Big Game Hunting: Suphanburi FC vs. Port FC, 11 May 2018

 

After a stonking 4-0 win away from home last weekend Port are sure to face a tougher test at Suphanburi Provincial Stadium this Friday. The Swatcats’ almost complete reliance on their foreign striker meant that Port’s defence went largely untroubled last week, but Suphanburi are a much more balanced outfit with a lot more to offer. The War Elephants have gone ten games unbeaten including consecutive victories with clean sheets to boot, so Port will need to upset the form books again to come away with what would be a huge three points for manager Jadet. Port’s boss still looks far from secure in his job with the mid-season break approaching, but beating the likes of Suphanburi would go a long way to convincing the powers that be that he is the man to take Port up to the higher reaches of the table. It’s 3rd vs. 5th. Come on, lads!

 

Suphanburi FC

Players to Watch

 

Well, it wouldn’t be T1 unless the main man was a foreign striker. Romulo (9) is in his first season in Thai football, having played for several clubs in his native Brazil before moving to top-flight Swedish side Hammarby IF. Whilst Romulo didn’t bang in goals consistently he became a cult hero for his hattrick and a few other memorable performances against Kevin Deeromram’s former club and Hammarby’s big rivals Djurgarden. Romulo has continued to cement his reputation as a big-game player for Suphanburi this season by finding the net against top teams like Bangkok United and Buriram, as well as minnows like Muangthong. He’s tall enough to do a bit of damage in the air, and on his day can be pretty useful on the ground, too. Let’s just hope no one has told him Port are a big team nowadays!

 

Romulo

 

Romulo’s supporting cast going forward will be any two of three promising Thai forwards. First – because he’s my favourite – is Tanasith Sripala (11), also known as Taodinho. This Ronaldinho lookalike is fortunately not a Ronaldinho playalike, although he tries his best. He was one of Thailand’s most exciting youngsters a couple of years ago, but hasn’t quite kicked on and added end product to his undoubted ability. Second is Chananan Pombuppha (10). This fella, presumably named by whichever of his parents has a stuttuttutter, started out as an out and out striker, but has been moved on to the wing at Suphanburi. He doesn’t look nearly as useful out there as he does through the middle, but he’s got a good finish on him and is definitely one to watch out for. This third forward is the youngest of the trio, and probably the most dangerous of the bunch on current form. Sirimongkhon Jitbanjong (38) is just 20 years old and has only played a handful of games in T1, but his pace and work rate will certainly be a handful for Port’s full backs. He’s scored two goals in under 300 minutes on the pitch in his breakout season.

 

Tanasith, Chananan and Sirimongkhon

 

Port fans may remember solid holding midfielder Adul Lahso from his red card in last season’s thrilling 3-2 encounter at PAT Stadium, but unfortunately Suphanburi’s hard man has done a knee ligament and is out for the foreseeable future. Taking his place is a man who couldn’t look more different to the diminutive bald Adul if he tried. Naruphon Putsorn (7) is tall with a big man-bun, and interestingly is one of the few Thai players to have plied his trade in the UK. Naruphol played for TNS in Wales, before stints in America and Holland. He has played with Bangkok United and Buriram since moving to Thailand, and he will be partnered by Japanese veteran Takafumi Akahoshi (37).

 

Adul and Naruphon

 

At the back is the familiar figure of Anderson dos Santos (3). The Brazilian centre back has been in Thai football since 2010, and is a hero to fans of former club Chonburi. He’s big, powerful and very dangerous from set-pieces. In a three-man back line Anderson will be joined by the appropriately named Suphan (26) and the recipient of an impressive 7 yellow cards to date Tinnakorn Asurin (33). Siwakorn: meet your idol.

 

Anderson dos Santos

 

Form

 

Suphanburi’s unbeaten run does include an awful lot of draws. Their last 6 saw 4 consecutive ties with Buriram, Muangthong, Ratchaburi and Sukhothai, before they finally got back to winning ways with a 3-0 victory over Air Force and kept the momentum last week by grinding out a 1-0 win over Ubon.

 

Port FC

Is The Swagger Back?

 

One of the most promising moments in the 4-0 thrashing of Korat was Boskovic (23) starting to look confident again. Bole showed his prowess in front of goal with a clinical finish while clean through on the ‘keeper, then – in stark contrast to a week earlier – jumped at the chance to score from the spot. Maybe it’s the return of Suarez (5), maybe it’s the voice of Tim Russell ringing in his ears; whatever it is, the Dragan is breathing fire once again, and that’s what we want to see!

Suarez will have kept his place after returning from injury last week and Nurul (31) scored a crucial goal while looking lively throughout, but what are Port going to do with Pakorn (7)? Well, I wouldn’t mind seeing The Midfield Monk dropped this week for Bodin (10), who has put in a couple of suave performances of late. Despite his unerring inability to miss chances in a laughably predictable way, Siwakorn (16) will once again partner Kim (8) in midfield.

In the defence things are looking very settled. Nitipong (34), Rochela (22), Dolah (4) and Kevin (97) have all made their positions their own, although I’m not sure why Worawut (36) returned to the starting XI while Rattanai (17) was absent from the matchday squad last week. Knowing Rattanai, it’s most likely an injury. Still, both are quality goalkeepers so it matters little which one starts.

Terens (28) is back in training after picking up a knock that his kept him out for the last couple of weeks, but it’s unknown whether or not he will fit in time for Friday.

Dolah, Todsapol (6), Rochela, Boskovic and Nurul are all just one yellow card away from a suspension, so let’s hope they don’t all get booked at once!

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 


 

The match will be shown live on True 4U and True Sport 2 at 20:00 on Friday 11 May, 2018. For those who can’t make it to Suphanburi Provincial Stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound. We’re expecting another good turn out at the bar this week, so come along and don’t forget to wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount on drinks.

 

Sandpit Songs of the Season Week 15: Suphanburi FC

 

Port travel to Suphanburi this Friday to take on the War Elephants, in a crunch 3rd vs 5th clash. Win, and Port will keep pace with the top two; lose and they’ll be sucked back into the chasing pack. Whilst Port’s away form has been typically poor this season, last weekend’s pwnage of the Swatcats might just herald a change in mentality and see Port going into away games with the same confidence as they do at the PAT, and they’ll need it this Friday.

So this week’s tune sees now-deceased Scouse chanteuse Cilla Black singing about her encounter with an elephant. Though it’s probably an urban myth, like the one about Debbie McGee & the German Shepherd.

 

 

A Season Without Breaks? FAT Chance

 

Just when it seemed the T1 season was going to play out without any of the long breaks that marred 2017, the FAT in their infinite wisdom have postponed two rounds of August fixtures because of the 2018 Asian Games. Yes, they could’ve allowed clubs to prepare by factoring this break in at the start of the season, but it’s clearly much more fun to leave it until the last minute. This means there is now a one-month break in the action from 5 August to 5 September, and means the following Port FC fixtures have been rearranged:

 

Prachuap FC v Port FC Sat 11 August – now Wed 5 September

Port FC vs Chainat Hornbill FC Sun 19 August – now Sun 9 September

Chiang Rai Utd vs Port FC Sun 26 August – now Wed 12 September

Port FC vs Nakhon Ratchasima FC Sat 1 September – now Sat 15 September

Port FC vs Suphanburi FC Sat 15 September – now Sat 22 September

Navy FC vs Port FC  Sat 22 September – now Sat 29 September

Port FC vs Chonburi FC Sun 30 September  – now Wed 3 October

Pattaya Utd vs Port FC Sat 6 October – now Sun 7 October

 

That means two very attractive weekend away trips – Prachuap & Chiang Rai – are now on Wednesdays, and that that end of season Pattaya fixture is on a much less doable Sunday night. No thought given to those fans who’ve already booked flights & hotels & planned their summer holidays around the fixtures. We’ve emailed the FAT to ask why this shit continues to happen, given that club owners, coaches and players all hate it, and have yet to receive a response, Doubt we will. As far as we know this is the last remaining break in the season, but with the U12 Asian Girls Ker-Plunk Championships coming up in September, expect more changes.

 

Swat’s the Way Uh-Huh Uh-Huh I Like It Uh-Huh Uh-Huh: Nakhon Ratchasima FC 0-4 Port FC

 

“Never write match reports when you’ve had a few beers”, as Graham Greene once wrote (The End of the Affair, 1951), but bollocks to it, it’s not often you get home from the pub having seen Port win 4-0 away after bossing a game on the road the way they generally do at home. Yes, the Swatcats were dreadful, by far the worst team we’ve played all season, but this was the kind of performance that makes you think Port have turned a corner after the watershed moment that was Chainat. Can you turn a corner after a watershed? Am I mixing too many metaphors here? Who cares. We are Tarua, and we are 3rd in the league.


Several factors contributed to a complete absence of Sandpitters at the 80th Anniversary Stadium tonight. Many of us are still scarred by that trip to Chainat; Port’s away form doesn’t in any way justify a 10-hour return trip on a Sunday night; and we tend not to like stadiums where you need the fucking Hubble Telescope to watch the action. So we convened at The Sportsman where as usual the game was on a big screen and the beer was flowing like the sacred waters of the Chao Phraya as they pass majestically by the fragrant docksides of Khlong Thoey.

Port started the game in a fairly generic formation, Suarez (5) returning in place of Bodin (10), who can consider himself very unfortunate after his superb performance against Chiang Rai last week. Such is life at Port, where reputations count for more than form. Dolah (4) kept his place after his superb show last weekend, and Worawut (36) replaced Rattanai who was presumably injured as he didn’t even make the bench.

Now at The Sandpit we try to operate on a glass-half-full basis as regards the development of Thai football, but it has to be said that the first half of this game was absolutely dreadful, and about as good an advertisement for the Thai game as Ed Sheeran is for British music. It was, frankly, fucking shocking. And yet, amidst the incompetence, Port somehow emerged at half-time with a 1-0 lead, after Boskovic (23) casually wandered through a static Swatcat defence to fire a header at our old friend Cunningham which, to be fair, the latter miraculously managed to save, only for the ball to fall to Nurul (31) who buried the fucker in the corner.

The little winger (who, according to Sandpitter Tommie Duncan, looks like a marmoset) should’ve made it 2-0 minutes later when put in the clear by a sublime pass from the otherwise nondescript Pakorn (7), but, thinking he was offside, he fluffed his chip over the keeper.

So 1-0 to Port at half-time when it could easily have been much more, but with Port dominating the game, and the Swatcats offering little other than a succession of fouls (the ludicrous Rangel being the worst offender, as per usual), hopes were high for the second half, hopes which – for a change – were fulfilled.

I think it’s well known that, so far this season, The Sandpit hasn’t been particularly impressed with Port’s marquee signing Dragan Boskovic (23), and our frustration boiled over after the Chainat defeat, when we gave the big Montenegrin a bit of what we Brits euphemistically refer to as ‘stick’. To his credit, Bosko has responded and in the second half tonight he grabbed hold of the Swatcat and, ignoring the hissing and the slashing of claws, proceeded to tear it a new feline arsehole. On 65 minutes he latched onto a lovely through ball from Suarez and blasted it past Zone B favourite Cunningham for 2-0, and then, on 90 minutes, slotted away a penalty (after a foul on Nurul) to put the cherry on the cake for Port who were already 3-0 up after a classic Suarez 6-yard poacher goal in the 66th minute.

This was a VAR game, and was yet another advertisement for why this ridiculous concept has no place in football, with the ref wasting several minutes watching incidents and then either making the right decision (sending off Ekkachai) or the wrong decision (allowing the appalling Rangel to stay on the pitch), leaving us wondering what the point of watching the video was in the first place. Please, let the game flow, embrace its randomness and errors, and leave this insistence on “fairness” to inferior sports. Football isn’t a sport, it’s a culture, a reflection of life itself, and as such it can’t be ‘decided’ by video evidence.

Anyway, Port won 4-0 away and played with the kind of confidence and swagger they show at the PAT and which we’ve been begging them for years to show away from home. It was a dominant performance from a team who have reacted to the Chainat shambles in the right way and are playing as a tight, compact unit. Yes, there are still faults – Kim (8) just isn’t the DM we hoped he would be; Siwakorn (16) had an absolute shocker; and Pakorn (7) no longer justifies a starting place. But this was a performance that gives us hope that Port’s top 3 place isn’t just a flash in the pan but is genuinely sustainable. Apart from Buriram & Bangkok Utd, T1 is a carnival of shite, and right now, Port are proving less consistently shite than those around them, so a good finish beckons.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Dragan Boskovic

Finally, 14 games into the season, we’ve seen the player who banged in 38 goals last season. Bosko was on top form tonight, not giving Korat’s defenders a moment’s peace, running his arse off and adding two goals to his tally for the season. Runners up – Dolah, Suarez, Nitipong.

 

Robopussies: Nakhon Ratchasima FC vs. Port FC, 6 May 2018

 

Port travel to Nakhon Ratchasima on Sunday looking for something – anything – to banish their persistent away jinx. Statistically our chances look slim. If only away games were counted Port would be in the relegation zone, whereas Korat have won 4 of 6 of their home encounters. Whilst Siwakorn (16) returns from the first of his 3 annual suspensions and Suarez (5) looks set to slot back in to the starting XI, Korat welcome Dominic Adiyiah (10) back to fitness, with their key creative player having missed 5 of the last 6 games through injury.

Manager Jadet has lived to fight another day in the Port hot seat after his side put in a much improved performance last week to take all 3 points from Chiang Rai, although they needed a late penalty to seal the deal. On the other hand Korat coach Milos Joksic – the most spherical of supremos – can be very happy with the form of his side so far in 2018. Having made no big name signings in the off-season, Korat fans could have been forgiven for thinking that their side was under the very real threat of a relegation battle. Instead they find themselves in 6th position just a point behind Port, and the fans haven’t had to suffer through bore draws week after week like last season, either. Indeed the Swat Cats are the only team in the league yet to record a draw, having won 7 and lost 6 in their first 13 games. With Port also having just a single draw to date, we are unlikely to see a repeat of last season’s dour 0-0 borefest in Isaan.

 

Nakhon Ratchasima

Robopussy

 

Before I get on to the usual business of looking at the players, I thought I would take a moment to appreciate the badge of Port’s opponents. We’ve written about their bizarre nickname before, but just look at how The Swatcats’ logo has evolved.

We start of course with an actual Sisawat cat.

 

A Sisawat – or ‘Swat’ – Cat

 

Timid. Then there’s Korat’s first logo, a rather ferocious take on what is just quite a cute little kitty.

 

 

Then shit gets real. The Swat Cat is moving in to the modern age. With its’ straight lines and flawless symmetry this puss-puss is starting to look equally capable of scratching your eyes out and hacking in to your Amazon account to order itself a lifetime supply of Friskies.

 

 

Then there’s the 2018 version. Gone are the sharp fangs and the intimidating glare, replaced instead by robowhiskers and what I can only assume are its’ paws performing some kind of J-Pop pose. It’s most certainly lost its’ menacing edge, but now I’m getting concerned that the 2018 Swat Cat is going to pass the Feline Turing Test and end the world as we know it.

 

 

Players to Watch

 

Right, back to business. Korat’s key man is fresh off scoring a perfect hattrick in just 15 first half minutes last week. Paulo Rangel (9) hasn’t had the most prolific of seasons, but he’s always a threat with his clinical finishing, aerial ability and all around filth. No Paulo, we still haven’t forgiven you for that stamp on Rattanai (17) right in front of Zone B last season. In order to best deal with the big man, Port ought to be starting with Dolah (4) and counting on the big man to win the aerial duels that are Rangel’s bread and butter.

Returning after a month-long injury layoff is former Under 20 World Cup Golden Ball and Golden Shoe winner Dominic Adiyiah (10). The Ghanaian winger who was signed by Milan as a youngster has, as you may have guessed, failed to live up to his potential in a big way. A few loan spells and underwhelming Eastern European stints after being signed by one of the world’s leading clubs, Dominic found himself in Isaan, and is now in his fourth season with Korat. As much as Dominic’s dynamism looks threatening, the end product is rarely realized. This is illustrated perfectly by his performances to date in 2018, in which he has just one goal and no assists in eight starts.

 

Rangel and Dominic

 

Doing a rather better job in the goal department is Thai winger Ekkachai Rittipan (20). This 27 year old winger looks very much like a journeyman squad player, but has managed to notch four goals so far this season, putting him just one behind leading scorer Rangel. He’s not a player I’ve seen before, but on current form he’s one for Ports full-backs to watch out for.

 

Ekkachai Rittipan

 

This lot love a dodgy ‘keeper. Last season it was former Port cheat Weera Koedpudsa who has been banned for life for match fixing, and this season it’s Thai-American Samuel Cunningham (11). What sort of goalkeeper wears the number 11 shirt? Well, maybe I’m being a bit harsh on Cunningham – Korat have one of the better defensive records in the league – but he put in a laughably inept goalkeeping performance when his old team Sisaket visited Port in 2016 when the Zone B crowd laid in to him for a good portion of the match. Fortunately for Cunningham the away fans in the 80th Anniversary Stadium are roughly a mile and half away from the pitch, so he won’t have to worry about them this time around.

 

Samuel Cunningham

 

Other players of note are Korat captain and national team regular Chalermpong Kerdkaew (4), a consistent if unspectacular centre half, and Brazilian central midfielder Antonia Pina (7) who can be a threat from set-pieces.

 

Port FC

Away Blues

 

What on earth are Port going to do about their away form? Well, first and foremost they have to up the intensity. Regardless of what team Jadet picks, the players on the pitch need to show the same desire and commitment that was on display against Chiang Rai last week, as opposed to the dross we were assaulted with the previous Wednesday in Chainat.

Jadet does have some interesting decisions to attend to on the personnel front, though. Bodin (10) put in a superb performance in Suarez’ (5) usual position, while Adisorn (13), Kim (8) and Siwakorn (16) are back to fighting for two positions in central midfield. Dolah (4) and Todsapol (6) are also both in contention in defence, although Dolah ought to have held on to his place with a dominant performance last week.

I expect Jadet will return to what was his favoured attacking formula at the start of the season, which will mean a front two of Boskovic (23) and Suarez with Pakorn (7) and Nurul (31) on the wings.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

OK, so I’ve calmed down a bit after my last effort, in which I dropped half the team and replaced them with youth players. We’re back to a Port team we very well recognize this week.

 

 


 

The match will be shown live on True Sport HD 3 at 18:00 on Sunday 6 May, 2018. For those who can’t make it to the 80th Anniversary Stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound. Don’t forget to wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount on drinks.

 

,

Chok’s Away! Defender Off to Suphanburi

 

The mid-season transfer window is aproaching, and already one Port player is on the move. Young right-back Meechok Marhasaranukun has announced that he’s packing his bags and heading off to Suphanburi as soon as the window reopens.

It’s not hard to understand why the Chok should have put out a “come & get Mee” plea – he’s behind Nitipong in the pecking order, and given Niti’s consistency and fitness, he’s likely to see even less action than Jadet’s salad tongs.

Meechok joined Port in 2016 from the defunct TOT and has made 28 appearances for the club, as well as getting capped at Thai U19 & U21 levels, but Nitipong’s emergence last season as a top quality T1 right-back has seen his chances limited to the occasional cup or substitute appearance, and at his age he needs more game time. Whether he’s any more likely to get it at Suphanburi we do not know, but good luck Meechok from all at The Sandpit!

 

Witness the Fitness: The Sandpit Meets Rod Pellegrino

 

A familiar figure on the touchline at the PAT, Brazilian fitness coach Rod Pellegrino has been with Port since the summer of 2016, arriving at the same time as Head Coach Jadet. It’s his job to make sure Port’s players are fit & raring to go each week, and after an hour in his presence we were left in no doubt as to his energy and powers of motivation. We almost – almost – felt like doing a bit of exercise ourselves. Here’s what he had to say about life as a fitness coach in Thailand, as well as a few fitness tips for those of us who aren’t exactly in match-ready condition…

 


 

Tell us how you became a fitness coach in Thai football…

To talk about that, I have to talk about my father. He’s also a fitness coach, and he went to work abroad in 1998, when I was 8 years old. He worked in Saudi Arabia and other Arabic countries for over 10 years, and every school break I would go and visit him. When I was 14 I started to play football, I was a goalkeeper, I played U14 and U15 for Flamengo and other big clubs in Brazil, but I didn’t become professional because as you can see, I am not very tall! Brazilian goalkeepers are all very tall! So when I was 17 I said OK, I cannot be a goalkeeper, so I gave up and went to university to study Sport Science, and from the start I was doing internships at football clubs. After I graduated, I started to work as fitness coach in youth teams in some big clubs in Rio de Janeiro. But my dream and my aim was always to work with the first team and work abroad like my father. But in Brazil it was not so easy for me get work, because there are a lot of very good fitness coaches with more experience than me. So, I resigned and came to Malaysia to stay for a while with my father at T-Team in Malaysia. Then he got a good offer from another club, so T-Team offered me his job! I stayed for 2 years, then I finished my AFC licence and Mme Pang offered me a job at Port, and now I’m in my third season.

 

 

What challenges did you face when you first moved to Thailand?

Communication! At the club not so much, because most players understand a little bit of English, but outside, on the street, it was not easy. But in terms of football, comparing Malaysia and Thailand, Thailand is much better – the clubs are more professional, the players are more professional. Thailand is at a higher level. Thai players have more technique, they are fitter, more skillful.

 

And in comparison to the Middle East?

Arabic players they are not as professional. Why? They have two jobs. They work day jobs in companies, then in the evening they come for training, even in the top leagues – Saudi, UAE, Qatar, 75% of them have two jobs. So in the evening they are too tired. But they invest a lot of money in football, they bring in foreign coaches not just for the first team but also for their academies, they invest a lot in developing players.

 

We’ve heard that Thai players don’t have the best diet…how do you get them to eat more healthily?

I try but it is not easy! We give them energy drinks, glucose drinks, protein shakes, nuts, healthy snacks, and when we have an evening game they can come to the stadium 3-4 hours before and eat pasta to give them energy. Then after games or training we make sure they eat fruit and protein. After you exercise, your body has 2 hours to absorb food properly so as soon as you finish training you should eat, your body absorbs it faster. But we can’t control what they eat in their own time. In Thailand they like to eat food with oil, everything is fried, even bananas! They fry everything. It is not easy to change.

 

 

Who’s the fittest player at the club?

Nitipong, Adisorn, Genki last year, Arthit this year – sometimes I have to tell him hey easy, don’t train too much! Sometimes I go to the gym on my own and I see him there. Rochela, Suarez, they work a lot too. In terms of stamina, Nitipong and Adisorn. Adisorn he is like a dog, he never stops running around. The strongest? Nitipong, Dolah as well.

 

How do you help new foreign players adapt to playing in Thailand?

The first problem for new players is jetlag – they need a week to recover. Then they train only with me, especially in pre-season, so they can adapt themselves to the timing and climate, and I start from the beginning with fitness. I don’t push them because the first few weeks are difficult, I’m a foreigner so I understand that. Then step by step they can adapt. And of course we train every day after 5pm when it’s not so hot. Before that, it’s impossible, even dangerous. Sometimes teams want to put foreign players straight in the team, but it’s dangerous, they need time.

 

 

The long mid-season breaks must be difficult for you…

I complain a lot about that! You stop, 4 weeks, you have to give the players a few days off, and some of them don’t follow the training plan, they do nothing and their condition goes down so it’s like starting pre-season again and it’s boring for me and the players. It’s just training, training, training, and they want matches, competition!

 

 

What metrics do you use to judge players’ fitness?

In pre-season I do the yoyo test, where you analyse their aerobic condition – like a beep test. Genki was always the best, because he always used to train longer than anyone else! And he knew what exercise was right for him, as an older player.

During the season, every week we check their weight, and every 3 months we check body fat, in relation to their ideal weight. They’re all professional and they know what to do, but sometimes I need to tell them hey man, you’ve got to lose 3 kilos! And during the game I can see if a player is fit or not, after 60-70 minutes I can see if a player is getting tired and if we need to make changes.

 

Last season we let in a lot of late goals, this season we haven’t – is that related to fitness?

It’s not fitness, it’s concentration. Sometimes when you’re leading 2-1, 2-0 late in the game you relax, or you sit back & defend, and it’s easy for the other team to go up & score. This season it’s simple – we have better players, even on the bench. I’m not saying the team was bad before, but now we have more young players from big clubs – Bodin, Nurul, Kevin, very good players.

 

 

 

Interview by Tim Russell, Dominick Cartwright & Tom Earls. Pics by Tim. Many thanks to Rod for taking the time to be interviewed and for inviting us into the hallowed Port FC dressing room.