Tom’s Transfer Talk: Port Loan T2 Striker

 

Port are reported to have brought in Army striker Tanakorn Dangthong on loan for 2020. Tanakorn is a 29 year old who has spent most of his career with Army, scoring 29 goals in… drum roll… 142 games. Sigh.

In Tanakorn’s defence, he has just come off his best season to date, netting 16 goals for Army in T2. That’s all the defence I can muster. I tire of regurgitating the same commentary every time we sign a Thai striker, but more often than not it’s on the nose, so here we go again. He’s not just not good enough, he’s not even close to good enough. The problem? Practically no one is. The standard of Thai strikers is painfully poor, and the few decent options are already at big clubs.

The really confusing part of this signing, though, is that we already have Arthit, who made some impressive cameos, netting 3 times from the bench in the first half of last season and providing a different tactical option. Surely a better option than Tanakorn. We then brought in Chenrop who offered next to nothing besides a bit of running around. He’s still got considerably more pedigree than Tanakorn. What do we want from a striker who admittedly scored many more goals than the above two, but was playing in T2, and has had plenty of T1 experience and very few goals to show for it? Answers on a postcard to Muangthai Insurance.

At least he’s only on loan though, right? Well, last night rumours surfaced that Army are potentially becoming the 87th club this off-season to fold, so we may well end up with him on a permanent deal. Swell!

 

 

Now, I did say earlier that there are no good alternative options, but let’s try to be very slightly creative and think about bringing in ASEAN forward. You know, in one of our two spare quota spots? Even besides the five foreign options I outlined in my ASEAN Strikers Scouting Report, there are players like Javier Patino available who have plenty of T1 experience and considerably more goals to show for it than Tanakorn. If we’re really going to think about challenging for the title next season we need to continue improving in the transfer market, and this signing, as well as the rumoured transfer of Kanarin Thawornsak, do not fit the bill.

I don’t want to complain too much, though. In general the continuity we’ve achieved from keeping a core of developing players together has served us well. The recent arrivals will likely be peripheral figures who won’t disrupt that. Last season we bided our time before making a couple of big money moves, and there’s a good chance that that’ll be the case again this year.

 

ASEAN Scouting Report: Strikers

 

In the final installment of our 5 article series on ASEAN player scouting, it’s the turn of strikers. A perennial problem position throughout ASEAN national teams, this is also the position in which the biggest improvements could be made. Port have long struggled with finding both foreign quota and Thai strikers, so bringing in an ASEAN quota player who knows where the net is could be enormously influential. Here are five players we should be looking at.

 


 

Ilija Spasojević

 

 

Transfermarkt Value: ฿10m

Position: ST

Current Club: Bali Utd

Nationality: Montenegrin/Indonesian

Age: 29

Height: 1.80m

 

Spasojević has already been connected with a move to T1, and that’s no surprise. Thai clubs would be mad if they weren’t sniffing around. His scoring record in Indonesia is outrageously consistent, so you’re getting guaranteed goals, which from an ASEAN striker would be incredibly valuable. Spasojević was born and raised in Montenegro, but has played in Indonesia long enough to claim Indonesian nationality, which he did in 2017. His style is plain to see from his highlight reel, which is a litany of poacher’s goals. He does his work in the penalty area, and he’s good at what he does. Would probably be a massive signing for any team in T1.

 

Hoàng Vũ Samson

 

 

Transfermarkt Value: ฿6.5m

Position: ST

Current Club: Hà Nội FC

Nationality: Nigerian/Vietnamese

Age: 31

Height: 1.82m

 

Samson is the all-time leading scorer in the V League and he’s got Vietnamese nationality. He has unfortunately also had one complete failure of a stint in Thailand, when Buriram signed him only to play him twice and ship him back off to Vietnam. This doesn’t have to mean that the Nigerian-born forward couldn’t be a success here though, his goal record is so good that he surely has to chops to succeed given the right conditions. What those are is anyone’s guess, but the reward for being right is a boatload of goals, so why not chuck a fat wage his way and see what happens? Here’s a highlight reel from 2016.

 

Ikhsan Fandi

 

 

Transfermarkt Value: ฿1.5m

Position: ST

Current Club: Raufoss IL (Norwegian second tier)

Nationality: South African/Singaporean

Age: 20

Height: 1.83m

 

Ikhsan Fandi is the younger brother of Irfan Fandi, who was excellent in BG Pathum Utd’s defence last season. Ikhsan is a striker though, and impressively he’s notched 5 goals in Norway’s second tier this season, and he’s still only 20. He’s built like a tank, and he looks very useful in the air, which makes him practically unique in terms of South East Asian born players. This guy will be very hot property in years to come, so getting him while he’s still young could be a brilliant move. He’s still got a year left on his contract with Raufoss, so whether or not he’d be open to a move is questionable. Still, clubs should be making inquiries and keeping their ear to the Norwegian ground. Here’s a highlight reel.

 

Patrik Gustavsson

 

 

Transfermarkt Value: –

Position: ST

Current Club: Åtvidabergs FF (Swedish third tier)

Nationality: Swedish/Thai

Age: 18

Height: –

 

It’s an indictment of the lack of South East Asian strikers around that youngsters feature so prominently in this list, but with that said Patrik Gustavsson, who is apparently eligible to represent Thailand, could be a potentially shrewd signing. He’s only 18 and has made several appearances in the Swedish third tier. Here he is wearing number 14 assisting a goal for his team in the highlights of Åtvidaberg’s match with Lindome earlier this year. You’d probably want to bring him in on trial to see what he can do, but there’s a good chance he’d be a damn sight better than most of the Thai ‘strikers’ stinking out T1.

 

Marcel Sieghart

 

 

Transfermarkt Value: –

Position: ST

Current Club: SpVgg Unterhaching U17 (German Youth League)

Nationality: German/Thai

Age: 17

Height: –

They just keep getting younger, and there’s another family connection here, with Marcel’s older brother Alexander Sieghart playing for Bangkok United. Like Alexander, Marcel has spent time in Bayern Munich’s youth system, and is now playing for SpVgg Unterhaching’s U19s. He’s scored 4 goals in 16 games for them in the youth league this season, so looks to be a decent prospect, at least by South East Asian standards, although there are no highlights to whet the appetite. There would be little point in bringing over a 17 year old other than to give him a taste of training with a T1 team with a view to a future move, but there’s no reason we couldn’t be offering up that possibility.

 


 

For inquiries about other players I’ve looked at in the research for this article, send me an email at earlsy@outlook.com

 

ASEAN Scouting Report: Wingers

 

In my penultimate ASEAN scouting article I’m looking at wingers. We’ve covered goalkeepers, defenders and midfielders, so next we have our creative geniuses, our speed demons and some really big names with even bigger price tags. Is it realistic to think that Port could sign most of these guys? No, not really, but it’s good to dream big, and to know what’s out there.

 


 

Billy Ketkeophomphone

 

 

Transfermarkt Value: ฿20m

Position: RW / ST

Current Club: SO Cholet (French third tier)

Nationality: French/Laos

Age: 29

Height: 1.80m

 

It would be an absolutely fantastic move to bring French-Laotian winger Billy Ketkeophomphone to Thailand. He’d walk in to any team in the country. Unfortunately just this Wednesday he signed on for SO Cholet after having been a free agent since June. The Bullet of Lao possesses power, pace and fantastic dribbling, which would give Port a very different option to Pakorn on the right flank. He can even play up top, which is a bonus. In a world where he was still available and the Laotian government had more relaxed rules on dual citizenship this could be a massive move, but it seems extremely unlikely as things stand. Just watch his highlight reel and dream.

 

Stefano Lilipaly

 

 

Transfermarkt Value: ฿15m

Position: RW

Current Club: Bali Utd (Indonesian first tier)

Nationality: Dutch/Indonesian

Age: 29

Height: 1.75m

 

Stefano Lilipali is without question one of the best players in South East Asia. He’s played in The Netherlands, Japan and Indonesia and has 24 caps for Indonesia. He’s currently playing for Liga 1 Champions Bali Utd, and apparently has one more year left on his contract, but it’s possible he could be tempted by a move to one of the best teams in South East Asia’s top league. His right footed set-piece deliveries are perhaps his greatest strength, but he’s a player who can do it all, as you can see from this 2018 highlight reel. This signing would be a major coup for any Thai team, but he’d cost significantly more than what Transfermarkt estimate.

 

Mohamadou Sumareh

 

 

Transfermarkt Value: ฿8m

Position: RW

Current Club: Pahang FA

Nationality: Gambian/Malaysian

Age: 28

Height: 1.79m

 

This would be a tough one to pull off, but my word if it came off it would be something. Sumareh was born in The Gambia but moved to Malaysia in 2013 and has since been granted Malaysian citizenship. He’s scored 6 goals in 18 games for Malaysia from the right wing, with his pace and power making him unplayable at times. His stunning volleyed finish against Thailand earlier this month was a match-winner, and it was only a monstrous performance from Brendan Gan than stopped him scooping the man of the match award. The tricky part of this is that his true value is much higher than Transfermarkt suggests. As a nationalized Malaysian his value is higher to Malaysian clubs than to Thai clubs, and his club Pahang FA have got him tied down to a big-money long term contract. This highlight reel is taken just from his national team games this year, but there’s still plenty to get excited about. Still, we can dream…

 

Pasqual Verkamp

 

 

Transfermarkt Value: ฿2.5m

Position: LM

Current Club: SV Viktoria Aschaffenburg (German fourth tier)

Nationality: German/Thai

Age: 22

Height: 1.80m

 

The first three on the list are practically unattainable, so I’ve gone for an eminently plausible signing here. The German fourth tier may not be all that, but we’ve seen European players playing at a similar level come over and take the Thai league by storm before. His form is good, having scored 5 and assisted 4 in 16 games this season, and he’d be mad not to jump at the chance to play for a top Thai team. We’d be mad not to try and sign him, too. Well, I say that but I’ve never actually seen him play, as his name brings up nothing whatsoever on Youtube. He’s probably pretty decent, though. Maybe.

 

Christian Rontini

 

 

Transfermarkt Value: ฿800,000

Position: LW

Current Club: Sangiovannese (Italian fourth tier)

Nationality: Italian/Filipino

Age: 20

Height: –

 

Christian Rontini would be a speculative signing, as he’s a youngster and he’s playing in Italy’s fourth tier. He has, however, been capped already by The Philippines, making his debut in a friendly against China earlier this year. He could provide a useful option from the bench, although Port do already have plenty of options in that position who would all be ahead of him in the pecking order. Again I’m lacking a highlight reel here; the closest thing I’ve found as an interview. In Italian. He’s just been called up to the Philippines SEA Games squad, so Thai clubs should be watching closely to see what the youngster can do.

 


 

For inquiries about other players I’ve looked at in the research for this article, send me an email at earlsy@outlook.com

 

ASEAN Scouting Report: Midfielders

 

In the third of my five articles about scouting ASEAN players we are looking at midfielders. Here are the previous two, which cover goalkeepers and defenders. I’ve separated wingers in to a separate category, so today we’re just looking at defensive, central or attacking midfielders.

I should also clarify something which I’ve had a few questions and comments about in relation to the specifics of the ASEAN quota rule. T1’s quota system details that only transfers of players with 3 or more international caps are guaranteed, which would render most of the players I’m talking about ineligible. However, the rule goes on to state that if teams can sufficiently explain the importance of the transfer to the FAT then exemptions can be given. Amin Nazari, Josh Grommen, Curran Ferns and Marco Casambre all fall in to that category, so presumably the interpretation is quite broad.

With the rule explained, here are our five midfielders. This is a position in which Port have plenty of cover, but whilst we have numbers we don’t necessarily have much quality outside of our starting XI. At least, we don’t have quality which Port management recognizes as such. My suggestions provide both experienced and youthful options, and all come at relatively low cost.

 


 

Gaston Salasiwa

 

 

Transfermarkt Value: ฿8m

Position: CM

Current Club: Notodden FK (Norwegian second tier)

Nationality: Dutch/Indonesian

Age: 31

Height: 1.71m

 

A central midfielder who has spent most of his career playing in the Dutch and Norwegian second tiers, Salasiwa also played for a season in Indonesia. He’s a dead ball specialist with a wicked left foot, and judging from his highlight reel he also likes to have a pop from distance. I couldn’t find any info on whether or not he actually has an Indonesian passport, but the fact that he’s played in Indonesia suggests that he might. Currently in the Norwegian second tier, Salasiwa could be a shrewd signing, although most clubs would probably not want to commit to more than a year contract for a 31 year old.

 

Mike Ott

 

 

Transfermarkt Value: ฿4m

Position: CM

Current Club: Ceres Negros (Philippines first tier)

Nationality: German/Filipino

Age: 24

Height: 1.67m

 

He’s already played a season in Thailand, netting 7 goals in 21 appearances for Angthong Utd in 2017, before moving to Ceres Negros in The Philippines. His older brother Manuel currently plays for Ratchaburi too, so there’s plenty to suggest that Mike would be tempted by a T1 move. The pint-sized midfielder has scored a serious amount of goals everywhere he has been, including nearly a goal every other game at Ceres Negros, so would provide stiff competition for places in attacking midfield. He’s probably not the caliber of player who’s going to walk in to the first team, but he could certainly be of great value to a club like Port. I can’t find a highlight reel for him, but he scores an injury time winner in this AFC Cup clash against Persija Jakarta which also features a penalty save from one Roland Müller.

 

Brendan Gan

 

 

Transfermarkt Value: –

Position: CM

Current Club: Perak FA (Malaysian first tier)

Nationality: Australian/Malaysian

Age: 31

Height: 1.80m

 

I find it completely mental that Brendan Gan has no Transfermarkt value given the performance he put in for Malaysia against Thailand earlier this month. He’s an all action midfielder with a little bit of everything in his game, and would probably get in to most T1 first teams. He’s a former A League player who also has a few years playing in Malaysia, and has been capped 15 times since 2016. He probably wouldn’t walk straight in to Port’s first team, but he would certainly provide healthy competition, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he won himself a place in time. This highlight reel from this year shows what he’s all about. Gan maybe 31, but he’s in absolutely peak physical condition, as he doesn’t tire of showing off with his bicep-flexing goal celebrations.

 

Phi Nguyen

 

 

Transfermarkt Value: –

Position: DM

Current Club: La Tour/Le Pacquier (Swiss fifth tier)

Nationality: Swiss/Vietnamese

Age: 23

Height: –

 

Phi Nguyen may be playing in the Swiss fifth tier now, but he has also represented Switzerland at all youth levels up to U19, so he must be a decent player. Apparently comfortable in defence or midfield, a club like Port could certainly get something out of a player with this profile, although he would obviously have some work to do to get in to the starting XI. His highlight reel isn’t much to look at, but at least they’ve made an effort to show which player he is.

 

Kobe Jae Chong

 

 

Transfermarkt Value: –

Position: CM

Current Club: Banbury Utd (English seventh tier)

Nationality: English/Malaysian

Age: 18

Height: 1.80m

 

This lad has packed a lot of clubs in to his young career. He’s only 18 and he’s already played in Italy, trialed in Portugal and represented a host of English clubs. He is apparently open to the idea of representing Malaysia in the future, so it might be an idea for a Thai club to bring him over for a trial and see what he can do. No harm in giving him a go. He looks pretty tidy in this highlight reel.

 


 

For inquiries about other players I’ve looked at in the research for this article, send me an email at earlsy@outlook.com

 

ASEAN Scouting Report: Defenders

 

In the second of my series of articles on ASEAN scouting we look at defenders. To see the first article about goalkeepers, click here.

As I’m looking at players who Port could benefit from signing I’ve left out several full backs who would be fantastic signings for other T1 sides. These 5 players therefore are, with one outstanding exception, centre backs who I think could add strength in depth to our squad.

 


 

Jesper Nyholm

 

 

Transfermarkt Value: ฿16.5m

Position: CB

Current Club: Free Agent

Nationality: Swedish-Filipino

Age: 26

Height: 1.83m

 

This is a risky one. Jesper Nyholm could potentially be a great signing for any team in T1, but there’s a catch. He suffered a horrific broken leg a couple of years ago, and hasn’t taken to the field since. His contract with AIK (Swedish first tier) has expired and he has been released, so he’s available on a free. Any team brave enough to bet on his fitness could be getting an excellent European defender for nothing, but there’s a chance that he doesn’t make it back on to the field at all if there are further injury complications. For a team with two open ASEAN quota spots, this could be a risk worth taking. This highlight reel is obviously from before his injury, and I strongly advise NOT looking for the video of the incident itself. I wish I hadn’t.

 

Nicholas Mickelson

 

 

Transfermarkt Value: ฿10m

Position: RB

Current Club: Strømsgodset IF

Nationality: Norwegian-Thai

Age: 20

Height: 1.85m

 

OK, so we don’t exactly need a right back, but this fella looks like a great prospect, and he’s half Thai. Already playing in Norway’s top tier at the tender age of 20, Micklelson’s season was unfortunately cut short by an Achilles tendon injury, but it’s not the kind of career threatening injury to worry any interested suitors. Port could even think about playing the youngster further up the pitch at right wing. It certainly looks from his highlight reel as though he’s not scared to throw step-overs around. He’s got a monster of a throw-in on him, too. Whether or not he’d consider leaving the country of his birth is another question, as he signed a 3 year contract in January 2019, and will probably fancy having another crack at getting in to the first team when he’s fully recovered from his injury. Still, there’s no doubt that top Thai teams will be in for him if the chance arises, so Port would do well to be keeping tabs.

 

Justin Baas

 

 

Transfermarkt Value: ฿1.5m

Position: CB

Current Club: AZ Alkmaar U21 (Dutch second tier)

Nationality: Dutch-Filipino

Age: 19

Height: 1.85m

 

This big fella can play in central defence or defensive midfield, and at just 19 would be a quality acquisition, adding squad depth in in the short term and the potential to be a top ASEAN defender in the near future. He’s playing for AZ Alkmaar’s youth team, and has already been capped by The Philippines. Here’s his highlight reel.

 

Carli de Murga

 

 

Transfermarkt Value: ฿1.5m

Position: CB/RB

Current Club: Ceres Negros

Nationality: Spanish-Filipino

Age: 30

Height: 1.80m

 

The most experienced player on the list and the only one with experience playing club football in Asia, signing Carli de Murga guarantees a solid ASEAN centre half for little to no cash. He’s got a boat load of international caps, and he will need little time to adapt to Thai football. He’s not young, but at 30 probably still has a few useful years ahead of him. Also a captain for club and country on many occasions, de Murga would offer the kind of leadership which Thai players often lack. Here’s his highlight reel.

 

Maximilian Steinbauer

 

 

Transfermarkt Value: –

Position: CB

Current Club: FC Viktoria 1889 Berlin U19

Nationality: German/Thai

Age: 18

Height: 1.86m

 

This is a speculative one, but again he’s half-Thai so the potential rewards make it a smart move. Steinbauer can play centre back or left back, and would be one for a future in a position in which Port have adequate cover at the moment. If we don’t snap up these players then the likes of Bangkok United and Buriram will no doubt pounce at some point, so it makes sense to bring in youngsters, even if not all of them end up making the grade. I haven’t even seen the lad play as his agency has made a dog’s breakfast of this highlight reel, which doesn’t actually highlight who he is at any point.

 


 

For inquiries about other players I’ve looked at in the research for this article, send me an email at earlsy@outlook.com

 

ASEAN Scouting Report: Goalkeepers

 

This is the first of a new series of articles in which I’ve identified 25 players who could in theory be brought in to fill Port’s two spare ASEAN quota slots. All of these players are dual nationality, with most sharing European and South East Asian ancestry. We’ve seen a host of players of a similar ilk come to Thailand and find great success, and it has been bewildering to me that since the 3+1+3 quota has been introduced more clubs haven’t jumped to take full advantage. With just a little scouting – the sort that  a bloke with no scouting background only using free online resources could do – clubs could potentially identify ASEAN players who could be as influential as any foreign player in the league.

Read more

Tom’s Transfer Talk: Kanarin In

 

Port are reportedly close to signing young box-to-box midfielder Kanarin Thawornsak. The 22 year old has been on the books at Ratchaburi since 2016, but has been loaned out every year of his stay. His latest loan spell was with Sisaket, who enjoyed a superb season, only narrowly missing out on promotion despite being docked 12 points. Kanarin played 31 times, scored 3 goals and most impressively managed a Siwakornesque 12 yellow cards. He’s also played for Thailand at all youth levels, although he has yet to be capped by the senior team.

Whilst signing decent young players is generally not a bad idea, there’s absolutely nothing to suggest that Kanarin will get a look in at Port, with there being numerous better options in midfield. His arrival would almost certainly spell the end for Anon Samakorn, who will presumably find himself still further down the pecking order.

 

 

There’s also a far more vague story doing the rounds, which is most likely a figment of some bored writer’s imagination. Doumbouya, who Port have been linked to this off-season, will apparently be joining ‘a big club in Bangkok’. Depending on your definition of both ‘big club’ and ‘Bangkok’, that could be several teams. Whilst I think there is a decent chance that Doumbouya will end up joining a big team in Bangkok, it isn’t because of this rumour.

 

 

Finally, there are also murmurs that Nurul could be on his way after a poor second season with Port. He lost his starting place to Bordin, and after a horrible missed chance in the FA Cup final and the arrival or fellow winger Thanasit Siripala, Nurul leaving – with any luck on loan – could be the right solution for both parties. I’m sure Chonburi would jump at the chance to have him back, and it would seem to be the right move for his career.

 

Sentimental: Kenny’s 2019 Season Review

 

Game of the Season

 

 

A few games into Choke’s reign and I was wondering what had really changed since Jadet was (again) sent upstairs, but Chiang Rai in the FA Cup made me a convert. A totally dominant first half saw us play the Champions elect off the park with a “False 9” formation that had raised eyebrows in the Sandpit when the line-up was released. This game also finally saw Sumanya announce his arrival with a superb individual run and goal, it had taken more than half a season but we were finally seeing the best of him. Bangkok United in the semi had the added drama of rain delays, extra time and pens, but this defeat of Chiang Rai was the best footballing performance I’d witnessed live of Port this season, in my defence of not mentioning another game here, I missed out on some of our more convincing routs.

 

Goal of the Season

 

It may not have been the technically best goal of the season, but for me, Josimar vs. Muangthong cannot be beaten for the sheer weight of poetic narrative with Josi scoring his first Port goal since returning, in front of a packed Zone B to put our hated rivals to the sword (for the third time in 2019!). Bordin’s 25 yard screamer to break the deadlock at the SCG was also another personal highlight.

 

Player of the Season

 

 

I can see all the reasons for Nitipong winning and he had the same kind of season I’ve come to expect off him from the last couple of years but I think Bordin deserves the plaudits. After already playing for four of five different clubs by the age of 23, his 2018 season was already showing signs of falling into his usual career pattern and I was beginning to wonder if he would be farmed out this season. Instead, he managed to knuckle down this year and not only nail down a starting berth within Ports starting eleven but also find himself in the Thai national squad. At times this season Bordin schooled many an opposition defence with wizardry straight outta Hogwarts, leaving defenders with no choice but to kick him up in the air and take a tactical yellow.  It was frustrating that even when he was at his peak on the pitch, the number 10 seemed burned into the 4th official’s subs board almost by default whenever changes were about to made.

I also thought Dolah came on leaps and bounds this season, Rochelas injury in the first game instantly put a question mark over our defence but Dolah instantly stepped up in his absence and formed a decent partnership with Todsapol, which was unfairly broken up with the arrival of Tanaboon.

 

Favourite Away Trip

 

I didn’t have much luck results wise with away trips this season, maybe Tim Russell’s curse has rubbed off on me (oo-er). The only win I witnessed (not counting the neutral ground semi and final) was whilst hiding myself in the SCG for Port’s FA Cup win, but being able to only raise not more than a dry smirk as Muangthong’s defence gifted us the win, it didn’t really feel like a proper Port away day. That said, despite the miserable results I witnessed on the road, each trip was a lot of fun and had some amazing experiences each time.

Chiang Rai had the sheer convenience of being able to walk straight from the match to the airport departures lounge in a few minutes. I hope rumours of Chiang Rai airports impending demise are not true! Watching the sheer unadulterated shithousery of Chiang Rai Utd that day, I did not expect they would be crowned champions come November.

My trip to Korat involved getting absolutely drenched after halftime and wondering where the 20,000 crowd had all vanished to, only to find most people on the concourse huddled around a 42” TV that someone had managed to “sneak in”. Seeing Arthit clean through and hit a pathetic shot at the keeper was like watching his entire Port career vanish before my very eyes.

 

 

Samut Prakan was one I wanted to hate based merely on the shady origins of the “new” club, but it has to be said the owners have done a great job converting the Bang Phli stadium into something resembling a football stadium. Other Thai clubs, take note! The rocking full house added to the atmosphere on the day as we found ourselves on the home terrace mixed in with the SP fans and not a hint of trouble. The stadium had an almost British/Luton Town feel to it as it was right on the streets as opposed to being set back from the road.

The PTT Rayong trip saw us have a fantastic lunch on the beach looking across the bay to Pattaya/Jomtien. That said, Toby’s review of the seafood that day probably wasn’t as glowing. The stadium was lovely with an actual roof on all 4 stands. Even Buriram can’t boast that! Yet again the day quickly fell apart after the referee blew for kick-off. Due to more ownership shenanigans in the Thai League, it’s another one we won’t see next year.

The winner for me this season was Sukhothai, a stunning city starting from the moment you land at their quaint little airport, complete with a giraffe and zebra enclosure. My bike ride around the historical park was a delight, in spite of my 30 baht rent-a-bike having about as much traction as Pakorn in a 100yd dash. We had a songtaew booked to pick us up after the match but luckily he waited around for us, such was the post-match friendliness of the Sukhothai fans, they held us up for over half an hour stopping us for photos on the way out.

 

 

Disappointment(s) of the Season

 

2019, a season that saw three wins over Muangthong, an FA Cup win, three players called into the Thai National squad, Buriram out-shit-housed by the Chiang Rai-Mai connection, Muangthong flirting with relegation until Gama was parachuted in and Chainat despatched back to T2, but that wasn’t to say it was all good in the Klongtoei hood….

With the benefits of hindsight, I think we could be kicking ourselves we didn’t also land the league title this year to go into the cabinet along with the FA Cup. A lot of the expected contenders went backwards. Buriram losing Diogo and not properly replacing him was a great leveller for the Thai League this year but we didn’t do enough to capitalise on it ourselves, revelling in our own predictable mid-season wobbles.

Although our title charge officially ended in the penultimate fixture at the Thunder Castle, the damage was already done much earlier in the season. I wrote in my 2018 review that Port needed to get more than a solitary point from their 4 fixtures against Bangkok Utd and Buriram if we were going to be taken seriously in the title picture, and 2019 again saw us take only a point from those 4 matches. The home draw we did manage against Bangkok United featured by far the most poignant moments I’d ever had attending a football match with the pre-match  service in honour of the 5 fans that never returned from their trip to Nong Bua.

Taking a parallel from Leicester’s title win in 2016, one of the main factors that won them the title that year was all the other main contenders fell over themselves but came back stronger for 2017. I’m sure that for 2020, Newin, SCG and TRUE will be making sure their teams have a stronger showing. Although we had a late rally, it never really felt like we were right in the thick of the title 2019 race as such, more lurking awkwardly to the side of it, a la Ashley Cole in the Roma team photo.

I’m sure Boskovic will get a lot of mentions in this category, I hoped the arrival of Sumanya would revitalise some of his magic from their time at Bangkok United, but alas, he only went further backwards. With Boskovic off the wage bill, we really need to throw the kitchen sink and whatever else is lurking in Madam’s handbag towards recruiting the much lauded “Scary Foreign Striker”. It seems to be the same thing we all seem to wish for year on year; the rest of the squad has good depth in all positions but “up-top” continues to be the Achilles heel. Nearly every team going down as far as the upper reaches of T2 seem able to find themselves their own flat truck bully but this still seems to evade Port, in spite of us being based in the capital, surely a draw for any footballer on the move?

 

Top Dolah: Peter’s 2019 Season Review

 

In a 2019 with some serious ups and downs on all levels, it all still ended with some silverware and a top three league finish. Adding to that, another championship title with only a golden goal away from the double in the futsal, and it becomes clear that the Lions of Khlong Toei are top of the food chain when it comes to kicking a ball about in the Kingdom of Thailand. Remembering this one was quite the enjoyable little afternoon activity.

 

Game of the season

 

 

Muangthong away, T1. No away fans allowed as Port traveled to Legoland with the opportunity to shove our fiercest and most despised rivals deeper into the bottom end of the table where they truly belong. Still, some of us made the journey to the rural north in neutral colours (well, Toby more or less) and were treated to an evening of football we’ll remember forever. Two fantastic goals, the first a long range effort from Bordin, who was arguably the best player in the league at that point, the second when Nitipong, of all people, put the finishing touch to a team effort of passing play that made for the most perfect counter attack I’ve seen since starting to follow Thai footie. Sure, they pulled one back late in the game but the gulf in class was hammered in by Pakorn all by his lonesome making most of the opposition look like pre-schoolers to see out the final moments of the match.

 

Goal of the Season

 

Suarez. Like most of my fellow Sandpitters, my vote went to the exquisite chip against Trat. Now, there are different ways to value goals. Importance, aesthetics, or a combination. But, as the only real contender to this one in my mind, the aforementioned second goal away to Muangthong, was so questionably left out of the competition I didn’t even have to think twice about it. The level difficulty and technique displayed by our top scorer would have edged it in the end anyway.

 

Player of the Season

 

 

Dolah. After such a fantastic season, there’s intense competition for this award. The popular vote, far from undeserved, went to Nitipong “Consistency” Selanon. In the absence of a proper striking option, Sergio Suarez led the offensive line, often from an unfamiliar position as a so called “false 9”. Go Seul-ki always made everyone around him look much better. But Elias earned the title in my book, through the improvement in his game from previous season, not only by finally settling into the role of centre-back, but becoming a true leader and being forced to keep the defence together, even when paired up with and having to carry a central midfielder with a severe phobia of any physical contact around for much of the season. Then, topping it all off with a Thai NT debut. Kudos, my Swedish brother.

 

Disappointment of the Season

 

 

Alexandre Gama. Even though I’m still fuming about what was supposed to be, and started out, as a dignified ceremony to celebrate the memory of five of the clubs’ most dedicated supporters but ended up as what can only be described as perversely self-indulging behaviour from “someone”. Even though hearing the very face of corruption in the sport I love congratulate Thailand on becoming the first country in the region to taint the game with the farcical phenomenon that is VAR has scarred me for life. Even though some bizarre mid-season experimenting with our formation coincided with a poor run of form that ultimately cost us the league title. I refuse to make anything remotely connected to Port FC my disappointment of the season in a year where we finished 3rd and won the FA Cup. My nomination therefore befalls Alexandre Gama. Wasn’t it enough to turn Chiangrai into what is possibly the most repulsive unit ever to step on the football pitch? You had to go and save Muangthong from relegation just to add insult to injury? Really? Talk about getting on the wrong side of history…

 


 

For all the faults we bitch about week in and week out, the results still point to the club heading in the right general direction. With just a little bit of well-considered work in the transfer market *pause for snickering* to fill our foreign player quota with a clear first choice striker next year, along with some managerial freedom in team selections *pause for guffaw*, we should be well equipped to make an even better push for the title next year. Now let’s all just sit back and calmly observe the ever predictable Thai silly season activities.

 

A Knight’s Tale: Toby’s 2019 Season Review

 

Yes, yes; smashing Chiang Rai, Selanon, Suarez vs Trat, for fuck’s sake Pakorn…. It’s all too obvious so let’s look at some other aspects of this rollercoaster season.

 

Moment of the Season

 

 

Beating The Scum 3 times in a season is something to crow about but Josimar’s late thunderbolt at The PAT brought the house down and lead to some of the most intense and euphoric celebrations I have ever experienced. Suarez’s opener in Buriram was also something I will never forget but that afternoon turned pretty sour and now I’m not welcome in Buriram anymore.

 

Gripe of the Season

 

Can The Thai FA ever get its act together? It seems not. From ridiculous match schedules to inept refereeing and a love/hate relationship with VAR, the suited and well minted gentlemen based in Hua Mak have a hard time employing common sense and logic for basic footballing decisions. After last year’s Pattaya away debacle, this year they upped their game with their FA Cup semi-final and final stadium switches, leaving many Port fans stuck outside the stadium or watching on television. They will really have to go some to screw up next season but I’m betting they can reach the next level.

 

Terens of the Season

 

An award for the forgotten man (tip of the hat to Mr D Barraclough of Ningbo, China), this year’s Terens is Anon Samakorn; a player of great potential and talent when deployed on the pitch. Jadet was never a big fan of blooding youth and, thanks to Go, Siwakorn and Tanaboon, his chances have been extremely limited this season. The Sandpit never forgets and he is frequently mentioned in conversations about what the team is missing. And if it doesn’t work out at Port there’s always those hashtags to admire #onlytimewilltell #walkinfaithnotbysight #memphisdepay

 

 

Away Trip of the Season

 

 

Chonburi away was a great smash and grab Friday night trip full of excitement, goals (including a Pele winner), copious amounts of alcohol, lingerie shopping bags and mild accusations of child abuse, plus no one fell into a pond this time (Hi Dom!). I watched the winner standing on an office chair with another fan peering over a fence (Toby Time©) and was drunk enough to sing a very rude Thai song about Muangthong through a megaphone post match. On the other end of the scale I must mention Rayong away which on paper looked like an amazing day out but turned into the biggest damp squib ever.

 

Som Nam Na of the Season

 

 

Surely this season’s slice of humble pie should be stuffed into the face of Newin Chidchob of Buriram United. They have been getting away with absolute liberties for too long. I’m not just talking about the game against us; check out the end of their match against Trat or the very, very late penalty against Sukhothai. The equalizer scored by Chiang Mai was just desserts and consigned them to a season with no silverware. Newin even told the media before the match that he wanted to do the trophy presentation back at Thunder Castle!  Although Chiang Rai are a shithouse team it was a case of the lesser shithouse team won. Just.

 

What Happens Next?

 

We buy a striker, a bloody good one, and a big bastard of a centre back to partner Dolah. No back ups – first team quality is needed, and a squad fighting for every position on the pitch. In all seriousness, I thought we wouldn’t improve after last season but I will happily eat my words. If it wasn’t for the mid season slump (and some dodgy reffing) we could have won the league this time around so I don’t see why we can’t do it next season.

Cheers!