Hope Is an Open Window: Port’s 2019 Shopping List

 

Now that it’s confirmed that Port won’t be taking part in the 2019 AFC Champions’ League (thanks a lot Buriram, last time I turn out on a Saturday night to support you…), Mme Pang will have revised her plans and is no doubt readying the chequebook and drawing up a shopping list for the upcoming transfer window which, according to FIFA, opens on 28 November, or on 26 November according to the FAT.

As usual, here’s my rundown of who’s staying, who might be going, and where Port need to upgrade…

COACH

Whatever your opinion of him, there’s no doubt that La Pang likes working with Jadet and he’s already been confirmed as Port coach for 2019. The odds of him lasting the whole 2018 season would’ve been very very long indeed, but, despite a mid-season wobble, he finished strongly and did enough to keep his job for 2019. As I’ve said before, whilst you can’t argue with his record at Port, personally I don’t think he’s the man to take Port to the level where they can compete with the likes of Buriram & Bangkok Utd, but he’s here to stay so no point discussing it any further.

GOALKEEPERS

Until a few weeks ago, the goalkeeping situation at Port was as stable and predictable as it has been for the last two years. Human biscuit Rattanai was first choice, and on those occasions when he was unfit – ie most of the time – Worawut was his replacement. It was a law as fixed and immutable as the law of gravity. However, in the last three games, the world of Khlong Thoey goalkeeping was turned on its head as rapper and third-choice keeper Watchara, having spent the season playing in T4, was suddenly handed the first choice keeper spot and blew us all away with three stunning performances – great shot-stopping (he only conceded one goal in three games), superb distribution – streets ahead of his rivals in that respect – and even some Manuel Neuer-style sweeper-keeping. In the words of Blackadder, ‘you might’ve told us you actually had a trumpet’. Watchara has played himself right into contention for the no1 spot next season, and with Rattanai in the enviable position of being Pang’s favourite, it looks like Wozza could be seeking pastures new. Little chance of any new arrivals here; they’re simply not needed, though we may see a new backup/T4 option arrive.

DEFENCE

If there’s one area that continues to let Port down, it’s defending. Port finished 3rd in the table but their defence was only ranked no6, and the 45 goals conceded was almost double Buriram’s total (25). So if Port are going to bring in reinforcements, this is where it needs to happen.

Fullbacks

No major surgery required here – with Nitipong and Kevin winning our POTY and YPOTY awards respectively, Port have arguably the best fullback combo in T1, and both are young enough to make the positions their own for years to come. But some backup is definitely required, with Kevin’s stand-in being the creaking Panpanphong, and Nitipong having pretty much no backup at all. The sadly forgotten Yossawat had a good season on loan at Prachuap and should be brought back into the fold to cover at LB; whilst Jadet needs to find a similar option at RB as a priority.

Central Defenders

Here’s where it gets interesting. Big Swede Elias Dolah started the season behind Todsapol in the pecking order but by season’s end had made himself arguably Port’s first choice, and was the club’s most improved player of the season. Todsapol himself may get amongst the goals but he’s just too slow for T1 level and will almost certainly be on his way.

That leaves Port’s longest-serving player, El Capitan himself, David Rochela. There are those who claim the skipper had a poor season by his standards, but I disagree: last year’s spending meant he was no longer the ‘star’ at Port and was eclipsed in the MOTM stakes by others – he was still quietly doing his usual excellent job. But as yet there is no word on whether David will be at Port next season. Whilst many of us might like to see someone bigger & nastier in the position – Port could certainly do with a Victor on and off the pitch – it could be a question of “careful what you wish for”. But whatever happens with David, Port still need a couple of reinforcements in this area and will almost certainly be looking at Thai or ASEAN options.

MIDFIELD

Port’s midfield was a big improvement on 2017 with some excellent new signings, but there is still work to be done on setting up a more effective bridge between central midfield and attack.

Central Midfield

Korean midfielder Kim Sung Hwan has already been offered a new deal for 2019 so we know he’s going nowhere. Signed as a defensive midfielder – arguably the biggest missing piece in the Port jigsaw – he actually proved to be much better as an attacking midfielder. Let’s hope the very promising Anon stays at Port as he looked like the DM Port have been missing.

Of the other current incumbents, Siwakorn had a poor season by his standards – he looked out of form & unfit for most of it – and could well be on the move; whilst the pocket rocket Adisorn, though a very valuable squad player, might decide he needs more action. If Port need to recruit anywhere it’s here, and they need to recruit big, targeting a big physical MF (translate that as you will) as well as a creative AM.

Wings

On the right, Port have an abundance of riches, with assist machine Pakorn, Greg Louganis tribute act Nurul, criminally underused Terens and young ex-Leicester trainee Somprasong all looking likely to be at the club in 2019. The less said about Chakrit the better. It’s on the left where Port need to upgrade, as Pakorn and Nurul look far less comfortable on their wrong side, and Bodin is simply not good enough for T1 level. A new signing is sorely needed here to provide more balance, with Bodin either sold or loaned out for the season.

ATTACK

With Port scoring 90 goals in all competitions last season, the club’s attack was clearly the success story of 2018. Suarez, for all his inconsistency and the fact that he’s actually a CM, racked up the goals and assists, and Boskovic’s 28-goal haul just about justified the pre-season hype. Backup Anon’s ‘Pele’ nickname may be somewhat ironic but there is no harder-working player at Port and he’s fast becoming a cult hero with the fans, and will almost certainly be kept on. Terens played in a forward role during some of his sub appearances and looks very dangerous in & around the box. Promising Port B striker Chanayut should get a promotion to the big boys. Sammy Slot looks like he’s been signed to model the new 2019 shirt and will probably be loaned out once it’s unveiled in April. The new ASEAN rule may see a couple of good Southeast Asian signings in this area or, if Rochela leaves, maybe another SFS to partner/compete with Bosko and see Suarez drop back to midfield.

THE SHOPPING LIST

1 big nasty foreign central defender

2 Thai/ASEAN backup central defenders

1 Thai backup right-back

1 Thai midfield hard man

1 Thai/ASEAN left-winger

1 Thai/ASEAN attacking midfielder

1 ASEAN striker

 

 

I’d Have to Say, the Worst of the Beetles: No AFC Place for Port

 

The Khlong Thoey hordes descended on Supachalasai last night, with numerous patches of orange & blue in the Buriram end as we lent our support to the Thai champions’ bid to win the double, thus handing Port a place in the AFC Champions’ League qualifying stages. Sadly it was not to be as, on a night of considerable drama, a typically rugged display of anti-football from Chiang Rai won them their third trophy of the season.

The Beetles took the lead in the second minute, after a foul by Fat Bill on a Buriram defender left William in the clear; he raced down the left and passed to the chubby Brazilian who slotted it in the corner with aplomb. Buriram had a chance to equalise in the 15th minute when MOTM Osvaldo was brought down in the box, but Diogo’s penalty was spectacularly saved.

But the Isaan team got the equaliser their neat possession football deserved in the 25th minute when Osvaldo gave the Thai FA Cup its own Ricky Villa moment, dribbling past half the Chiang Rai defence before burying the ball in the corner.

 

 

They did not stay level for long however, as another long ball found that man William who ran into the Buriram box, only to be fouled by Tunez. The ref initially didn’t spot it, but with the FAT trying out a radical new experiment which involved handing control of VAR not to an independent panel but to the Chiang Rai bench, the penalty was eventually awarded, and Blobby Bill converted it to send the Beetles into the dressing room at half-time 2-1 up.

After the restart, the drama quickly continued when Buriram midfielder Sasalak was fouled just inside the box, with the ref once again needing a look at VAR to make his decision. This time Diogo made no mistake from the spot to put Buriram level again. But another defensive lapse on the 71-minute mark saw Bill, unmarked on the edge of the box, put clear by a lovely through ball and he slotted it past the keeper for his hat-trick. 3-2 to the Beetles, and time for Operation Shithouse – and there are no better exponents of shithousery in Thai football.

Buriram brought on Suchao to fight fire with fire, and on 76 minutes he seemed to have played his role to perfection, being upended by a shocking late tackle by our old friend Chaiyatwat. The ref immediately – and correctly – pulled out his red card, but with Victor and the Chiang Rai bench by now refereeing the game it was quickly rescinded to a yellow.

12 minutes later the referee pulled out another red, after handing a second yellow to Sasalak for no apparent reason, and having just watched the video three times I still can’t see any offence; however the Chiang Rai bench were all on their feet howling for it and once again the referee obliged them. Ludicrous refereeing.

Buriram laid siege to the CR goal for the remaining 5 minutes but without a target man (oh how they missed Edgar tonight) their attack was fairly toothless, and when the ref blew up after a ridiculous 3 minutes’ extra time (Gama and his staff were clearly in charge of the watch too), the cup was heading to Chiang Rai, and Port’s AFC hopes were heading down the U-bend.

 

The Sandpit’s Player of the Year meets his adoring fans

 

How this affects La Pang’s transfer plans remains to be seen, but Thailand & Bangkok Glass midfielder Tanaboon was seen watching the game with Port full-back Nitipong. After negotiating our way out of the stadium via its unlit death-trap staircases and procuring post-match Leos, we bumped into the Sandpit’s 2018 POTY and asked him if Tanaboon was joining Port, but he just gave us that cheeky grin of his and said nothing. So watch this space.

 

Top Three is the Magic Number: The Editor’s 2018 Awards

 

Port went into the 2018 season with the strongest and most expensively-assembled squad in their history, with a top 5 place and a cup run their stated ambitions. The cup runs didn’t really materialise, but a top 3 finish means the season has to be considered as a success over all.

It was of course the usual rollercoaster ride that we Port fans wouldn’t change for the world. Some utterly sublime football – the opening day win over Pattaya, the seven-goal scuppering of Navy, the spectacular win at Ratchaburi for example – mixed in with performances so abject (Chainat at home and away) you wondered why you bothered; and players who were Messi one week and just messy the next.

But even a generally glass-half-empty reviewer like myself has to admit that, seen as a whole, 2018 was a fantastic year to be a Port fan, so here are my 2018 awards…

 

Game of the Season

There were so many contenders for this award that it was very hard to narrow it down to one. The away win at Ratchaburi was probably the best team performance in Port’s history, whilst the home defeat to MTU was stupidly thrilling. But strangely, in a season dominated by wins, I’ve gone for another defeat – the 0-3 home reversal to Bangkok Utd. The scoreline may suggest a one-sided game but BU were grateful to their Danish-Filipino keeper – the ASEAN signing of the season – Michael Falkesgaard, whose MOTM performance included several unbelievable saves to keep Port at bay. As a spectacle it was the highest quality game of football I’ve ever seen in Thailand, from two teams intent on playing football the right way.

Goal of the Season

Another tough choice, with 90 goals to choose from, but Kim’s piece of tiki-taka football porn against Navy is my winner, just pipping Pakorn’s similar effort against Air Force. Yes, Navy’s defence had more holes than a golf course made of Swiss cheese but Port’s passing and Kim’s finish were utterly sublime.

Away Trip of the Season

Again, several contenders here. The ‘Pattaya’ weekend at the end of the season will live long in the memory (or at least it would if I could remember any of it). Ratchaburi is always a pleasure and the performance, along with the fact they’ve finally started selling food, made it particularly special this year. But the best away trip this year was to Ubon back in June – a tight little ground, very friendly home fans, large quantities of ale, a win, and the classic France v Argentina World Cup game to round it off.

Away Ground Food of the Season

With last year’s winner – Chonburi’s Muslim Fried Chicken – absent this time round, and with our best away meal (Chainat) ineligible because it took place 2km from the stadium, the winner this year is the food zone at Ratchaburi. A wide range of dishes, plenty of seating, and PVC-clad dancing girls were enough to win this most coveted of Sandpit awards.

Disappointment of the Season

6 goals in his last 2 games spared Dragan Boskovic this award. Bodin – with a promising start followed by a string of performances where he looked like he’d never seen a football before – was also a contender. But the biggest disappointment this year was the League Cup exit to struggling Air Force. With MTU and Bangkok Utd both out, the draw was opening up nicely for Port, but, as with the FA Cup exit to Buriram, the players simply didn’t look remotely interested and, as happened all too often this season, didn’t show up.

Chant of the Season

With the departure of Genki Nagasato depriving us of our favourite Port chant, a few new contenders were put forward without really taking hold. Pattaya’s inability to host the final game of the season were serenaded with “Town full of hookers” and “You’re shit, and your lights don’t work”, whilst at Ratchaburi absent friends were remembered with “You can stick your fucking futsal up your arse.” But seriously, a lot more work is needed on the chanting for 2019 if we’re going to come up with an English-language chant that’s as much of a joy to sing as “Muangthong HUA KWAI!!!”

Most Improved Player of the Season

Only one contender here – the big no4 Elias Dolah. Never previously renowned for his pace or his ball skills, the wardrobe-sized Swede looked fitter, quicker and a lot more comfortable on the ball this season, and after starting the season as backup to Todsapol he quickly made the other CB slot beside Rochela his own with a string of excellent performances, and even a couple of goals. A big 2019 – with possible national team recognition – awaits.

Signing of the Season

The jury may still be out on Port’s three big attacking signings. Boskovic’s form was up & down and Port never quite worked out how to get the best out of him; Nurul is a busy player who causes problems for defenders but dives far too often; and Bodin regressed as a player as the season went on. As for the other signings, we saw far too little of cult hero Terens Puhiri, and whilst Anon looks like a real find, again he didn’t spend enough time on the pitch to qualify. So the winner is Kevin Deeromram, a young man who plugged Port’s biggest hole – left-back – with skill, speed and a fair bit of panache.

Player of the Season

Again, for me there’s only one contender here – Nitipong. Port’s biggest problem is consistency, with far too many players turning it on one week then phoning it in the next, but Niti maintains a high level of performance week in week out. His improvement since 2016 has been a joy to see, and the rest of the squad should watch and learn, both in training and in matches.

 

 

How Was It For You? Sandpit Writers Review Port’s 2018 Season

 

As usual, we asked The Sandpit’s contributors to tell us about their highs & lows of 2018, and as usual they delivered, and most were very happy. All apart from one, and we don’t need to tell who that was…

 

Kenny Goodbourn

Game of the Season

An odd choice given how many winning performances there were this season, but I’m going with the home game which we lost against our most bitter rivals, MTU. With the gifts of a) hindsight and b) a time machine, this would be the match I’d take a newbie to and show them the highs and lows of supporting Port played out over a single 90 minute microcosm. This was a ridiculous evening’s entertainment dished out to the masses for the measly sum of 100 baht. The first half was a cagey feeling out affair like the early rounds of a boxing match and then suddenly shifted into full throttle after the scummers raced into a quick 3-0 lead at the start of the second half.

Roared on by a packed and hostile PAT faithful, the attempted comeback from Port was a sight to behold, and had it not been for Boskos goal being wrongly struck off for offside at 2-3, who knows what could have been? Usually losing at home to a bitter rival would have meant me skulking off home with grey clouds over my head as soon as the ref blew up at full-time but it was a strangely positive feeling of seeing such a cracking match and knowing on that showing, we were going to be fine for the rest of the season.

Goal of the Season

An honourable mention to the long tika-taka passing move capped off with a calm sidefoot home by Kim, but it was against Navy who were already 5 or 6-1 down at that point, so it may as well have been a set of static cones that we passed the ball around.

My vote goes right back to the opening day, Bosko vs. Pattaya. The PAT was rocking quite literally thanks to the Modern Dog concert that had preceded the game and there was a wave of optimism around the new signings. A few minutes before halftime and a debuting Boskovic chases down a ball over the top, loses a couple of Pattaya defenders with a drag back and curls one into the top corner from outside the box to send the crowd into raptures. Given the four goals he scored against them on the final day, Pattaya Utd (or whatever they’re called now!) will be glad to see the back of him this year. We rattled in another 80 odd goals in League and Cup since this one happened, but this one still sticks long in my memory.

Player of the Season

Nitipong Selanon – While he didn’t get any Man of the Match awards this season, he was the
“Steady Eddie” of the team. Other players reached much headier heights this year, they also had runs of games where they went completely missing in our time of need. Niti was solid all the way through and deserves some recognition.

How Was the Season for You?

My expectations were well and truly exceeded. I thought a slight improvement from last year’s finish would be easily attainable but I probably would have accused you of downing too much Lao-Kao to have said it would be a 3rd place finish and edging out MTU to boot. In the past, player recruitment has been a farce but this year we managed to strengthen in a few positions and there was no craziness in the mid-season window. Operation fuck up was kept to a minimum, if we were going to lose it was usually clear from the first ten minutes as opposed to sinking at the end. We even put quite a few teams to the sword, especially towards the end of the season, compared to last season where we seemed to win games by the odd goal, as a result we saw a big improvement of our final goal difference from -3 last year to +28.

There were of course a few things to moan about over the course of the season. The wheels looked to be coming off after a promising start and it shouldn’t have taken a John Sitton style kick up the arse from the farang contingent after Chainat to actually get the team playing again. The VAR experiment has (predictably) proved ludicrous due to the implementation only being used by a select few (rich) teams and no war room with refs in the earpiece to advise him of any missed calls. Fan attendances across the league are continuing to slide, probably not helped by pretty much EVERY game being on True Sports and the Thai FA’s moving of fixtures at the drop of a hat and pointless mid-season break which did little to aid a gold medal at the games.

I’m sad to see Bangkok Glass slip into T2, The Leo Stadium Is a great venue and fantastic away day (largely because of a certain beer sponsorship…). Fear not BG, I’ve just looked into my crystal ball and apparently it’s very lucky to play in green…. on artificial turf. It was also sad to learn in the last few days an away weekend to Pattaya will definitely be off the cards in 2019 due to a potential move of the franchise a few hours up the road to Samut Prakan. Maybe good news for Super Power’s flag waving ultras to have a new club, but not so much for the residents of Pattaya who regularly went to watch their home games. Another fine example of the club owners giving less than two shits about the fans they’re about to leave behind when push comes to shove, and they wonder why attendances are dropping across the board? I digress….

For next season, it looks like there is some talent on the fringes of the Port team but not getting enough game time, even with a deeper squad than last year, the team still kind of picks itself every week. We’ve got a good platform to build on for next year, if we’re going to take another step forward in 2019, then we need to take more than one point from the 4 matches against BKK Utd and Buriram.

 

James Clarke

Game of the Season

Sukhothai in the cup. Do we get excited about wins at Legoland anymore?

Goal of the Season

The season was stuffed with some absolute screamers but Kim’s goal against Navy takes the award. A series of one twos with Suarez before slotting it home. Navy are woeful but this was a moment of seldom seen Thai tika taka to behold.

Special mention for Arthit v Ubon. Mixu Paatelainen’s Ubon managed to mix the worse of Scottish and Thai football to produce the purest form anti football witnessed in many a year (or since you last saw Jose’s Man U). Just as it appeared Ubon’s kicking, cheating, diving and time wasting was going to escape with a point they didn’t deserved, Pakorn swung in a 95th minute corner and Arthit rose to flick it into the far corner sending zone B into a riotous release of joy.

Player of the Season

Sergio Suarez. Port’s record in the 8 league games he’s missed is pure relegation fodder standing at two wins, two draws and four defeats, then there’s the matter of over 30 goals and assists. Yet its not just the numbers, whenever Port in general and especially Boskovic play well Suarez is there pulling the strings. Total non-contest.

How Was the Season for You?

We got everything we realistically could have hoped for besides a cup final. Yet there were some horrible spells, when we’re good we’re very good, when its bad its very bad. Still the run at the end was excellent and with a little improvement next season……2nd?

 

Peter ‘Hockers’ Hockley

Game of the Season

Saturday, June 16th: Ratchaburi Mitr Phol FC 1 Thai Port FC 4
Away days with Port have given me some of the most memorable moments of my life in Thailand and this was up there with the best. Great company, beers, laughs and a result and performance that sent us all home happy (“You can stick your fuc*ing Futsal up your arse”).
This win, one of a run of 11 in 12, with the only defeat in that sequence coming the week before due to 3 mad minutes against Muang Thong, was one of the best away performances I have seen from Port. For all of us, there was clear evidence that we were actually quite good and the pre-season hype may not have been misjudged. We played mature, grown-up football with a seemingly evident tactical acumen. The goals themselves were all different but of high quality, none better than MOTM Sergio’s thunder-bastard to make it 3-0 and put the game to bed. Suarez again, Nurul and Boskovic made up the rest.

And all this in the setting of the best new stadium in the country, ‘fronted’ by highly alluring promotional girls in tight, black leather outfits, although what they were promoting, apart from a heart attack, I am not quite sure. There were some tastily creative food stalls and even the Chang beer, in spite of the prejudices of the fussy Sand-pitters, tasted good. As Tim wrote in his match report: ‘One of those nights when being a Port fan is simply the greatest feeling in the world.’ You can raise your seat aloft to this one, Toby!

Players of the Season: Nitipong Selanon/Sergio Suarez

I will declare now that I voted for Nitipong in The Sandpit end of season writers’ poll; like others, I suspect, simply for his sheer consistency and reliability. Other players are more gifted, have a greater impact on individual games or light up the stadium with flashes of brilliance, but, week in, week out, Niti has been the rock upon which victories have been carved and sometimes even defenders should win things.

For my plebeian vote, I plumped for Suarez. The Spaniard, who blighted many T1 lives this season, is our most naturally talented footballer and his man of the match performances have no peer. I have seen him surrounded by three players on the touchline and, with a flick, a twist, a Cruyff turn and probably a triple salko, he has evaded their attentions in the swish of a matador’s cape. He has scored spectacular goals and provided some invaluable assists. I was standing next to a friend on Zone B who I had brought along for his first game and, after an opening ten minutes of Suarez wizardry, he whispered, “Who the f*ck is that?” One of my best friends in England, who has never seen Port play live but avidly follows them through the Sandpit and video highlights clips, simply calls him, ‘My boy Sergio’.

He has had many detractors on this site, myself, at times, amongst them, and some have said we are better getting rid, but be careful what you wish for. Every team and fan needs a Suarez – so he also gets the vote for, ‘My Favourite Player of the Season’. Sorry, Sivi. Just do it a bit more often, Sergio…and smile.

Goal of the Season: Kim Sung-Hwan v Navy; May 20th 2018

There are all kind of goals: thunder-strikes from distance, mazy individual dribbles before calmly side-footing home; impossibly placed free-kicks and towering headers, to name just a few. We have actually witnessed all of these in this landmark Port season and I hesitated for a long time over my selection, believing that it would also be the choice of many other correspondents, but in the end I have stuck with it.

It was the fitting climax to a rousing 7-1 victory over the punch-drunken sailors, and a team goal of stunning beauty and simplicity. Bodin played a forward pass to Kim just outside the box and, from then on, time seemed to stand still, just like the Navy defence, as he exchanged double one-twos with Suarez before calmly slotting the ball past the thoroughly demoralized Navy keeper.

What made the goal even better was our viewing perspective: right behind the goal on Zone D, almost at pitch-level, the perfect spot – I can still play it back in my head now. It was also the first time I had seen Port hit seven goals in a League match.

This season – how was it for me? Bloody Marvellous!

Having enjoyed and endured two promotions and two relegations in recent seasons following the Port yo-yo, this campaign has been a joy, not without its lows, but the highs have been higher and more often than ever before. Some of the football played, particularly during that 11 out of 12 winning streak, has been thrilling, with some quality team play, outstanding individual performances and memorable goals. The pre-season optimism on the back of some exciting signings has been fully justified.

The atmosphere at the early games was superb and the away trips, as ever, were full of bonhomie and laughs – thanks to all my fellow travellers for that.

I would have liked to have seen a change at the top; cuddly and ‘loveable’ that he is, I do not think Jadet is the man to take us to that next level, if that is where we are aiming. The next level has to be 2nd place or Champions or a Cup. It will need some more investment, so we are dependent on Madame Pang’s ambition and benevolence. Splash the cash again, please.
Roll on 2019!

 

Toby Knight

Game of the Season: Pattaya United 1 – 4 Port FC

Pattaya away – the final game of the season, on a Saturday night on your birthday weekend –
It’s on! But then it’s a Sunday match thanks to the masterminds at the Thai FA (fuck you) and at
the last minute it’s not even in Pattaya thanks to Pattaya United (fuck you too). So what do you
do? You bloody go to Pattaya; boozed up full minivan, vodka-soaked haribo sweets, attacked by flying umbrellas, BBQ at the villa, the warm hospitality of Walking Street, stinking hangovers,
sold out away end, procession of motorcycles, rave songthaews, car boot bars, singing and
dancing in the torrential rain, 4 goals from Boskovic, 3 assists from Suarez (1 from Young Pele),
3rd place, finish above The Scum, AFC Champions League still on – it doesn’t get much better
than that.

Goal of the Season: Arthit Boonjinda (Port FC 1 – 0 Ubon UMT Utd)

There were plenty of technically skillful goals (and many I missed enjoying my half time Leo):
Boskovic’s chest and volley against Pattaya, Suarez and Kim playing one-two after one-two
against a woeful Navy, Pakorn’s free kick against Buriram and not forgetting Dragan and Sergio
taking turns to smash the goal apart at Ratchaburi. I’ve decided to go for a goal that had much
more meaning; Ubon came to the PAT last March with a simple gameplan: obstruct, feign injury
and cheat their way to a point. Port had just suffered their first defeat and it looked like our early season momentum was going to suffer again until a corner in the 95th minute of injury time.

Pakorn (I know!) delivered a corner into the box at pace and Arthit leapt like a salmon and
smashed the ball into the net with that beautiful head of his. Cue absolute pandemonium and a rocking Saturday night at The Sandpit.

Player of the Season: Sergio Suarez

In a brilliantly inconsistent season I have to plump for the player who is the main reason Port
finished in 3rd place. 16 goals and 12 assists does not tell the whole story; he was unplayable at
times in the first half of the season and even though he went missing in too many matches for
some people’s liking his hattrick on assists for Boskovic in the final game of the season cements this award for me.

How was the season for you?

Unbelievable Jeff, and an amazing achievement finishing 3rd. Farang fans have a habit of
moaning and groaning (and I’m just as guilty as the next man) but there’s no way you can
grumble about our final position. There were several notorious awaydays: Fencegate, The
Chainat 10, Ratchaburi (“You can stick your fucking futsal up your arse!”), and more laughs at
The PAT than screams of anguish. God knows what to expect next season so take it in people,
it may never be this good again.

 

Dave Barraclough

Terens of the Season

Terens. Be honest with yourself, when you saw all the signings made in the close season and into the start of the season – including Bosko the Beast of Bangkok United, Colossal Kevin, Nurul and Bordin – it was, thanks to YouTube, the pocket rocket of wee Terens ‘FLASH’ Puhiri that truly got the heart racing. That frankly freakishly fast foray from half way within his own territory, leaving a defender in a daze, another touch to whistle past the onrushing keeper and still a job to do from the edge of the box before slotting the ball away got us all moist with anticipation of what he would do unleashed within T1.

Sadly we were never really given the chance to see him fully slip that leash. In his longest appearance he was on the pitch for 66 minutes. He came off the bench ten times; six of those for less than ten minutes. But you know what? No other player was so highly and warmly anticipated throughout the whole season. Even right up to the last game, there was chatter in the crowd about when we would see him, how he would fare. He is an absolute cult hero amongst the farang support.

I believe he was only a loan signing but the absolute fucking buzz that went around when he was seen warming up was a particular, consistent highlight of almost every game. Thanks Terens.

Match of the Year

I’m going to be greedy and split this into ‘personal match of the year’ and ‘importance to the team match of the year’. Suck it up dearest editor.
Personal match of the year: Sukhothai away. A pulsating 2-2 draw, played in front of a full house out in the provinces. It’d been a while in the planning. We weren’t sure if Sukhothai was really achievable in a van. The idea bounced backward and forwards and we scraped together a rag-tag bunch of degenerates (and Thailand’s number one expat football fan). Enough to fill a van. It was on. I’d had a fucking huge barney with the bird the night before, and I thought we were over. Needless to say I was going to sink a few beers. Having trudged out to the arse end of Bang Na to get the van, it was about 8.30am when the first beer was opened.

Having been…er…spoilt (?) by away days with Sheffield United for the best part of a 15 years and over 60 grounds, I have always missed the buzz and humour since landing on these shores of a load of blokes together getting pissed and taking the piss. Out of each other, mostly. Well these times in the van, as I’ve done a few times now with Port, bring back memories of those hazy, halcyon days. It is all about the away days. It’s just a shame that so many are unachievable here in Thailand due to fixture ‘programming’.

Landing in Sukhothai in time for a shower and a chance to freshen up, we were off to the ground, which was conveniently located fucking nowhere near Sukhothai. We rocked up to a wasteland. But to Sukhothai’s enormous credit they packed the place out. Probably 6,000 there. We were, if memory serves me right, both flying in the league at that point. Port brought a lot of fans. One lad I met after the game had driven there on his fucking scooter. Six or seven hours he told me. Sukhothai were forced to open up more space for us and our little farang contingent nestled up near the home fans. In hindsight, after a 5 hour ride of Leos, we should’ve been placed diametrically opposite the home fans. Nevermind. Four goals, a near riot, and a some more Leos later both teams were one point better off, Sukhothai one fence down and we were all very much pleased with the decision to make the six hour trip up.
Until the Sunday morning, with the six hour trip back down.

Actually important game of the season: Well probably the 5-0 demolition of Navy away right at the back end of the season. Yes they were woeful. Yes we were expecting to win. The season was stop start, mostly stop in the latter half, but we’d clung on to the coat tails of the scum and we had what promised to be a reasonably comfortable run in. The size and nature of the win against Navy (5 goals from across many positions) gave us the impetus to go on and obliterate Chonburi and Pattaya (blowing Pattaya out of the water in the last game).

Goal of the Season

Pakorn v. Navy at home. A goal out of absolutely nothing, with an exquisite looping, curling shot from yards out of the box on the left into the top right, off the crossbar. Now some may claim it was a wayward cross, but it looked like he’d done it on purpose. Honest. Cracking.

 

Tommie Duncan

Here we are, the end of my 7th season as a follower and supporter of Thai Port, and lo and behold the team finished 3rd, a notch or two above expectations, but at the same time not really satisfying in my mind.

Yes, yes, I know, it’s that damn Duncan again with his American sports outlook, he can’t just enjoy a great finish; he has to pick everything apart. Well, in short yes, we did not win the league, nor did we win a cup.

Twas a roller coaster and at some points an empty roller coaster. Runs of great football punctuated with some of the most impotent efforts I have ever seen from a Port squad. Inconsistency was the defining word for Port’s season. Whenever they were under the gun, they performed, when there was no imminent threat, cruise control was flipped on and they seemed to care less. What could have been a season where we challenged for the title and won a cup was turned into one where we had to pour on the charm to finish 3rd. Now, granted, we won 4 out of the last 5 and did, but hey, we should have been long away from the chasing pack by that time.

Just enough could be the team’s trademark. Just enough for Jadet to keep his job, just enough for players not to completely fall out of favor, and just enough for Madam to keep the faith in what she has and not look to upgrade. Just enough is never enough to be championship quality.

Perhaps one of the most gnawing issues is the seeming lack of player development. Most of our players are just about where they were when they joined the team be that this season or a few seasons ago. Youth that should be getting playing time, learning new skills, and scaling the heights of fitness languish in their position and stagnate, or spend their time riding the pine waiting for that chance that seemingly never comes.

Championship teams are built and they are built over a period of time. A plan is enacted and step-by-step it is put in place. Good enough is never good enough. The evening you win the championship you celebrate; the next day you start working towards the next one. As a supporter you should expect nothing less from your team. I enjoyed ’18, it was fun, but I want to see more from the side next year. I guess we will see what next season brings.

Game, goal, and player of the year-

Game – Draw vs Buriram at home. A gritty performance against the league’s best side.

Goal – Pakorn vs Navy at home. Screamer

Player – Nittipong. 100% every match.

 

Gian Chansrichawla

Port have had one of the most remarkable campaign this season, and I feel like some of the weight and gravity of the situation is lost looking at it from a purely inside perspective. In one summer, Port went from being an average mid-table side to a national powerhouse, yet it didn’t compromise on its identity and the core of its character as a club.

The shock of first seeing Boskovic in a Port shirt remains a potent feeling, a statement of “I am here” that the club didn’t fail to live up to, at least in terms of entertainment. The Klongtoey faithful won’t care one bit that they only have Muangthong’s incompetence to thank for their third place finish, and ultimately it is a deserved reward for the ambition shown by the club.

Player of the Season – Kim Sung Hwan

This might be a contested pick, but Kim Sung-Hwan never really has a bad game. Playing as a defensive midfielder, the Korean stalwart was crucial in bringing a calming presence to the team and was a key component of their ability to play out from the back, as well as commit men forward in their aggressive attacks.

Despite the language barrier, his attempts to conduct play were clearly visible, as the underappreciated signing did his best to orchestrate a sense of calm and composure amid the mad rush constantly going on around him. Kim personified the necessary method to back up the madness, playing a crucial role as the side’s pivot.

The arrival of Anon Samakorn in the second half of the season allowed Kim to play in a more advanced position, using his energy to influence both the defensive and offensive aspects of Port’s game. His experience, versatility, experience and work ethic make him this season’s standout performer.

Goal of the Season – Dragan Boskovic

I’m going to have to go with the popular vote on this one – that first goal was absolutely phenomenal. In a season all about Port announcing themselves as a major force, no goal better fits this ethos. The significance of the (supposedly) 100-million-baht striker opening his account on debut in such a spectacular fashion warrants this award without question.

Game of the Season – Port 2-3 Muangthong United

This one might be a hard sell. Other than being one of great personal significance, this match was certainly an entertaining one. After Port’s 2-0 victory over Muangthong at the SCG and their excellent form coming into the game, it can be argued that this is the first time the Klongtoey side were clear favorites in a match against their rivals from Nonthaburi.

That power shift showed on the pitch, as Port dominated possession while Muangthong regressed into the ‘Curcic Classic’ – a defensive shape which entirely neutralized every attacking talent at the Kirin’s disposal. After mediocre . first-half display, Muangthong struck three times in quick succession to silence the home crowd.

However, Port roared back with a vengeance, as goals from Suarez and Boskovic turned the game into a frantic affair. This game remains one of the most entertaining I have ever experienced, and will certainly go down as classic in the history of this heated rivalry.

 

Boskovictory! Dragan Wins 2018 Goal of the Season Award

 

2016: Star striker Thiago Cunha took the Inaugural Sandpit Goal of the Season prize – presumably smashing it on the dressing room door in a fit of rage – with the winning goal being a sublime lob in Port’s memorable cup encounter with Muangthong.

2017: Star striker Josimar didn’t win a fan vote – none was held after we decided pickings were rather too slim – but a plurality of our season reviewers picked his stunning volley in the behind-closed-doors upset of… yes, you guessed it, Muangthong.

2018: …

 

Winner: Dragan Boskovic (27%)

Yes, once again Port’s star striker takes the Goal of the Season prize, but which of his 3 shortlisted efforts persuaded 27% of voters to award him the gong?

Well, it took him less than forty five minutes of his Port career to register. Boskovic received a pass from Suarez down the left flank, cut inside – nutmegging an unsuspecting defender in the process – before curling a sublime finish in to the top right hand corner. I’m talking of course about his effort in Port’s 3-0 home victory against Pattaya. Boskovic would go on to find the net a further 27 times in all competitions, but none would equal his very first.

 

 

2nd: Pakorn Prempak (21%)

A scorer of spectacular goals, there’s no doubt about that. 3 of Pakorn’s finest efforts in 2018 made our shortlist and, remarkably, we didn’t include any of his freekicks. Pakorn thrilled the crowd twice in the home fixture against Air Force, first driving the ball in to the top corner from the corner of the penalty box, and secondly launching home from close range after receiving a delightful through ball from Nurul. Neither of these efforts wooed more than 4% of voters though, with his standout goal adjudged to be his speculative, spectacular long range screamer in the 7-1 triumph over Navy.

 

 

3rd: Dragan Boskovic (15%)

Edging out Kim’s only entry, which finished 4th, Boskovic’s first goal in the final game of the season rounds out our podium finishers. Apparently Dragan really likes playing against Pattaya. Suarez was once again provider, with Boskovic turning on the style to rifle an unstoppable volley in to his favourite corner of the net. He would go on to score a further 3, guaranteeing Port’s 3rd place finish in T1, along with bagging 3rd place in our Goal of the Season poll.

 

 


 

 

The Sandpit Port FC Goal of the Season 2018 Poll

 

Time to vote again, this time for the 2018 Goal of the Season! With Port banging in 90 goals in the course of the season, we had a real challenge narrowing it down to the dozen you see here. Fellow Sandpitter Tom Earls spent a very enjoyable morning watching all 90 and creating a shortlist of 21 which, after much discussion and lobbying for our favourites, the panel narrowed down to these twelve absolute crackers.

So watch all the goals below, and then select your favourite in the Poll window at the bottom of the page. Voting closes on Wednesday.

 

Goal 1: Boskovic vs Pattaya (H)

 

Goal 2: Bodin vs Pattaya (H)

 

Goal 3: Nurul vs Ratchaburi (H)

 

 

Goal 4: Pakorn vs Air Force 1 (H)

 

 

Goal 5: Pakorn vs Air Force 2 (H)

 

Goal 6: Pakorn vs Navy (H)

 

 

Goal 7: Kim vs Navy (H)

 

 

Goal 8: Suarez vs Ratchaburi 1 (A)

 

 

Goal 9: Suarez vs Ratchaburi 2 (A)

 

 

Goal 10: Boskovic vs Ratchaburi (A)

 

 

Goal 11: Kevin vs Trat (A)

 

 

Goal 12: Boskovic vs Pattaya (A)

 

 

The Sandpit Readers’ Player of the Year 2018 Is…

 

The voting is over and the results are in, and we can finally reveal the winner of the 2018 Player of the Year poll! And there’s a new name on the imaginary trophy this year – Port skipper David Rochela won the award in 2016 & 2017, but only finished a distant 5th this time round. That shouldn’t be seen as an indication of the capn’s declining powers; more the fact that there’s a lot more competition this year with Port having splashed the cash & brought in some top quality players. And yet, as you’ll see from the results below, it was an old hand who won the prize…

 

Winner: Sergio Suarez (41%)

Suarez was narrowly pipped to the prize by Rochela last season; this year there was no doubt who would win with the Spaniard winning in a landslide. Suarez was handed a more attacking role alongside Dragan Boskovic most of the season and revelled in it, scoring 18 goals and contributing 13 assists in all competitions. He may have his critics, particularly here at The Sandpit, and it has to be said that those stats could be even better if he was more consistent and less fond of getting into pointless on-pitch squabbles with referees and opponents, but Port would struggle to replace those kinds of numbers if he left.

 

 

2nd: Dragan Boskovic (11%)

Port’s much-vaunted big winter signing started with a bang (that goal against Pattaya), then went quiet, culminating in the unsavoury scenes of Chainatgate, then went on a run form, then went quiet again, and just as we were about to name him as the disappointment of the season, exploded into life late on, scoring 6 goals in the last 2 games to take his tally to 28 in all competitions. To be fair to the big Montenegrin, Port haven’t exactly played to his strengths and he’s had to go looking for the ball far too often, but his late season form gives us hope that, in 2019, we’ll see the best of Bosko.

 

 

3rd: Nitipong Selanon (9%)

The winner of our Writers’ POTY Award also got some love – though not as much – from our readers, finishing 3rd overall. As we have said already, you’re not going to get MOTM performances from Niti but you are going to get 110% effort, and virtually zero mistakes, week in and week out, and in a season when Port’s stars alternated stellar performances with no-shows, that counts for a lot. Niti’s improvement since 2016 has been a joy to watch and 2019 should be the season when the rest of T1 sits up & takes notice.

 

 

Images (c) Shutterstock

 

 

The Sandpit Writers’ Awards 2018

 

This year, as well as our annual readers’ poll (which opened yesterday – don’t forget to vote!) we decided to add a new award voted for solely by the Sandpit’s editors & contributors – The Sandpit Writers’ Awards. Voting closed yesterday, and we’re delighted to announce the two winners…

 

The Sandpit Writers’ Player of the Year 2018: Nitipong Selanon

Like a Tour de France winner who grinds his way to the yellow jersey without winning a single stage (he didn’t win one single MOTM award all season), Niti impressed our writers with his incredible consistency. Where Port’s more feted stars can be worldbeaters one week and invisible the next, Niti delivers week-in, week-out and never, ever gives less than the proverbial 110%. All the players we talk to tell us he’s the hardest trainer at the club and very professional & ambitious in his attitude, and you can see that in the progress he’s made since 2016. Well done Niti!

 

 

The Sandpit Writers’ Young Player of the Year 2018: Kevin Deeromram

If there’s one player who’s been the biggest difference between Port 2018 and Port 2017, it’s the 21-year old Swede. Last season left-back was Port’s biggest problem position, with Jadet inexplicably preferring the creaking Panpanpong to the young ex-Buriram defender Yossawat; but the night before the first game of 2018, Port pulled off the transfer coup of the season, snatching Kevin from under the noses of Muangthong (many news outlets had already announced him as an MTU player), and after an impressive debut against Pattaya he’s made the LB position his own. Like Panpanpong he’s great coming forward; unlike Panpanpong he can also defend and get back into position quickly when Port lose possession. His performances may have tailed off a bit late in the season, but he still did enough to impress our writers.

 

 

Images (c) Shutterstock

Better the Devil You Know: Jadet Signs On for 2019

 

After guiding the club to their highest league finish for 15 years and their highest ever T1 points total, Port’s portly potentate Jadet has been rewarded with a new contract for the 2019 season. With rumoured target Alexandre Gama leaving Chiang Rai to take over the Thai U23 team, and Jadet saying “Give me just a little more time”, La Pang has extended the flabby foreman’s deal for another year. Port have got to be certain that they have the right coach in place, as the last thing they want to do is step back in time back to the days when we had several coaches per season.

 

 

Whilst the move may not be universally popular with Port fans – look at our recent poll results above and you’ll be shocked to see that not one respondent wanted Jadet to stay – with your hand on your heart you have to admit that the big fella has done a very good job at Port, with promotion from T2 (and a League Cup semi), followed by 9th and 3rd-place finishes in T1. And hopefully Port will carry the locomotion generated by their strong finish to the season into 2019 and finish even higher. We should be so lucky!

 

 

Singing in the Rain: Pattaya Utd 1-4 Port FC

 

 

And it ended with a bang. And what a bang! Fourteen goals in three games (nearly a fifth of our goals all season); just another one yesterday would have given us a goal tally in those games of 555 – now that would have been a laugh.

 

Port went into this match knowing that a win would secure third place while any other result that matched Muangthong’s would have the same effect.  With the match switched from Pattaya to the ever-so-slightly more accessible (in distance anyway) 72nd year anniversary stadium in Minburi, the opportunity for a large, vocal support to spur Port over the line was in place. The Klongtoey Army did not disappoint, the 1000 tickets on sale quickly snapped up with others getting in by virtue of the Pattaya allocation. The scene was set.

 

Port opened brightly with Rochela’s glancing header from a Pakorn free-kick in the 9th minute just evading the far post. Pattaya had the better of the play after that with a clear threat coming from their tall boys, most notably Korean centre back and captain Lee Won-Young, whose head-on from a free kick was scuffed past the post by left-winger Chayawhat.

 

Port were to take the lead, slightly against the run of play, in the 24th minute, Suarez’s (try saying that) left-foot cross from the right wing being perfectly taken on his chest by an unchallenged Boskovic, before hammering a right-foot volley into the top left hand corner of the goal; after reaching the ton last week, the muscular Montenegrin was on a roll. It certainly brought a smile to the face of Madame Pang, sheltering in the dug-out in what looked like a cheap 7-11 rain mac, but then I’m no judge of fashion.

 

The lead was increased on the half-hour with a sumptuous team goal. Pakorn’s long cross-pitch ball from the left was headed into the box by Nurul for Suarez to run onto and, when his prod was deflected by the keeper, Bosko was on the spot like a true poacher to nudge the ball over the line. It may have got there without him but this was a man scenting blood and he was not to be denied.

 

Eleven minutes later the travelling fans were sent into raptures with a third Bosko goal; Suarez once again providing the assist with another left-footed cross from the right, inch-perfectly placed for Bosko to nudge home back across the goal. This was Suarez again in creative midfielder mode – the mint was back. 3-0 at half-time and surely there was no way back for Pattaya. Muangthong were being held 0-0 by Bangkok Utd and third place was in sight.

 

Then the heavens opened. It had been raining with varying severity throughout the first half but the teams had no sooner left the field than the rain swept across the stadium with a biblical vengeance, quickly turning the pitch into a sodden mess, with large puddles soon gathering in both halves. It seemed almost impossible that play would continue; certainly not in the English Premier League but, thankfully, this is Thailand and the rules are, as it turned out, different and viewed with more optimism. However, I was already pessimistically imagining a midweek replay at Pattaya where we just couldn’t replicate our form of the past three games, to surrender our coveted third place spot without a fight.

 

Then news filtered through that the second half was to be delayed by 20 minutes while the groundsmen performed their best Canute-like miracles and, even though there were still significant pools of water at both ends, play thankfully resumed.

 

It was rumoured that Terens might appear in a blue and orange diving suit, complete with snorkel, to lurk in one of the puddles on the edge of the opposition box before rising to the surface to grab his precious first goal, coveted by his adoring fans as much as Terens. Sadly, it was not to be.

 

Pattaya seemed to adapt better to the atrocious conditions, and long balls into the box to their big lads was always going to be a legitimate tactic. Nittipong got away with a potential handball in the box on 50 minutes before Peeradon blasted the resultant clearance over the bar from the edge of the box. Port were living on the edge, giving away free kicks in dangerous areas and, from one of these, Lee Won headed home a curling free kick, virtually unchallenged. Another goal for the Blue Dolphins at this point would have made for a nervy last half hour. Suarez was having a running battle with Korean midfielder Kim Tae-yeon, which provided much peripheral entertainment. Fortunately, Port weathered the storm and with just four minutes of normal time to go, substitute Arthit, the Port Pele, made a ploughing run through the puddles on the right before crossing to Man of the Match Bosko to sweep the ball home in majestic fashion. The shirt came off, Madame Pang got excited again, whether at the sight of Bosko’s pecs or the amazing scoreline and the Port fans entered a state of delirium.

 

There was still time for Watchara to provide some first class entertainment with at least two spectacular saves and a charge outside the box to twice defy onrushing Pattaya forwards. At times his reflex saves are almost casual, like a man on a sofa reaching for the remote and you think, is he taking the piss? I, for one, hope to see more of him next year.

 

The final whistle heralded in some exuberant celebrations, kicked off by the traditional team slide towards the fans, while shirts, shin-pads and other assorted paraphernalia were hurled into the crowd who were belting out their Khlongtoey anthems with gusto. The mutual respect and affection between players and fans was palpable.

 

And rightly so. There will be other reflections made on this site about the Port season but for now let’s just bathe in the glory of our best finish since 2003, with 73 goals scored, only 3 fewer than Champions Buriram. Now we await the Thai Cup Final on Saturday, October 27th when we will all be Buriram supporters.

 

Finally, a sight for drowned rats: Legoland has fallen.

 

3การท่าเรือ เอฟซี FC Port3461
4 4เอสซีจี เมืองทอง ยูไนเต็ด SCG Muang Thong United3459

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Dragan Boskovic

There can be only one. This was the kind of dominant attacking performance we signed Bosko for, and which has been sadly all too rare this season. He was simply unplayable and took his tally to 28 for the season in all competitions – the best return from any Port striker for many a year. Let’s hope he can continue his late season form in 2019.