla ghosting past a static Nitipong (34), no doubt overly keen not to give away yet another penalty, and passing to Njiva whose shot was in turn palmed by Worawut (36) straight to Baggio, who gleefully volleyed it home. The home crowd roared, the away crowd wailed, and the fence cowered.

There was still time for Siwakorn to miss another sitter, blasting over from inside the box with Boskovic better placed. He really does need to stay behind after school for some shooting practice.

All in all, it was a cracking day out. An action-packed match played in a proper football stadium, friendly home fans, in spite of the fence rattling, a fantastic atmosphere, enriched by the impressive Port contingent, and probably a fair result.

The evening was spent in convivial chat, covering such topics as travel stories about navigating the Pacific Rim; cooking tips on the best way to stuff a chicken, and creative ways of using a straw, although some were a bit hard to swallow. Keith, Phil and Mike shared pictures of their pets on the way home and a bloody good time was had by all! Away Days – you can’t beat ‘em. Thanks to all of you for your company.

Port remain in third place, level on points with Sukothai, just three points behind perennial leaders Buriram. Prachuap Khiri Khan and Nakhon Ratchasima make up a rather unusual top 5. Next up for Port are Air Force and Police Tero, games that should consolidate our position before a difficult run of three top 6 challengers.

Sandpit Man of the Match: Sergio Suarez

The consensus was Suarez, scoring again and coordinating the line well. Pity he hadn’t still been on the pitch to take the late chance that fell to Siwakorn.

 

Contenders or Pretenders? Port FC vs Sukhothai FC, 17 March 2018

 

Saturday 17th March 2018
7.00 p.m. Live on True Sports 6

It’s 2nd vs 3rd this week. You would’ve got fairly long odds if you’d suggested this fixture would be 2nd vs 3rd at the start of the season. Both teams splashed some cash pre-season, but so did Air Force and they are rooted to the bottom of the table with 0 points. Port and Sukhothai have managed to turn their purchases into points. Both sides have managed to do it scoring goals, averaging two goals per game. So we should see a game full of goals this Saturday (cue a 0-0 draw).

The Fire Bats’ Form
Sukhothai have beaten Chiang Rai 2-0 in this season so their 12 points haven’t all come easy. Their only loss came last week against 4th placed Korat in Korat. In Nelson Bonilla (a real number 9 with 6 goals) they have the T1 top scorer, which has to be a bit of a worry for Port. Everyone is talking about the top goalscoring sensation. However Port must understand Sukhothai are far from being a one man band. The left winger Njiva (7) has 4 goals, and match him up with Baggio (10) coming in on the right and Sukhothai have a scary foreign trio.  The whole defence will need to keep one eye on Nelson, and still have an eye on Njiva and Baggio. Effectively the Port defence needs to have 3 eyes each. Is their a Triclops available in the mid season transfer window?

Both teams have shown good form then lost away to a decent side. Form would suggest a home win and an away loss..

What do Port need to do to change this on Saturday ?

I still have a lot of faith in this team, I don’t think there needs to be any changes; we just need to convert more of the opportunities we create. Kevin needs to forget about being bogged down in Bangkok Glass and remember the battling performance he put in against Ratchaburi. Boskovic (23) needs to remember as long as the team is scoring he’s doing well. He showed this putting Suarez (5) through on goal. You get the feeling Dragan is linking up well with his team mates, but missing the free flowing football and free flowing goals of 2017 Bangkok United.

I’d like to see a bit of variation occasionally trying out two strikers at some point in 2018. But we all know Jadet; he is not likely to change his 4-5-1 system away, or at home, or ever in his life. With this team playing 4-5-1 I still think we have a good side. With Nurul (31) we will always have chances; we just need to be more clinical when the opposition are being cynical. Yes Ubon, I’m looking at you. I think Sukhothai will be after 3 points from this game. Port have to take the chances they will be given by an attacking team. Athibodee (35) had a good game in central defence last week and I think he did enough to stay in the starting lineup. Unfortunately Port will face a tougher test than 11 men lying down glancing at the clock this week.

Worawut (36)

Nittipong (34) Aithbodee(35) Rochella(22) Kevin (97)

Nurul(31) Suarez (5) Kim(8) Siwakorn(16) Pakorn (7)

Boskovic(23)

Key match up
Bonilla v Rochella ? This would suggest itself as the key match up. However all the more dangerous is Njiva coming in from the left wing being picked up by Athibodee (or Dolah 4) or Todsapol (3).

Bonilla celebrating, but don’t forget Njiva.

Njiva v Athibodee
If Port focus too much on Bonilla they could get caught out. I like Athibodee but this Saturday will test his defending credentials.  We have seen Port go down early away from home. The Fire Bats need to be kept in check early doors. If Port can do that then they can exploit the space that should come their way.

Prediction: Sukhothai 2-3 Thai Port (All goals scored in the first half, so myself and the other Port fans with Doug Stanhope tickets can enjoy the goals then nip off to see some top quality standup.)

The Sportsman on Sukhumvit Soi 13 will be showing the match live on Saturday.

 

Sandpit Songs of the Season 2018: Week 6

 

Apologies for the absence of a Song of the Season for last week’s Ubon game as I was freezing my wuttichais off in Berlin. But this week normal service is resumed as Port face a crucial game away at fellow second-placers Sukhothai FC, aka The Fire Bats.

Hopefully Port will follow Captain Beefheart’s advice and pull the chain on the Bats’ title ambitions, consigning them to the watery U-bend of T1 along with other turds like Muangthong & Ratchaburi.