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.

 

Tim Russell

Tim Russell

The founder and editor of The Sandpit, Tim has been in SE Asia since 2003 and in Bangkok since 2012, where he runs a travel tech business. Tim has followed Port FC since 2014, and is also a fan of his hometown club Coventry City, and French club AS St-Etienne. He has written for the likes of Football365, ITV.com, NME and The Quietus, and is a regular contributor to God Is In the TV. He's a keen photographer and his work can be seen on his website.

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