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Crystal Balls 2018: Chonburi FC

 

In our final Crystal Balls for the 2018 season, we hear from long-time Chonburi fan Dale Farrington, who is fully forgiven for handing in his homework late as he’s been busy organising The Wedding Present’s first ever Bangkok gig (19 April). Dale, we salute you.

Despite not having the greatest of seasons, Chonburi managed to finish in 7th place and also did the double over Port (booooo). But they appear to have done little to strengthen their squad during the break and with Port, Chiang Rai, Glass and even Police improving their squads, they may find it difficult to reach those heights in 2018. Dale is certainly less than enthusiastic about the new season…

 


 

What was your highlight of the 2017 season?

Aside from the performance against Buriram Utd in the League Cup, there was very little for us Chonburi fans to get excited about. Therefore, the highlight was when it ended and we could look forward to our weekends again.

How will your team fare in 2018?

With a new (unknown and untried) coach, a whole host of new players and many others leaving, it’s difficult to say. I’d like to think we’ll improve on last season’s performance, but I’m not holding my breath.

Who is your most exciting new signing?

Centre half, Kim Gyeong-Min is the only one who has really featured in pre season and he looks to be a very solid addition at the back. I can’t really comment on the rest, as I haven’t seen enough of them.

Which departed players from 2017 will you miss the most? Who are you glad to see the back of?

Nurul will be the biggest miss. He had his best season for a while last year – so we sold him! No-one in particular from the second category. Apart from the aforementioned Nurul, all the other departees are pretty much of a muchness.

What changes would you like to see at your club? Or are you happy with the way things are going?

Far too many to mention here. The management has really lost touch with the fans – which is a shame, as we used to be a pretty tight knit club. Maybe if this issue was addressed, then things could start to improve generally.

Which teams will be in contention for the T1 title, and who will win?

Buriram Utd and Muang Thong Utd. The former, if they aren’t too distracted by the AFC Champions League. The latter if their rivals take their eye of the ball domestically to chase continental honours.

Which 5 – yes 5 – teams will go down to T2, and which 3 will come up to T1?

Down: Air Force, Nakorn Ratchasima, Navy, Prachuap and Sukhothai.
Up: Khon Kaen, PTT Rayong and Udon Thani.

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2018?

Prachuap away. A new ground and the chance for a weekend break.

Thai football crowds are declining year on year. Why do you think this is, and what can be done to make the game more popular?

I think it was always going to be difficult to maintain the high crowds we saw during the boom period and, to a large extent, they have plateaued. I prefer to come at from the angle that attendances are much higher throughout the leagues than they were ten years ago. When you’ve sat in grounds watching top flight football in front of a few dozen people, anything else is a bonus.

Finally, give us your three wishes for the 2018 season.

Entertaining football.
No injury faking or time wasting.
No-one will buy our new THB2,200 shirt and the club will realise the folly of its deal with Nike.

 

Big thanks to Dale for sharing his thoughts with us, and you can follow Chonburi’s 2018 season on his website, which we believe to be the oldest English language fan website in Thailand. 

 

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Higher Sights: The Sandpit’s Big 2018 Preview

 

How things can change in the space of a year. 12 months ago newly-promoted Port were shopping in the bargain basement and hoping to avoid relegation back to T2. A year on, and the club have signed up some of the top players in Thailand and are aiming a lot higher than mid-table. Optimism is running high amongst fans, players and staff with the club looking like genuine title contenders. So here are the thoughts of the Sandpit team as we head into what promises to be a thrilling 2018 season…

 


 

TIM RUSSELL

 

Which new Port signings are you most excited about?

Obviously Boskovic and Nurul are exciting signings – you can’t fail to be excited when your club sign the top scorer and top assister from last season – but for me the key signing is Kim Sung Hwan. If you asked any fan what was missing from Port’s team last season I suspect the majority would say “a good defensive midfielder”, and if his friendly performances are anything to go by, he’s just that. Port’s defence was very leaky and prone to conceding penalties last season precisely because they lacked a midfield shield – Kim looks like the man to provide that. He also likes to get forward and has a tasty long throw on him too.

The late signing of Kevin Deeromram is also fantastic news, as Jadet’s favourite Panpanpong was the team’s weakest link last season. It’s so good to see Port signing up the best young players – and gazumping Muangthong.

Having met him the other week I’m also looking forward to seeing Terens get some game time. He is going to be a real fan favourite and is quite a character, so hope we get to see him on the pitch.

Which 2017 players were you sad to see leave? Which players won’t you miss?

Obviously I had a lump in my throat when we said sayonara to Genki last season. It was also a shame to lose a committed player like Ekkapoom. But not a surprise they’ve left given Port’s sudden attack of ambition. I certainly won’t miss Wuttichai or Siwapong, and hope Tana follows them through the exit door before too long.

Which areas do Port still need to strengthen?

You can’t win the league without a decent goalkeeper, and in my opinion Port still don’t have one. Rattanai is very promising but gets injured going for a piss, whilst Worawut doesn’t instil much confidence in me.

is Jadet the right man for the new, big-spending Port?

I hope he is. His stock rose after the Zico debacle and his record at Port isn’t in question, so he deserves to have a crack at driving a Ferrari instead of a Lada for a change. But he’ll be under pressure from day 1 and if Port fail to hit the ground running, I’m sure Mme Pang will have no hesitation in pulling the trigger. But nothing would give me greater pleasure than seeing the big fella lifting a trophy this season. Well, a few things would, but this is not the time or the place.

Tell us your ideal Port starting XI, and why…

 

 

Deeromram is a huge signing who can potentially transform Port from a top 6 side into genuine title contenders – surely even Jadet can’t rate Panpanpong ahead of him? I’d also start Bodin ahead of Suarez as he looks to have more attacking nous about him – the competition between those two for a starting place will be intriguing to watch.

Where will Port finish in T1?

All depends on whether they can play to Boskovic’s strengths. On the assumption they can, I think we will finish top 3 and if we can avoid injuries and our new players gel from the start, we can even win it.

Which games are you most looking forward to in 2018?

Muangthong home & away for obvious reasons. This is one of the biggest fixtures in Thai football and it’s criminal to play it behind close doors purely because MTU are incapable of policing a game properly. Also looking forward to a weekend in Prachuap, and to renewing hostilities with Cheating Chainat.

Which teams will be in the T1 title hunt, who will go down, and who will come up from T2?

It’s hard to see beyond Buriram & Muangthong, though Buriram are gambling on two strikers new to the Thai game and may not be the force they were last season. Outside those two, I think Port, Chiang Rai, Glass and Bangkok Utd will form the chasing pack, with maybe Police as dark horses. Port have the quality to win it but we cannot rule out Operation Fuckup cranking into gear at some point.

In the drop zone, I think Navy, Nakhon Ratchasima, Ubon and Prachuap will all struggle badly, and with 5 going down, I think Chainat and Sukhothai will be fighting it out to avoid the last spot.

Finally, what are your 3 wishes for the 2018 season?

1. For this team I’ve supported since 2014 to win a trophy. It would mean so much to the fans, both locals and Importz. Just the thought of Supachalasai taken over by the Khlong Thoey Army gives me the shivers.

2. Port to start picking players based on form & ability rather than age/experience. In the last couple of years we’ve lost the likes of Tatchanon, Hansson, Pinyo & others whilst sticking with the likes of Tana, Wuttichai & Panpanpong, for no other reason than seniority. Let’s hope the same doesn’t happen to Bodin & Yossawat this time round.

3. That the season isn’t interrupted by stupid long breaks. The fans hate them, the players hate them, the club owners hate them. It’s become obvious they don’t help the national team either, so keep them to 1 week max the way Europe does.

 


 

TOM EARLS

 

Which new Port signings are you most excited about?

For me, the six big signings have been Boskovic, Kim, Nebihi, Nurul, Bodin and Kevin. With Nebihi out and Bodin looking like starting the season on the bench, it’s got to be one of Boskovic, Kim, Nurul or Kevin. Any or all of the four could end up having a huge impact, and with this being Port any or all could end up falling flat, but my money is on Boskovic to make the biggest impact. The goals will come, with assists aplenty for Pakorn, Nurul and Suarez, but the Montenegrin will ultimately show that killer instinct in front of goal that Port have struggled to find in recent years. Kim will also have a huge impact coming in for Adisorn in midfield, and Nurul will show more pace and creativity on Port’s left than Genki, hopefully being ably backed up by Kevin.

Which 2017 players were you sad to see leave? Which players won’t you miss?

Josimar, Genki and Ekkapoom will all be missed for their attitude and application, although with Port strengthening so much in the transfer window letting them go was the right thing to do for all concerned. Josimar and Genki have been replaced by Boskovic and Nurul, whilst Ekkapoom’s role as fan-favourite back-up winger has been enthusiastically taken on by Terens Puhiri.

Ittipol was also a useful squad player and a good experienced guy to have around, and Pinyo had a lot of potential, although injuries prevented him from fulfilling it at Port.

I won’t miss Wuttichai, and I hope none of Port’s new arrivals take up the ‘entitled gobshite still dining out on a couple of decent performances in 2015’ mantle.

Which areas do Port still need to strengthen?

If you’d asked me a couple of days ago I would have undoubtedly said “The defence,” but a couple of signings later and all of a sudden things don’t look to shabby at the back.
Port could struggle a bit between the sticks if Rattanai spends as much time on the treatment table as he did last season. Whilst Worawut is a very capable shot-stopper, he doesn’t exactly inspire confidence under the high ball.

is Jadet the right man for the new, big-spending Port?

Tricky. Yes, if only because he’s shown himself adept at dealing with Madame Pang in a conflict-free way, and he arose from the Zico debacle smelling like roses. Port need a manager with the confidence of their owners, which they now have. However, does he have the smarts to take this group of players in to the top 5? I’m skeptical, but don’t think it’s outside the realms of possibility, either.

Tell us your ideal Port starting XI, and why…

 

 

My team is probably the same as Jadet’s, besides Dolah. Kevin being given the chance to make that left back spot his own is a no-brainer, and I think that particularly after Nebihi being given the boot Port will need the extra physicality that Dolah provides.

Where will Port finish in T1?

6th, just behind Bangkok Glass but ahead of Chonburi.

Which games are you most looking forward to in 2018?

As always, the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ away games in places like Ratchaburi, Prachuap and Chonburi are minibus trips to look forward to, and a final day Saturday trip to Pattaya will undoubtedly be a weekend to remember! The home game against Muangthong should also be belter in terms of the famous PAT Stadium atmosphere!

Which teams will be in the T1 title hunt, who will go down, and who will come up from T2?

There are question marks about all of the potential league challengers this year. Will Buriram’s new Brazilian striker Edgar make the grade? Will Muangthong struggle for firepower after loaning out Teerasil and Adisak getting injured? Is Peerapat anywhere near as good as Hia Um? Spoiler alert, he’s not. Will Nebihi play a starring role for Chiang Rai? Will Bangkok United’s new foreigners gel quickly enough to mount a challenge?
I think of those four any could make things interesting, with Bangkok Glass, Port and Chonburi lagging a little behind.
Navy will finish bottom, with Prachuap, Ubon, Sukhothai, Chainat and Nakhon Ratchasima fighting for survival. I’ll give Nakhon Ratchasima the edge because of Rangel’s goals, but it should be close.

Finally, what are your 3 wishes for the 2018 season?

1) Port continue to play exciting football.
2) Port take 6 points off Muangthong.
3) FAT do as little as possible and stay out of everyone’s way.

 


 

DOMINICK CARTWRIGHT

 

Which new Port signings are you most excited about?

Boskovic and Nurul, the leading goal scorer and the player who set up the most goals last season. I can’t wait to see these two put on their Thai Port shirts and run out at PAT. Finally we have a decent striker! Nurul looks like he has the attitude of Ekkapoom already a fan favourite and it’s only pre-season.

Which 2017 players were you sad to see leave? Which players won’t you miss?

Although I always saw Ekkapoom as a back up left wing, he was a great impact player for the energy he brought on the pitch, and the spirit he had for Thai Port. Everyone wanted him to do well. I will never forget him scoring a header, yes a header against Air force or was it Luuk Tap Faa?, anyway I remember the last minute goal. Extra time header sneaks in, it can’t be…. Yes it’s only bloody Ekkapoom, great bloke, great memories.

Who won’t I miss? I can’t remember any other players that left, Wuttiwho?

Which areas do Port still need to strengthen?

Written on February 2nd …. “Left back, we said it all last season, Panpanpong(19) can cross well and is a reasonable tackler. But far too often he drifts forward and leaves Port exposed at the back. How can we spend all that money on the squad and not upgrade the biggest hole on in the starting 11? Lord only knows.”

Written on February 6th,…. After a late night phone call, Pang followed my advice, we now have one of the best left backs in the league things are looking pretty good for the starting 11. If there is one problem Port have now it’s what happens if Boskovic gets injured. Now Nebihi has gone our back up is the inexperienced 23 year old Butjinda or using Suarez as a forward. This is also a problem if Jadet ever felt the need to play two strikers, it’s happened once or twice in the distant past. In midfield and defence we have options and utility players but we don’t have a decent back up striker.

Is Jadet the right man for the new, big-spending Port?

In a word YES. Jadet was the last manager to run Buriram/Munagthong close in the league. He’s maybe not the best tactical mind in the game, but he has shown he has support in the dressing room and he can work with Pang. These are the two vital skills at Port. How long will he be given to bring a new team together, I’m guessing about 7 games. Good luck Sir Det.

Tell us your ideal Port starting XI, and why…

 

 

Bodin, and Terens being used regularly as impact subs. Bodin starting some matches especially against a slower opposition midfield vulnerable to the quick passing game.
The Dolah vTodsapol choice is a close one, Dolah gets the edge for being less injury prone and a bit more imposing. If we are playing a wing back system with Kim, Rochela, + 1 as a back 3 Dolah might be the better choice.

Where will Port finish in T1?

4th.

Which games are you most looking forward to in 2018?

Prajuap away missed it last time, when we were both in T2. Everyone said they were a great bunch of fans, they even laid on free canteen food in the away end. It’s near the seaside, wouldn’t mind going down to Sam roi yord for another away day plus holiday.

Pattaya away, last game of the season, carnage.

Which teams will be in the T1 title hunt, who will go down, and who will come up from T2?

In the hunt for top spot, Burirram, Muangthong, Chiang Rai, Bangkok United and ……us.

Going down, Cheating Chainat, pleasant Prajuap, Unbelievably Chaotic Ubon, and Navy will run aground, we will miss the puns. One more ? Police, yes Police, if Scott Cooper loses 3 games and the owner decides this is unacceptable, even though they are in 6th place or so. Cooper leaves before the mid season transfer window, the players he’s brought in drift away and opposition teams run riot at Boonyachinda Stadium.

I think Sisaket, Udon Thani and PTT Rayong will come up again. Sisaket, great fans and have been working on their stadium. Surely they will want the newly finished stadium to host T1 football. Will be interesting to see if they get an injection of cash or fade away. Udon Thani have already tried to buy their way into the league, let’s see if they can do it legally, the money is there so it’s definitely on. PTT Rayong are a bit of a plastic club but they have the best T2 stadium. Also Hockers will be in a good mood about getting another trip to the seaside which he loves so much.

Finally, what are your 3 wishes for the 2018 season?

A team other than Buriram or Muangthong winning the league. Continued domination with two clubs is only interesting if you’re in a specialist nightclub in Patpong.

Port Silverware
It would be great for us to win something, we’ll be dancing in the streets of Klong Toei, grown men will cry, the streets will flood with free flow Leo.

Pang hot or cold?
Solid information about what Pang’s plans are for the club after the 5 year leasing agreement is up. It’s always tease tease tease, …. Will you stay, or will you go now? If you stay there will be trouble, if you leave it could be double.

 

The season kicks off on Sunday 11th Feb at 19:00. Follow all the season’s ups & downs at www.portfcsandpit.com! 

 

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Crystal Balls 2018: Bangkok Utd

 

In our latest Crystal Balls, we hear from Svein Falk Lorentzen about Bangkok Utd. The Angels had another good season in 2017, finishing 3rd in T1 and making it to the FA Cup final, where they lost to Chiang Rai Utd. Since then they’ve lost star forwards Dragan Boskovic (to Port), Mario Gjurovski and Jaycee John, replacing them with players new to Thai football, so the jury’s out on their chances in 2018. But with excellent coach Mano Polking still in the dugout, they’re sure to remain a strong side…

 


 

What was your highlight of the 2017 season?

Winning the semifinal in the FA-cup (and Udon Thani getting promoted)

How will your team fare in 2018?

Hopefully top-3, but with all the major changes in the squad, it`s hard to predict where they will end.

Who is your most exciting new signing?

Don`t know anything about the 3 Brazilians as I don`t follow players at other clubs, but if the club signs Michael Falkesgaard, I will say him, as we really, really need a new goalkeeper.

Which departed players from 2017 will you miss the most? Who are you glad to see the back of?

Will really miss Boskovic. I`m sure nobody will get even close to scoring 38 goals this season. Also disappointed to see Mario go. Nobody I`m happy to see leave.

What changes would you like to see at your club? Or are you happy with the way things are going?

Only change I want is for them to move back to Bangkok. It was my local team when I started following them in 2009, but now there are many teams located closer to my home than Thammasat.

Which teams will be in contention for the T1 title, and who will win?

Buriram and Muangthong. 1 of them will most likely win.

Which 5 – yes 5 – teams will go down to T2, and which 3 will come up to T1?

Navy, Prachuap, Sukhothai, Ubon UMT and Chainat will go down, and Udon Thani, Chiang Mai and PTT Rayong up.

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2018?

Home against Buriram. They bring many fans and great if we beat them.

Thai football crowds are declining year on year. Why do you think this is, and what can be done to make the game more popular?

Reducing the number of breaks, and the length of them. Less mid-week games. Have sale of food and drinks (incl alcohol) at all stadiums. Leg 1 to end with league cup final.

Finally, give us your three wishes for the 2018 season.

1: Bangkok United to win a trophy.
2: Less changes to the fixtures than previous seasons.
3: Decision to keep T1 with 18 clubs for many more seasons.

 


 

Many thanks Svein! Want to preview your team’s 2018 season? Fill out our questionnaire!

 

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Crystal Balls 2018: Muangthong Utd

 

After sweeping all before them in 2016, the team we Port fans love to hate meekly surrendered their title in 2017, with the League Cup their only trophy of the season. This time out they’ve lost Kawin, Theerasil and Teerathon (aka Hia Um), but have added Buriram’s 2017 top score Jaja Coelho, and are expected to be in the title race. Here’s MTU fan Grant Aitken to tell us what he thinks the season has in store for the Kirins…

 


 

What was your highlight of the 2017 season?

The ACL campaign was thrilling. That last minute winner against Kashima Antlers will live long in the memory.

How will your team fare in 2018?

1st or 2nd hopefully, best to wait a few games before making any firm predictions though.

Who is your most exciting new signing?

Only one contender here, Jaja. He’s a different level player and will make the difference.

Which departed players from 2017 will you miss the most? Who are you glad to see the back of?

We’ve lost 3 key players in Terrasil, Theeraton and Kawin, but with Peerapat and Adisak we have high calibre replacements for the two that are going to Japan. Kawin is less easy to replace and we’ll need to tighten our defence to compensate for the loss.

What changes would you like to see at your club? Or are you happy with the way things are going?

Losing players to clubs abroad is the major talking point for Muangthong this year, but I think the club has little option but to agree to let the players move on. Blocking moves would appear spiteful and make the next generation of players, that are good enough to play abroad, less likely to choose Muangthong to further their careers. It’s important the club thinks about its long term strategy rather than desperately clinging on to players who want to play elsewhere. We have a strong academy, several feeder teams and potentially a valuable parent club, unless I’m reading too much into the eventual destinations of Leicester City’s “Fox Hunt” development programme graduates.

Which teams will be in contention for the T1 title, and who will win?

Muangthong and Buriram will be the front runners. Although, I’m hoping Buriram will suffer from the same issues they had two years ago when they finished outside the top 3. I would like to see them hold their own on the ACL stage, but their squad looks weaker now then it did 2 seasons back so they will find it difficult being competitive on all fronts.

Chaing Rai and Bangkok Glass have improved, although not significantly. I think Mano Polking will re-group his side to be a strong outfit, but I feel they’ll still have problems taking points against the big 2. Port have some good attacking players, but I think they’ll struggle for consistency if Jadet is intent on playing them all at the same time and they could take a while to find their feet. Tero and Ratchchaburi will be hard to beat this year, but don’t quite have enough quality to mount a title challenge.

If I had to pick a winner I’d go with Muangthong, although its getting tighter so injuries, bust-ups or divine intervention could result in a surprise winner this year.

Which 5 – yes 5 – teams will go down to T2, and which 3 will come up to T1?

Chainat have seemed very quiet in the transfer market so far, and I think the shenanigans of last season will have a detrimental effect on Navy. Ubon have issues in many areas of the club, and I think Sukhothai will struggle this year too. Prachuap seem to have ambition but I’m not sure they can stay up, whereas Air Force have some good fire power up front and emerging young talent so they should be fine. I expect to see Suphanburi and Nakhon Ratchasima in the dogfight too, but I’m backing them to beat the drop.

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2018?

Bangkok United is probably my favourite fixture. The away game is not far to travel so we normally bring 4-5k fans. They, as well as ourselves, have a gifted manager, so I find it intriguing to see their tactics in action. Coach Ban got the bragging rights last season and Mano was the overall victor the year before. Buriram is a big game, but far more tense, and generally having more at stake so it’s not quite as enjoyable, but certainly a game I eagerly anticipate. I look forward to any fixture if I know I can expect the opposition to come and try and play some football. That generally rules out Ubon, and certain away fixtures where the playing surface is deliberately made unplayable. You can’t emulate EPL style football on a Sunday league playing surface. I hope the FA is monitoring next year and dishes out fines for repeat offenders.

Thai football crowds are declining year on year. Why do you think this is, and what can be done to make the game more popular?

There are many things clubs could do better but the main problem is that fans will not flock in their masses if the football is not entertaining. I think more support needs to be given to referees to show them how to help the game flow and make sure they’re punishing offenses that contradict entertainment values. I’d love the FA to set aside a budget to bring in a retired referee from Europe to scrutinize performances, not just for the big decisions, but for the little ones that annoy the hell out of spectators too.

Finally, give us your three wishes for the 2018 season.

1.Muangthong to progress to the ACL Group stage beating Japanese opposition on their own turf in the process.

2.Buriram to have a strong showing in the ACL group stage – it’s a necessary evil if we’re to keep chipping away at Australia in terms of coefficient points.

3.Somebody to put together a hilarious montage of Diogo’s face every time he takes a tumble in the penalty area, only for the referee to refer to VAR and book him for simulation.

 


 

Thanks Grant! Want to share your thoughts on the 2018 season? Fill out our questionnaire!

Due to technical issues entirely beyond our control some of you may see a picture of the 2017 Port team celebrating an away victory at the top of this page rather than a picture of Muangthong. We apologise for any inconvenience or distress this may cause.

 

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Crystal Balls 2018: Pattaya Utd

 

Last season Pattaya surprised many observers by finishing 8th in T1, after a long unbeaten run was only ended by Port in Jadet’s first match back at the helm following the Zico experiment. Following last season’s performance, despite losing star players Wellington & Stojanovic, optimism is high amongst Dolphins fans that they can improve on 2017. Here’s friend of the Sandpit Robin Lennon with his thoughts…

 


 

What was your highlight of the 2017 season?

The run of only 3 defeats in 17 in the second leg was pretty special, specifically the away draw at Muangthong, defeats of Bangkok United and Bangkok Glass in that run showed how far the team progressed through the season and could compete with the best.

How will your team fare in 2018?

Management are targeting 6th but I’d be happy with another top half finish to consolidate last season which should be realistic.

Who is your most exciting new signing?

Although the permanent signing of loanee Peeradol Chamratsamee was a huge deal showing the club’s ambition, I think all eyes will be on our new Brazilian attack of Lukian and Rafinha. ” It’s just like watching Brazil ” has a nice ring to it.

Which departed players from 2017 will you miss the most? Who are you glad to see the back of?

Wellington Priori and Milos Stojanovic are very surprising and disappointing exits, their contribution to last seasons success was huge and both were big fan favourites, particularly Wellington. However it’s the loss of loanee goalkeeper Somporn Yos without a replacement so far that worries me the most. Port fans who enjoyed the away game at Pattaya witnessed the kind of shambolic display between the posts I fear we may have to endure without Yos. No particularly negative opinions on departed players but I wasn’t overly impressed with loanee Mongkol Tossakrai’s contribution given the fanfare on his arrival.

What changes would you like to see at your club? Or are you happy with the way things are going?

I’m extremely happy with how the new owners are moving the club forward, what they have achieved from taking over only 6 weeks before the start of last season is impressive. I think it speaks volumes that our crowds improved last season given the breaks and what I felt was particularly poor home game scheduling.

Which teams will be in contention for the T1 title, and who will win?

I expect Buriram to win it but hopefully the next 6 or 7 including Port and Pattaya will be closer matched to make the chase for second and third spot exciting. Quite a few big changes in personnel at several clubs makes for an interesting season in the top half I hope.

Which 5 – yes 5 – teams will go down to T2, and which 3 will come up to T1?

I would hope at least 1 of the promoted 3 stay up so I would go for Sukothai, Navy and Nakhon Ratchasima to join them. I fancy Udon with the ex Pattaya M&M’s strikeforce of Milos Stojanovic and Milan Bubalo, hopefully PTT Rayong for another derby and Sisaket to return to T1

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2018?

It goes without saying the opener against Thai Port is the perfect curtain raiser to see how both teams new players fare and with a Sunday kick off I’m hoping we can bring a noisy respectable sized support to add to the occasion. Prachuap away in GW3 for a few days, a scenic train ride and a small stadium atmosphere and my first trip to the Leo stadium which I’ve missed the last 2 seasons.

Thai football crowds are declining year on year. Why do you think this is, and what can be done to make the game more popular?

Match scheduling and the continual breaks are the most frustrating aspects at the league organisation level, even though Pattaya bucked the trend with an increased average of just over 3,000 the fact we pulled in 4,000+ in our last 2 games when we had weekend evening kick-offs demonstrates the impact of TV scheduling and fixture planning. The TV deal is necessary to support the league but the breaks don’t appear to benefit anyone.

The clubs have to do everything in their power to provide a decent product on and off the field on matchday and market it effectively and I think that’s why our crowds improved. A big pre-season launch event, a good season ticket deal, continual communication via facebook and a thank you party for the fans after the last home game of the season were all positive steps within the club’s control not being done by the previous regime.

Finally, give us your three wishes for the 2018 season.

1) A committed cup effort from Pattaya, my one gripe last season was fielding a below strength team when realistically cup success is our only chance of a trophy.

2) That no clubs get cast adrift at the bottom early, with 5 going down a tight relegation scrap should make for more meaningful games for all clubs and hopefully decent crowds.

3) Away cup draws to lower league teams where I haven’t been before. Football and travel in Thailand, the perfect combination.

 


 

Thanks Robin & good luck to Pattaya this season! Want to tell us about your team? Fill out our questionnaire!

 

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Crystal Balls 2018: Buriram Utd

In our latest Crystal Balls we cross the palm of Buriram Utd fan Jamie Pinder to get his thoughts on how Thailand’s top team will fare in 2018. Buriram went through the 2017 season with only 2 defeats and won the league at a canter, but will start the new season without the services of top scorer Jaja Coelho and midfield lynchpin Ko Seul Ki.

 


 

What was your highlight of the 2017 season?

Easy. Reclaiming the title. Or maybe it was the photo shoot pulling faces to scare the opposition in the away changing rooms.

How will your team fare in 2018?

Top of the pile….. ish.

Who is your most exciting new signing?

Ummmm ….waiting ……so far I think the new Chang Mascot in his scrambled egg shirt.

Which departed players from 2017 will you miss the most? Who are you glad to see the back of?

Jaja for his goals but Seul-Ki is a greater loss. He missed the 2016 season and look what happened there.

What changes would you like to see at your club? Or are you happy with the way things are going?

Can’t really complain about much. Just need to fix the website and I’ll be a happy camper.

Which teams will be in contention for the T1 title, and who will win?

Chiang Rai will compete much better this year. Muang Thong will be close and Bangkok United will be trailing but ahead of the rest.

Which 5 – yes 5 – teams will go down to T2, and which 3 will come up to T1?

Any 5 from…..it’s a long list……. Of course the 3 promoted clubs are always in contention plus Swat Cats, Sukhotai and Ubon. 3 to come up will be Ang Thong, PTT and Krabi!! Need some good road trips.

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2018?

Any places I haven’t been before….e.g Sukhotai, Chainat and Air Force

Thai football crowds are declining year on year. Why do you think this is, and what can be done to make the game more popular?

Just play the games without the long breaks. All the fans agree that they lose interest the more this happens. Why can’t the FAT understand this…..

Finally, give us your three wishes for the 2018 season.

Buriram to win the Champions League 🙂 Muang Thong fight relegation and I meet everyone of the expats who are reading this and we enjoy a quiet beer before/after our respective games. Good Luck everyone.

 


 

Thanks Jamie! Want to do a season preview for your team? Just fill out our questionnaire!

 

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Crystal Balls 2018: Nakhon Ratchasima FC

 

In our second 2018 season preview, Nakhon Ratchasima fan Russ John looks at what the season may hold for the Swatcats. Having only narrowly avoided relegation in 2017, it may be another season of struggle for the Isaan side, especially with 5 teams facing the drop…

 


What was your highlight of the 2017 season?

Avoiding relegation

How will your team fare in 2018?

Hopefully finish above bottom 5

Who is your most exciting new signing?

Nothing too exciting but Yayah Kunath looks a decent acquisition

Which departed players from 2017 will you miss the most? Who are you glad to see the back of?

Victor Igbonefo was a high profile departure but due to his lack of pace and marking ability glad to see the back of him. Port picked up a couple of players from us, Chakrit Rawanprakone and Athibordee Arirat who will make decent squad players for Port.

What changes would you like to see at your club? Or are you happy with the way things are going?

Like all fans of all clubs, I would like the club to show more ambition, but I am generally happy to be a fan of the club as it is. My only expectation and hope is that they can become established as a TPL team and perhaps creep into the top ten.

Which teams will be in contention for the T1 title, and who will win?

The way Muang Thong and Bangkok United are heading, I think the way is wide open for Buriram to dominate. I am of the opinion that spending loads does not guarantee success – too many big names in a club can lead to friction, so although Port and Chang Rai will be there or thereabouts, I do not think they will challenge Buriram.

Which 5 – yes 5 – teams will go down to T2, and which 3 will come up to T1?

The 3 newcomers especially Prachuap will inevitably struggle. Navy, Tero, Swatcats,and Ubon will be in the relegation mix. I think Si Saket may come back up. Unlikely I know but the TPL needs more Isaan teams so Konkaen and Udon Thani.

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2018?

Buriram home and away and Pattaya and Chonburi away.

Thai football crowds are declining year on year. Why do you think this is, and what can be done to make the game more popular?

Everyone has lots of ideas on this one (as have I), but the simple and unpalatable truth is that the product is substandard and does not appeal to average “fringe fans”. Sure us diehards will always turn up but most Thais do not seem to be interested. Thus there is no easy answer – I think we are going to have to live with the fact that most teams will attract sub 5000 gates.

Finally, give us your three wishes for the 2018 season.

1. The Swatcats avoid the drop.
2. No more bloody dramas.
3. A continuous season with minimal breaks


Thanks Russ! Want to preview 2018 for your team? Just fill out our handy questionnaire! 
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Crystal Balls 2018: Ubon UMT Utd

 

The 2018 season will soon be upon us, so it’s time for The Sandpit to take out our crystal balls, give them a good polish, and proudly display them to our readership. We kick off this year’s previews with Erick Ombuya Kiyondi (aka Waka) telling us what he thinks the season has in store for his beloved Ubon UMT Utd…

 

What was your highlight of the 2017 season?

Beating Muangthong both home and away.

 

How will your team fare in 2018?

Top 10.

 

Who is your most exciting new signing?

Our new boss, Mixu Patalaainen.

 

Which departed players from 2017 will you miss the most? Who are you glad to see the back of?

I will dearly miss Victor Cardozo but glad Nebihi left to join Port. (So are we! – Ed)

 

What changes would you like to see at your club? Or are you happy with the way things are going?

We need strikers, and we need NEW full backs since all our guys were either sold to other clubs or went with our coach (Scott Cooper) to Tero.

 

Which teams will be in contention for the T1 title, and who will win?

Though its early to tell, I can bet on Buriram, Chiangrai and Bangkok United, I can surely say 1st to 3rd spot goes to these teams. Muangthong is done now, it is an average club, they have lost many good players.

 

Which 5 – yes 5 – teams will go down to T2, and which 3 will come up to T1?

Again too early to tell but my predictions: 1.Sukhothai 2.Prachuap 3.Chainat 4.Navy 5.Nakhonratchasima(Suphanburi)

COMING UP TO T1: 1.PTT Rayong ( sure bet) 2. Lampang or Sisaket 3.Angtong (sure bet)

 

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2018?

Ubon UMT vs
1.Police Tero (half of our players moved there with Scott Cooper)
2. Port FC ( we never win at PAT) (Get used to it Erick! – Ed)
3. Muang-shit Utd

Thai football crowds are declining year on year. Why do you think this is, and what can be done to make the game more popular?

Football timing and schedule in Thai league is a joke, games on Wednesday and kick off is 17:00, how the hell can a working fan travel from Rangsit to PAT Stadium with the traffic in Bangkok? So fans end up taking the better and easier option of watching on TV. Another thing THE BREAK is too long, if THAI FA could listen then they should not interrupt games for weeks or even a month as we have seen in the past. It should be continuous that makes fans to keep talking about football and the next game. This year being the year for World Cup I don’t see this to be better anymore, we might end up having games on Mondays even Fridays. Thai FA should sit down and see what they can do about this.

Finally, give us your three wishes for the 2018 season.

1. God help Ubon UMT not to go down.And finish top 10.(dreams are valid)
2. Win both home and away against Muang-shit
3. Beat Port FC at PAT. I won’t care if you beat us at Ubon.

 

Big thanks to Erick for sharing his thoughts with us and good luck to Ubon in 2018! If you want to tell us about your team’s hopes for 2018, then all you have to do is complete this questionnaire.