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2020 Vision: Nakhon Ratchasima FC

 

In our latest 2020 season preview, we hear from stalwart Swatcat fan Russ John, the man behind one of Thai football’s longest-running English language sites, The Swatcat Blog. And this seems like a suitable moment to send our condolences to the families of those killed in Saturday’s awful mass shooting in Korat, and to wish the survivors a speedy recovery. A terrible event and not the kind of thing you expect to happen in Thailand.

How did your team perform in 2019? Where do they need to improve?

I am no tactician but last season many teams employed strategies that mercilessly exposed our midfield and defence with quick passing and effective player movement up front. We, too often gave the ball away in midfield, putting extra pressure on our defence that often sat too deep. We need to retain the ball more successfully in midfield and try to compact play in midfield by the defensive formation pushing up.

If Teerasak can address the problems in midfield, and if Murillo can be more successful than Henri in front of goal, a comfortable mid table position can be achieved. Last season we were only a handful of points off respectability, I am hoping that our usual mid table status will return this season.

Transfer window – which new signings are you most excited about? Which departing players are you sorry to see go/happy to see the back of?

Dennis Murillo. A replacement for Henri. Sorry to see Henri go, but he missed far too many simple chances last season. I think the Swatcat season’s success will depend heavily on Murillo’s form.
At the back, defender Yoon Jun-Sung has been brought in to replace the aging Lee and Wongsakorn Chaikultewin will hopefully bolster our fragile midfield.

Happy with your club’s coach?

Terrasak Po-on of course is new to the club and so hard to have an opinion. He did well with Rayong before their demise so fingers crossed. He has replaced the central spine of the team so obviously he is is building the team he wants.

What are your realistic ambitions for the 2020 season?

Top 10 would be great but with new coach, anything could happen. I personally would be happy to stay clear of relegation.

Which teams will be in contention for the title? Which teams will struggle to survive?

Before the Champion’s cup game between Port and Chiang Rai, I had penciled in a straightforward shootout between Port and Buriram as the main contenders for the title. However, in that match (albeit a glorified friendly), Chiang Rai looked like real winners and Port looked poor and disorganised. I do wonder whether Pang’s scattergun, kid in a candy shop style of transfer dealings are the right way for Port to go. Muang Thong seems to be undergoing, ahem, a transition period and I do not think they will offer a real challenge this season. Perhaps Prachuap might be my dark horse for the title but in reality, I think Buriram and Chiang Rai will be fighting for the title with Chiang Rai ultimately becoming top dog.

Relegation predictions are going to be difficult. I think Pathum Thani and Police Tero will survive. Rayong will struggle. In a league of 16 with 3 relegated and potentially 2 of the promoted teams surviving, anyone outside the top six could be involved in a relegation struggle.
Mid table has been notoriously tight in past seasons and one win could separate a team from maybe 8th place and a relegation slot.
So, along with Rayong, unfortunately for me, the Swatcats will be in the mix. I also think that this season may provide the last whip of the tail for a fading Sharks outfit. I also fear for Samut Prakan. Their end of season form was poor and losing Ibson Melo could be the final nail in the coffin.
Some “mid table” teams have invested in decent players; some have stood still. I think the mantra in the current TPL is, spend wisely or face the drop.

What 3 things would you change about Thai football?

Behaviour of players
Behaviour of players
Behaviour of players

 

Thanks Russ, and good luck to your team this season!

 

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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