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

 

 

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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