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The Sandpit 2021/22 Big Guess Up – Chiangmai United

Top flight football returns to Thailand’s second city for the 2021/22 season in the form of JL Chiangmai United. The White Elephants are entering just their sixth season in existence and will be hoping to establish themselves in the top division and give Chiangmai a lasting presence in the top tier not seen recently. As the city’s football has been held back by a microcosm of the issue that plaque Thai football in general, dodgy ownership, clubs being passed from parent club to parent club, sides forced to move to stadiums well away from their fan base and so on. However last season saw the signs of a brighter future as they and Chiangmai FC, on the field, both performed well, while the other Chiangmai club would fall away eventually finish one spot outside the promotion playoffs. Having been in contention for the title all season, United also saw a late dip in form, however, they held on to finish runners up to Nongbua and gain automatic promotion. Overall, the signs are bright and hopefully, we see a second city derby in the top division in the near future.

 

The 700th Anniversary Stadium, looking splendid

 

 

 

The club is now back in the city’s 700th Anniversary Stadium which has finally finished being redeveloped and looks rather impressive. Added to this they have had the most impressive transfer window of the three promoted clubs and enter the season as the best placed of the three to stay up.  Central to that is in my opinion is this summers smartest piece of business. As Yanick Boli has headed north from Port. Boli is an absolute gem for any side outside the top six, he’s a striker with a proven record in Thailand, so zero risk of him not settling in the environment, he brings almost certainty of a double figure haul of goals. However there is plenty more to the Ivorian’s game, a fine leader of a team, the guy puts an absolute shift in on the field and has the mentality of a winner. When this team is struggling, he’ll always be up there working himself into the ground and making himself available as an outlet. There’ll be plenty of teams in the league wishing they’d snapped him come the end of the season. He’ll be supplied by, two interesting arrivals in the shape of attacking midfielders Sergio Escudero, born in Spain, his father is a Argentine-Japanese former player and the 33 year old arrives having played extensively in Japan and Korea, while Saharat Kanyaroj arrives a proven top tier player having appeared 22 times for Muanthong last season.

 

Yannick Boli – he scores goals. Lots of em

 

 

Head Coach – Surapong Kongthep 

The track record of Surapong Kongthep is solid, he was in charge for the latter part of Pattaya United’s existence and stayed with the club after its abduction to Samut Prakan, lasting half a season. In which time the club was rooted in the 7/11 league of midtable plodding. Something I’m sure everyone involved with Chiangmai United would be happy to take come the end of the season. Thereafter its gets a little shaky with a short spell in charge at the other Chiangmai club in 2019 but given that outside factors essential made their season in the top flight a total basket case, its probably best to simply write that period off. Last season he was in charge of Sukhothai, who after a decent start would eventually be relegated as things unravelled around him. The set up at Chiangmai this year looks a much better environment, and he should be able to steer his team to a fairly worry free season.

At his disposal are a solid roster of defenders, Evson Patricio was previously with the other Chiangmai club and has experience playing in Japans second tier and Korrakot Wiriyaudomsiri has extensive experience for both Chonburi and Buriram.

Surapong Kongthep probably not so welcome at that Chiangmai anymore

 

Key Player – Todsapol Latad

However, I’ll take a gamble on my key man and show some Port bias.  The signing of Todsapol is a bit of a risky one.  There is a school of thought occasional heard in the sandpit after a few Leo (sodas), that if his body had allowed him more extensive runs of games that Todsapol would have established himself as a regular in the Port starting line up, sadly it never did and every time he got a few games there was a quick return to the treatment table. What is for sure is in terms of abilty he’s right up there amongst the better Thai defenders in the league. To me, if the White Elephants can through luck, a great medical team or the guy just regaining the fitness, get him to play the majority of games this season, it’s a superb signing.

 

Todsapol, a man made of the highest quality biscuits.

 

My Prediction – Safety

I’ve got this lot as by far the strongest of the newly promoted teams and better placed than a number of established teams. Realistically they shouldn’t be sucked into the relegation battle. I suspect it’s more likely Surapong Kongthep returns to leading a team the safety of midtable. If they can get the two former Port lads to play the majority of games, they are well on the way to enough goals and a solid defence that will steer them well clear of trouble. The rest of the squad is decent. Whilst l couldn’t finish without commenting on keeper Nont Muangngam, who started last season as their first choice but finished the season on the bench, he has the potential to be anything, often from moment to moment. There’s an excellent keeper and complete disaster zone battling for control of this lad’s career and having been around long enough to no longer merely be a prospect, let’s hope it’s the good that comes to the fore and he establishes himself this season.

 

 

 

James Clarke

James Clarke

Originally from England, James first came to Thailand in 2010 to escape big cities and spend time on beaches away from crowds. He now divides his time between living in Bangkok and wishing he was living in Bangkok.

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