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) illegible 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 of 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.

 

 

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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