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Heart of Glass: The Sandpit Talks to Matt Smith

 

Port face a very difficult trip to high flyers Bangkok Glass this Saturday (5 August, 19:00), so to whet your appetites for one of Thai football’s longest-established Bangkok derbies, we had a chat to Glass’ long-serving Australian defender, and captain, Matt Smith…

 


How has the 2017 season been for you so far?

I feel BG had a good but mixed first leg. I feel the football we have played at times has been positive and attractive and we’ve put in some good performances and controlled games. However, I feel that we have let ourselves down by some sloppy results against the lower positioned teams in the league. For us to develop further we must continue to grow mentally and become more consistent.

I’m very happy with the team and professional manner in which the players have conducted themselves and feel we have a good squad. I’m confident we can take this into the remaining games and finish the season strong.

 

Which other teams have most impressed you this season?

I think the most complete team I’ve played against this season is Buriram. Although we beat them earlier in the season I feel they have a good mix of structure/ approach (both in attack and defence) and individually have some good players that can change games.

 

This is your third season at Glass, which counts as long service in Thai football! What’s kept you at the club for so long?

I guess you’ll have to ask the club… : ) Before I arrived at BG I conducted a lot of research about the club and the league before I decided to leave Brisbane. Supasin (VP) and Ricardo (former coach) flew to Brisbane to watch me play and we spent the next day discussing everything football. At that point the direction and vision that both the coach and the club had excited me and enticed to me to sign. I feel this is important as a player because I believe in working towards something greater and I wanted to align my ambition and character with that of a club with similar mentality.

Since being here my approach and attitude hasn’t changed to what I would desire to achieve here with BG, both individually and more important collectively. Hard work, professionalism and commitment are things I feel are minimal standards for football players.

With all this in mind, I guess I can and cannot control some things. But what I can help control and shape is the direction, professionalism and culture needed for players and the team to progress. I hold high standards of myself and others and believe in the collective progression.

I do not know what will happen in the future and I’m unsure even if I have answered this question, haha! You’ll have to ask the club why I have stayed here for the current time, but while I am here at BG I’m committed to helping develop this club.

 

During your time in Thai football, who’s the best opposition player you’ve faced?

There are some very good local and foreign players that I’ve played against during my time here. For me I look for consistency of quality and players that step up when the challenge is there.

Therefore, the best local player is Messi J. And best foreign player is Diogo.

 

Matt meets The Sandpit’s Tom Earls, refuses to hold Port scarf

 

You’re famously vocal on the pitch, to teammates and opposition players alike. Thai players are notoriously thin-skinned – have any of your colleagues or opponents ever taken offence? Do you shout in English, Thai or both?

Haha, famously vocal… interesting. I guess my football education in England and Australia was culturally very different to Thai football behaviour. I am always very conscious of my actions and behaviour here but to a limit that I don’t change myself as a player too much. I have some fantastic teammates that understand my behaviour both on and off the pitch. I truly respect Thai culture but also want to help create a positive environment of mutual accountability and high standards where all players, young, old, foreign or Thai have the ability and freedom to express themselves.

 

What about other cultural differences – what are the hardest things for foreign players coming to Thailand to adapt to? What advice would you give to foreigners thinking of moving here?

With any move to a new league and club I feel the player should always do his/her homework. Once making the decision to come to Thailand don’t drop your standards and keep pushing to be better and be successful. For any player, the moment you get in your comfort zone is the moment your standards drop.

 

You recently stated that you want to become a coach, possibly here in Asia, once your playing career is over. What’s the first thing you would train Thai defenders to do better?

Yes I do want to become a coach. This is not something new and have been studying it for a long time now.

One of the things I would improve is… I think collectively and generally defending here is a little reactive as a team to many situations. I would like the defensive aspect of my team to think patterns and passes ahead of when they occur. Basically for defenders to make better and faster decisions.

 

Whilst we all love Thai football, it has to be said that it is far from perfect. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the Thai game and what can the authorities do to address them? What one thing from foreign football would you like to see introduced in Thailand? And is there anything about Thai football that would improve the game elsewhere?

There are many things in my opinion that could be improved for Thai football. From the development of grass roots for the future generations to go to a World Cup, or the ground standards across the league(s). All in all football in this country is still developing and we have to understand that this takes time. It is an exciting period because football is taking steps forward and not backwards which is important.

Pinpointing just one… I would like to see a rise in stadium standards. There are some nice playing stadiums in this league like BG, Buriram, Muangthong and Ratchaburi. I understand that it is an expense but something as simple as maintaining a high level playing surface is something that can be achieved in a short period of time. I feel if the surface is of high standard, so will be the standard of play which in turn makes it more exciting for the spectators.

 

Finally, Glass face Port at the Leo Stadium on 5 August. What do you think of Port’s 2017 season so far? Which players will you be keeping a close eye on? What do you think the score will be?

I don’t keep an eye on Port… ; ) After gaining promotion last season I expected them to be in the top half of the league. With the squad they have they should be finishing in the top 10. They have some good players and the next game between our two teams will no doubt be an entertaining game.

Of course I am for a home win. BG 2-0!

 


Many thanks to Matt for taking the time to answer our questions! The Sandpit wishes you & Bangkok Glass the best of luck for the rest of the season – apart from on 5 August of course, when we hope you’ll continue not keeping an eye on Port…

 

Pravinwhat? Port Move Quickly To Replace Hansson

 

Port have moved quickly to replace departed youngster Niran Hansson, bringing in 27 year old Thai centre back Pravinwat Boonyong on a six month loan deal from Bangkok Glass. As was painfully clear in Wednesday’s friendly Port are short of numbers at the back, but management have acted quickly and decisively, bringing in a player who has represented the National Team as recently as March, when he was called up for the double header against Saudi Arabia and Japan.

Whilst Pravinwat has only ever been a peripheral figure in the national team squad, his signing must be seen as a coup for Port, who had temporarily put themselves in a tricky situation by releasing Hansson. Pravinwat has played 65 games for Bangkok Glass over the last few years, and at the beginning of the season started 6 of the first 8 games. He fell out of favour though, being replaced by Japanese powerhouse Jurato Ikeda, and has spent most of the rest of the first leg on the bench.

Assuming that Port’s first-choice duo Rochela and Dolah stay fit, it seems most likely that Pravinwat will be spending time on the Port bench, too, although he will almost certainly be the man to replace either should suspension or injury strike. We know how Jadet likes experience, and Pravinwat certainly isn’t lacking in that department.

At 1m79 (5ft10) Pravinwat isn’t particularly tall for a centre back, but his stocky build and strong upper body make him a match for most T1 strikers in physical battles. He has also been a back-up penalty taker for Bangkok Glass and the National Team, although in the few games I’ve seen him play, he certainly wouldn’t be my choice. Let’s just say he’s more Tony Adams than Gerard Pique when it comes to bringing the ball out from the back!

Welcome to PAT Stadium, Pravinwat!

 

Port Shafted by Rampant Rabbits: Port FC 0-3 Bangkok Glass FC

 

The start of the game saw Port lining up in an orthodox 4-4-2. It was a relatively bright start for Port with Pakorn (9) enjoying a lot of space down the right side of the pitch in the early knockings. The first chance fell to Port after Pakorn whipped a ball into the box and the Glass defence failed to clear effectively. Genki was the eventual recipient, narrowly curling the ball over the top right corner.

A few minutes later came more joy on the right, with an overhit cross finding the head of Genki at the back post but he couldn’t keep his header down. It was clear that the Port objective was to get as many balls into the box as possible and pray that one will eventually land on the head of Josimar. Big J showed early on that he would be a threat in the air, winning the majority of aerial battles from goal kicks when targeted.

 

Pre-match optimism was sadly short-lived (Tim Russell)

 

There was an exciting period of play just after the half hour mark with Port advancing methodically up the pitch, accumulating in a divine chipped through ball into the box. It was just a same the recipient, Meechok (20), got caught in a Theresa May-style condundrum (don’t mention that woman’s name on this site! Ed), unsure of whether to elect to shoot or cross… after changing his mind what appeared to be exactly 72 times in the 1 second he had to react, he decided to gently knock the ball into the willing arms of the Glass keeper. The Glass keeper then launched the ball forward to an open Glass striker who had half of the pitch and the Port keeper between him and the goal. Worawut produced an inspired save after narrowing down the angle quickly.

From the resulting corner we got a preview of how Glass would break the deadlock after multiple Port clearances failed to get out of their own box. It took the experienced, calm head of the ever-present Rochela to finally clear the ball away.

A few minutes later Rochela put in a last ditch challenge to prevent a possible Glass scoring opportunity. The corner that followed can only be described as comical.. truly comical. No word of a lie…I think every Port player touched the ball at some point in a pinball-like sequence which eventually lead to an opportunistic Glass attacker volleying home in emphatic fashion. An inability to clear the ball was once again Port’s downfall. #IfInDangerDoALongRanger

Just before the break Port had a free kick about 25 yards out to the left hand side of the goal. The ball was struck well with a solid technique, swirling up and over the wall and just evading the bottom left post.

HT – Beer, Popcorn, Meat on a Stick (can’t be specific on what meat…so we will leave it at meat.)

Josi’s new striking partner (Joe Kheng)

The second half started with pure drama, waking the crowd up from their half time food comas. A dog invaded the pitch, and started a Benny Hill-style scene of calamitous security work, who failed to stop this evasive dog. It’s a shame the Port strikers didn’t have the same agility when making their forward runs this evening.

Back to the game…

Just after the hour mark Port were presented with a golden opportunity to level the score. After some nifty work by Tana (99) on the left wing, the ball was drilled low and hard across the face of goal. The whole of the A stand gasped in amazement when Suarez (5) managed to make contact with the cross but not direct it goalwards, with his effort fizzing out for a throw in. Chances like this have to be converted in the future if Port want to continue their bid for survival. This would have completely changed the complexion of the game, as Port really were on top at this point.

Glass then shamefully started with the common Thai timewasting tactics. A Glass player went down clasping his head after a collision with his own teammate and it took the magic sponge, spray, cold compress and a ride on a stretcher before he was finally able to stand up. Thankfully the injury gods were kind to him and he managed to play the rest of the game seemingly unharmed. Hallelujah. A fantastic tribute to Jesus this close to Easter, majestically rising from what looked like certain death.

Big J Unit then started getting into the game a bit more, first finding space in the box and heading wide. Then latching onto the end of a chipped through ball, powering his way between the Glass centre backs, who just did enough to put him off as his shot was toed into the grateful arms of the keeper. Either side of him and with a bit more power and it would have been a goal…but I guess that logic could apply to any shot!

 

The sun sets on Port’s hopes of a win (Tim Russell)

 

From here Port continued to pour men forward and persisted with filling the box with crosses. This looked like it would eventually pay dividends, but unfortunately in the 75th minute the game was out of reach. Glass executed the perfect RCA (Rapid Counter Attack) and Rochela was left wrong footed, bamboozled by a dazzling Ronaldo chop, before the Glass striker stroked the ball into the bottom left corner passed the outstretched arm of the keeper.

There wasn’t to be a Plan B for Port and balls continued to fly into the box with the hope of being met by J Unit’s head. It isn’t the worst idea in the world, but the crosses lacked quality and accuracy, often easily cleared or collected by the keeper.

Glass scored again. I will be completely honest, I didn’t see the goal. But I’m pretty confident in saying it was from a counter attack.

 

Tim’s Man of the Match

Not too many contenders for the MOTM award this week. Siwakorn was his usual all-action self, including the usual booking (which rules him out of Sunday’s trip to Sukhothai); and Josimar worked hard up front but was left feeding off scraps most of the time. The dog put in a fine second half cameo performance but lacked the stamina to have a significant impact on the game.

 

Port’s DOTM enjoying a post-match treat (Tim Russell)

 

So this week’s MOTM award goes to supersub Tana, a player of whom I am not normally a fan, who came on around the hour mark and almost changed the game by bringing a welcome burst of energy and creativity down Port’s left. Had Suarez made more of an effort to get to his excellent 65th minute cross, it would have been 1-1 with the momentum in Port’s favour. When we met Josimar on Monday he told us that Tana sees himself more of a left-winger, and whilst we scoffed, last night’s performance suggested he may have a future there after all.

 

Breaking Glass: Port FC vs. Bangkok Glass, 19 April 2017

 

Port will aim to continue their unbeaten run at home when they entertain Bangkok Glass on Wednesday. With Port flying high after a hard-fought draw with Buriram, a solid win against Ubon and then last week’s astonishing away victory at table-topping Chiang Rai, Port Coach Jadet will likely be trying to manage expectations both from his players and the fans. In-form striker Josimar told The Sandpit (interview coming later in the week!) that he and his teammates thrive when they are the David to their opponent’s Goliath, so despite the positive results and the surprising points total, expect a battling underdog’s performance from Port. It’s worked pretty well in the last few games, so let’s hope for more of the same!

 

Bangkok Glass

Players to Watch

 

There are only a handful of defenders as good as Port captain Rochela (22) in T1, and one of them is 34 year old Bangkok Glass captain Matt Smith (4). He’s strong, good in the air, reads the game well and never shuts up. Constantly organizing his back four and driving his team on, Smith is an invaluable asset to the Glass Rabbits. In what is set to be a key match-up, he will be tasked with keeping Josimar (30) quiet on Wednesday. With Josimar having scored 2 in this last 2 outings, Smith will need to use all of his experience to stop the Brazilian.

Ariel Rodriguez (7) is a speedy forward who has scored 22 goals in 31 games since signing for Glass in 2016. The diminutive forward won’t be winning much in the air, but his darting runs in behind will stretch the Port defence, who will have to be constantly vigilant in order to keep track of him. Ominously, the Costa Rican international has 4 goals to his name already this season. Port will have to be on top of their game to contain him.

Sarawut Masuk (14) may have been preferred to Jakkapan Pornsai (10) lately in Thai National Team squads, but I think Jakkapan is an absolute nightmare to deal with when he’s on his game. When he played for Suphanburi in 2015 he scored 13 goals and provided 14 assists, putting him in the TPL team of the season. He possesses a cultured right foot and has the ability to pass, cross or shoot with real quality from anywhere in the final third. Think of him as the opposition’s Pakorn, only a bit more consistent!

 

Matt Smith, Ariel Rodriguez and Jakkapan Pornsai

 

Form

The Glass Rabbits have been hopping all over the place so far this season as far as their form is concerned. A crushing 0-4 home defeat against Muangthong on the opening day of the season was followed up by a disappointing 0-0 away draw at Super Power, who picked up their only point so far this season against Glass. Glass finally got off the mark at home in their third game, and made up for lost time by putting 6 past an admittedly awful Sisaket side. Impressive 3-2 home wins against Ratchaburi and Bangkok Utd sandwiched a 1-1 way draw at Suphanburi, after which Glass claimed an incredible third 3-2 win in four games to take all three points away at Navy. Just as they looked to be building up a head of steam at Leo Stadium, Glass suffered probably their worst result of the season so far, slumping to a 0-1 defeat at home to Thai Honda last week.

All I can say about Glass’ form is that it’s unpredictable! They’re unbeaten away from home, although they have played three teams in the bottom half, and they’ve had a huge win, a huge loss and a few dramatic 3-2s at home. Compared to the legitimately scary mob from up North who Port turned over last week, there’s certainly less to fear from Glass, although they are still a quality side who will be expected to be in the top 5 or 6 come the business end of the season.

 

Port FC

Starting XI – Getting Predictable

 

Jadet seems to have found a formula he likes, and the Port lineups are getting quite a bit easier to predict!

In goal will be Worawut (36) who – if he keeps up the heroic penalty-saving goalkeeping performances – could well make it difficult for Rattanai (17) to come back in to the team once he returns to fitness. A nice problem to have!

At the back there could well be a change, but only because of injury concerns. Panpanpong (19) picked up a knock and had to be substituted after the poor challenge that gifted Chiang Rai the penalty last week, and Jadet chose to bring on Meechok (20) at right back, shifting Nitipong (34) over to the left. If Panpanpong is fit I expect him to start, but if not then we will probably see Meechok and Nitipong again.

Rochela (22) and Dolah (4) seem set to continue at the back, although if Todsapol (6) has returned to full fitness, he could well be preferred to Dolah. Against a team who likes to play the ball on the floor and utilize the pace and trickery of Rodriguez up front, it may be wise to choose pace over power, but again it all depends on Todsapol’s fitness.

Midfield and attack now look to be very settled. After I called for Pakorn (9) to either be given a good talking to or dropped last week, he stepped up and won our Man of the Match award for a vastly improved display against Chiang Rai. It seems almost certain that Genki (18), Adisorn (13), Siwakorn (16), and Suarez (5) will join him in midfield, with a confident Josimar (30) leading the line after scoring twice in his last two games.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 

Key Battle

Josimar vs. Matt Smith

 

 

I expect a lot of important duels to be going on all over the pitch between two quite well-matched sides, but the most intriguing one for me is Josimar vs. Smith. At 34 years old Smith, despite his experience, isn’t at the peak of his powers, whereas in-form Josimar looks like a real handful. Can Josimar make it three goal-scoring games in a row or will Smith keep the Brazilian under wraps?

 

The match will be shown live on True Sport HD 3 at 18:00 on Wednesday 19 April, 2017