,

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!

 

,

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.

 

,

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!

 

,

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!

 

,

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! 
,

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.