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Crystal Balls 2019: Chonburi FC

 

Time for our final 2019 Crystal Ball, and this time we look at Chonburi FC. After a couple of mediocre seasons, things seem to be stirring down by the sea and after an impressive transfer window, The Sharks look like they could be top 6 contenders once again. Here’s longtime Chonburi fan and editor of the Screaming from Beneath the Waves blog Dale Farrington with his thoughts…

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Crystal Balls 2019: Bangkok Utd

 

After finishing second last season, and having probably the most impressive transfer window of any T1 club, hopes are high that Mano Polking can finally guide Bangkok Utd to silverware this season. We spoke to not one but TWO Angels fans – Matt Jenkins and Svein Falk Lorentzen – to get their thoughts on what should be an exciting season for the Rangsit-based club…

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Season of the ‘Vic? The Sandpit’s Big 2019 Preview

At last, the new season kicks off this weekend, with Port likely to play an active role in the T1 title race. Here are the Sandpit team’s thoughts on what the new season holds…

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Crystal Balls 2019: Chiang Mai FC

 

In our latest Crystal Balls piece, we welcome new boys Chiang Mai FC to the wonderful world of T1. Yes, Thailand’s second city finally has a team in the top flight, so we asked Chiang Mai fan Richard Keyworth (who runs Chiang Mai FC English Fanzine) for his thoughts on their debut season…

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Crystal Balls 2019: Nakhon Ratchasima FC

 

The Swatcats surprised us all with an impressive 7th place finish last season, and also delighted us Port fans by losing to us 4-0 both home & away. Can they repeat last season’s top half finish, whilst also providing us with another 6 points? Here’s Brit Swatcat fan Russ John, editor of The Swatcat Blog (one of Thai football’s longest-established English language fan sites) with his thoughts on the season ahead…

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Crystal Balls 2019: Buriram Utd

 

Our series of pre-season previews continues with a look at defending champions Buriram Utd. Will they romp to another title, or will they be hampered by the departure of star player Diogo and rapidly improving rivals like Bangkok Utd and Port? Here’s Buriram fan Jamie Pinder with his thoughts…

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Crystal Balls 2019: Muangthong Utd

 

With the new season a mere month away, it’s time once again to consult the runes and ask farang fans of rival clubs what they think 2019 has in store for them. And who worse, oops I meant better, to start with than our old friends (we can be nice to them now they’re behind us in the table) Muangthong Utd? So take it away Grant Aitken

 

How did your team perform in 2018? Where do they need to improve?

By our own expectations, not great. It was a turbulent season after losing key personal and changing coaches several times, so for the most part it was a case of damage limitation after starting the season poorly. We’re generally a goal threat, thanks in part to the magical feet of Heberty Fernandes, but our defensive unit needs a complete overhaul.

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?

Aung Thu is an exciting player and Dang Van Lam will add some much needed steel to the back line, also. It’s taken me by surprise how well the board have embraced the new ASEAN quotas. It seems unrealistic prices for domestic players have forced Muangthong to cast their net farther afield this season. Familar faces, Supanan Bureet and Mario Djorovski have also been welcomed back.

On the other hand it’s a bitter blow to see Tristan Do move to a rival club, and not to a J-League team which will surely be his eventual destination. Bangkok United also took Peerapat off our hands and whilst the two transfers have been made synonymous due to their timing, the latter’s gradually declining performances have made a move away from the club less shocking. Jaja is another player whose absence will be met with indifference by fans. We also said a goodbye to Naoaki Aoyama after four years of lionhearted defensive displays. He’ll be sorely missed.

Happy with your club’s coach?

Language barriers and failure to adapt to his surroundings meant Radovan Curcic’s reign was as unremarkable as it was unproductive. I’m not surprised they selected a Thai native this time around and Pairoj’s record as as good as any currently available. I’m withholding judgment right now, but he does seem to have lifted the mood in the camp. In addition he has involved many youngsters in his preseason training programme ensuring each player has had a chance to shine. As a result a few previously unfancied candidates have worked their way into the first team, which is a pleasant surprise.

What are your realistic ambitions for the 2019 season?

Top 3 with a significantly bigger points tally than last term would be nice, but as long as were not going backwards I’ll be content for now.

The main priority for the club should be blooding the youngsters in to provide the foundations for future success. This time last year I remember watching the Coca-Cola Cup final, Munagthong U19 v Buriram U19. It was an evenly matched game with Supachok scoring a sublime late winner. However, at that point, if you’d have told me that Rattanakorn and Supachai, who were largely anonymous, would have breakout seasons, whilst academy gems, Poramet Arjvirai and Sundy Wongderee would spend the season struggling for game time I’d have scoffed. Korrawit Tasa was an unused substitute that day, however Ubon gave him a platform last season and he repaid them handsomely. I hope we do the same for those boys this year.

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

I think the top 4 will be exactly the same as last year, with us and Port being the most likely to swap positions, if any. Buriram have a mental strength that is hard to breakdown right now, even with Diogo leaving I still wouldn’t bet against them finding a way win when it matters. Regardless of what they’ve spent, I think Bangkok United’s favorite’s title is optimistic, with only a couple of their new signings improving their starting 11. I’m not sure it will be enough to stop Buriam’s reign of dominance, unfortunately.

At the other end, I see no hope for Chiang Mai United. I fancy PT Prachuap to have a bad case of 2nd season blues and Chainat’s lack of ambition will also cost them dear.

Tell us your very favourite, and your absolute least favourite, things about following your club

I’m a family man, so it’s great that I can enjoy the game out here with my wife and kids. I’m not sure I’d be as willing to do that back in England. With this being my 6th season as a regular supporter it’s also nice to have made a few friends, half of which I’m still unable to communicate with but I still get a wai or handshake out of recognition for my continued support for the team.

The least enjoyable thing about supporting Muangthong recently has been the lack of identity we showed under Curcic’s reign. Has brand of football was bland, cautious and generally negative, but then again I wouldn’t expect much less from a man that was only given a six month contract and therefore prioritized results over style. Additionally, Muangthong fans are immensely proud of our successful academy. Whether it be Kawin’s escapades in Europe, or Suphan and Thithipan’s commanding displays for Thailand. So when it the young players get neglected it really does irk the fans. I think the board are slowly starting to appreciate that our loyal fan-base does need throwing a bone every now and then. Any club with long term aspirations needs to utilize it’s youth academy, especially one with a track record as good as ours.

 

Thanks Grant! If you’d like to share your thoughts on your team’s chances this season, you can complete the questionnaire here

 

NB I apologise for using the same picture for this preview as I did for the 2018 preview, but images of Muangthong’s stadium have proved very difficult to find and this was the best I could do.

 

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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!