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?

 

Kenny Goodbourn

Kenny Goodbourn

Kenny moved from the Essex Riviera to Thailand in 2013 and lives in Bangkok. He started following Port in 2016. He has a YouTube channel "Straight Outta Bangkok" in which he follows Port around the country and also features other teams from Thailand and beyond.

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