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My All-Time Port XI: Andy Hailstone

 

Having won the F.A. Cup last season, and with no football happening right now, it seemed a good opportunity to take stock of my Port watching experiences dating back to the last F.A. Cup win in 2009 and come up with the best combined team that I have seen over those years and later inevitably the worst combined team too.

Some of this took a great deal of effort and painful recollection, and numerous re-jigs and re-writes as a better or worse player either lit up or plopped into my consciousness. If you know me and my endless incoherent ramblings, you may be expecting the best team to consist of only one player, namely; Moudourou Moise! And yes, I would be interested to see how a team of Moises may function in each position, for example; Moise passes out from the back into midfield where Moise nonchalantly collects it and loops a diagonal ball up front, where Moise controls it effortlessly on his muscular chest and hammers it home, that makes it 5-0, with Moise getting all of them. But, spoiler alert, he is in the team but there are 10 lesser mortals with him too, and also the team could almost be called balanced too.

As all the best teams line up in a traditional 4-4-2 formation, this is what I have gone for. The team includes only players I have watched play and was impressed by, and would obviously be unbeatable.

So, here goes-

GK – Chanin Sae-ear

2014
35 appearances

 

 

We got him on loan from Chonburi and he really truly seemed like a real goalkeeper, you know one that did things like saving the ball, catching, kicking, not looking like a 12-year-old, didn’t have a chronic inner ear infection leading him to repeatedly fall over for no apparent reason, or being made out of balsawood. He did really well for us and was a pleasure to watch, I would really have loved to have seen him sign with us permanently but sadly the evil that is Chainat signed him up permanently instead and we have had a series of unsatisfactory keepers ever since, I would have him back between the sticks in a heartbeat. The other choice could have been Ulrich Munze but his antics playing for Esan United against us in 2013 rather soured the memory of him, despite me meeting him at an away game and him being a nice guy.

RB – Nitipong Selanon

2016-present
108 appearances, 4 goals

 

 

It took me a while to decide that actually we have never had anyone as good as Nitipong at right-back, I kept thinking of other players but no, they have failed to fly at Nitipong’s rarified heights. Many haven’t been close to rivalling all the things that Nitipong does so well and so energetically, I was reminded of the Prakasit era, but he for some reason always reminded me of a poor man’s Gary Neville, tidy and sensible yet unspectacular but with a nice side parting and a teenage boy’s attempt at facial hair, Seeket’s loan period was good, and he was decent enough but didn’t stay very long. So, it would seem that Nitipong rules and is probably one of the most valuable players we have and he is so ridiculously consistent, and being consistently good is a pretty good thing to be.

CB – Moudourdou Moise

2009-10
58 appearances, 4 goals

 

A Port FC legend. and Moise.

 

In my head he had at least 1,000 appearances and almost an equal amount of goals, and I still think he could probably do a job for us now, despite the genuinely competent array of centre backs we have now (excluding Tanaboon) who are pretty darn good, it would be great to see him on the bench as a powerhouse option. I have spoken to some fellow Port fans who claim that they saw Moise make mistakes in games and that maybe he wasn’t as amazing as I claim, but remember they’re nothing but god-damn liars. LIARS, I tell you!

CB – David Rochela

2015-present
86 appearances, 17 goals

 

 

I will be honest I have had periods where I didn’t think much of Rochela, his languid style didn’t always wash with me and I know many Port fans have championed him throughout his time with us, but now he has really grown on me over time, much like mold. Taking penalties always helps a player’s goal scoring record but he always seems the epitome of calm and poise and that bizarre shunting him out the squad last year to make way for Tanaboom, only makes me realize just how good he is for us. Him and Dolah or Todsapol are a good pairing and one that on the whole inspires confidence. Much more than any of his predecessors and for this reason he’s in the best 11.

LB – Kevin Deeromram

2018-present
50 appearances, 5 goals

 

 

I realise that I have both our present fullbacks in the best 11 and that may seem like I can’t actually remember anything beyond what I have just seen, but I do genuinely think that Kevin is one of the best players we have had in this position, it seems to me all parts of his game tick boxes for me, and as far as I can remember only two other left backs really stick in my mind; Ittipol and Pongpipat, who were (in my opinion) god awful, I mean like really awful, totally awful, like the worst awful you can imagine. There was a left back we signed in 2012 who played into the 2013 season called Narongrit, who I rated, but he doesn’t hold a candle to young Kev!

RM – Ekkapoom Potharungroj

2010-11, 2015-7
78 appearances, 10 goals

 

 

This spot could have easily gone to any of Ekkapoom, Ekkachai or Sarawut. Ekkachai misses out due to his success at Buriram and tragically I am a sad bitter little man. Sarawut misses partly because I couldn’t find anything about him on the internet and so think maybe I imagined him and partly because despite his best efforts (which I may have imagained) I remember many promising situations falling apart as he seemed to always fall over running to the byline (seemingly from exhaustion) while failing to put in a good enough cross, he also (possibly) often played as a (unconvincing) makeshift striker too. But on to Ekkapoom who regularly excited fans with his effort and commitment and maybe skill too, at times. His second spell with us wasn’t quite as good as his first, when he deserted us for Muangthong, but then had the decency to score an own goal for his in a 4-1 defeat at their place, which was sadly marred by their fans throwing objects down on the port fans, leaving the less violent contingent of fans to watch the remainder of the match in the area next to the stands, while other fans attempted to get up to where the Muangthong medieval-esque defenders of the stadium were located. Still a good player though.

CM – Kiatjaroen Ruangparn

2005-16
104 appearances, 10 goals

 

 

A player of great longevity for us, even if he did seem to be on the verge of leaving us on several occasions. In fact, there was one rumour (I think) at one point during the Big Ben ownership debacle that stated it was the actual Port Authorities that employed him, not the club. Which created amusing images for me of him in a shirt and tie, doing some photocopying, making some coffee, doing a bit of filing while wearing his footie shorts and boots just waiting for training to start. He is and was one of the few players I have ever considered getting his name and number on a shirt. Such was his class and ability, he was rarely outfought, always seemed to be in the right place at the right time to do the right thing. And doing so while also having to contend with needing to cover for the whichever of the contractually required South Koreans that we had “filling” the space next to him in midfield at that time. A club Legend for me.

CM-Siwakorn Jakkuprasat

2011-12, 2015-present
123 appearances, 13 goals

 

 

 

A player who over time I have come to appreciate, like broccoli and cauliflower. He started off, seeming to be the one of angriest of players we had and seemed to be perpetually on the verge of launching a mindlessly silly or leg-breaking challenge despite only appearing to weigh 6 stones. Thankfully he has grown up and blossomed in a fantastic player who is creative and really makes our play tick with his intelligent passing. He really is one of the more important players in the team and has now mastered how to tackle without it being a guaranteed yellow. If he could stamp out his perchance for trying to referee the game, I could fully embrace him as much as Peter does. We can overlook his time at Muang Thong as forgivable, as didn’t really do much there (if I remember correctly), due to what he now does for us game in game out.

LM – Steven Robb

2011-3
49 appearances, 5 goals

 

 

Robb is a very interesting case, he was a true western player, schooled in the arts of how westerners play football and for that reason was both a breath of fresh air for our team but was also a tragic wasted opportunity. I can’t remember the number of games that I watched where he was either in acres of space waiting for the ball to be switched to him only then not receive it, much to his clear and obvious frustration. Or he would play an intelligent raking diagonal ball to space only for the player to totally misread the ball and not be anywhere near it, making Robb just look odd. I remember one game (T.O.T. away) especially where he had Mongkol as the left back and the level of frustration was clear as Mongkol, instead of playing the ball forward or out wide to Robb, would continually turn back inside and play a short ball to the centre midfielders, it’s amazing really that Robb played as often as he did as he really didn’t seem to fit in with how we played at all. He was also a really nice guy who I chatted with on at least three separate occasions (yes, at least three, quite the name dropper aren’t I) and the insights he offered up about Thai football were either breathtaking, bizarre, shocking or deeply depressing. What he told me about the finances was chillingly alarming. It would have been great if it had worked out better for him, and there are probably other choices for his spot, he will always be a legend for Port for me.

FW – Leandro de Oliveira da Luz

2013-4
36 appearances, 34 goals

 

Four more Port legends

 

Here is a player that I have both been thrilled and excited by but also annoyed and despairing about often, on occasion, at the same time. His ability made him a justifiable hero to the Port fans and the things he did on the pitch were extraordinary and routinely unroutine-like. It was a pleasure to watch him score amazing goals which defied belief in games that mattered. But it was also his ability to wind up opposition players with a dexterity and skill few could match. When Leandro played against us in 2016 for PTT Rayong, and was up against our then Brazilian dabbler of the dark arts; Cunha, it was like watching a chess match between two grand masters as to see who would be superior and be able to roll over more times after feigning an injury from a nothing tackle, or who could remonstrate with the ref more vigorously over an imaginary elbow to the head. And despite his not playing for us I felt he outclassed Cunha in his ability to rile up the opposition (us) and make Cunha lose focus. I think it is fair to say that clearly Cunha would have killed him if he had been able to really get hold of him, but that only made Leanadro’s effort more impressive.

FW – Rodrigo Maranhao

2016-17 (sort of)
31 appearances, 10 goals

 

 

This one may be a strange choice due to all the other amazing foreign or Thai strikers we have had over the years, like …………….. erm ……………. errrrr ……………. you know …………. er what was his name again? …………. erm. Mmmmmmm maybe not so strange after all, I genuinely thought he was a quality, underutilized and underused player for us, and he was really exciting to watch. I also think he was very cruelly treated and utterly disrespected which also helped to show what utterly shambolic recruitment strategies we have for planning a coherent team. Again, how many times have we seen worse players come in late in a transfer window (possibly on a whim) only for the better players we already have to then be shunted out the team, and often out the registered playing squad while bizarrely still be contracted to the team with just the potential of cup games dangled in front of them as if that somehow makes things ok. We let go a really talented striker who I think would have done great things for, but mismanagement and interference meant we never saw the best of Rodrigo.

 

Thanks Andy! Want to tell us your favourite Port XI? Email us!

 

Ratt-sody in Blue

 

Kawin, Sinthaweechai, Chanin and Rattanai

 

Sport MThai have reported that Thai National Team Coach Zico’s appearance at PAT Stadium on Saturday was not just to get a closer look at new Port signing Elias Dolah, but also our exciting young goalkeeper Rattanai Songsangchan.

As The Sandpit wrote about in early January, Dolah has been on Zico’s radar ever since he made the switch to Khlong Toei. His height makes him a potentially great asset to the diminutive Thai National Team, and the change to playing 3 centre backs would seem to create space in the squad for the big Thai-Swede.

Rattanai, however, has not been tipped to make the step up to full international level until now. Indeed, until Port’s starting XI to face Ratchaburi was announced on Saturday, many thought that Rattanai wouldn’t even be Port’s first choice ‘keeper this season. They should have known better! The 21 year old stopper was given his debut last July in the 2-1 League Cup victory against BEC Tero, and impressed so much in the Cup competitions that by September he was already being selected for crunch games against Muangthong Utd in the League Cup semi-final and promotion rivals Ubon UMT in the league.

It’s his lightning reactions that are the most obvious sign that he is a seriously talented ‘keeper, but Rattanai has also looked comfortable collecting crosses; often preferring to catch the ball rather than punch, which is unusual and refreshing in the modern game.

Arguably, the only weakness in Rattanai’s game last season was his distribution. He looked nervous with the ball at his feet, and often seemed to avoid kicking it long wherever possible. In the off-season, though, he trained with the National Team Under 23’s and appears to have worked particularly hard on that aspect of his game. Against Ratchaburi on Saturday, Rattanai picked out a few nice long passes with his left foot, and kept Port on level terms early in the second half with a crucial point blank save from Alharbi El Jadeyaoui. There was one slightly worrying moment when he waited for what seemed an age for the ball to roll in to the area before smothering the danger, but he had judged that he had enough time, and was proved right.

It’s not just Rattanai’s performances which have endeared him to the PAT faithful though, but his personality too. He is a down-to-earth youngster who can often be found eating Isaan food at a local Khlong Toei restaurant with his family and girlfriend after the game. Before his ascent to the first team, Rattanai would come and go with quiet anonymity, but after some of his heroic performances he was entering to the sound of applause, and having to deal with all sorts of star-struck lunatics and their photo requests!

 

 

On the pitch, too, Rattanai has increasingly found his voice and began to express himself more. He seems to be communicating well with his defenders, and isn’t afraid to tell them when he isn’t happy. As the photo below beautifully illustrates, he celebrated as passionately as the fans on the terraces when Port scored their injury-time equalizer on Saturday. That’s what we like to see!

 

 

So what are Rattanai’s chances of making the step up to international level? The 3 goalkeepers named by Zico in the last several squads have been Kawin Thamsatchanan, Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool and Chanin Sae-ear. 27 year old Kawin – not just the best goalkeeper in Thailand but quite possibly in Asia – is not going to be dislodged in the foreseeable future. His understudy Sinthaweechai, however, will be celebrating his 35th birthday when Thailand face Saudi Arabia on March 23rd. After making 83 appearances in the last 14 years for Thailand, the Suphanburi stopper’s international career can’t go on forever, and when it does come to an end Rattanai should surely be one of the names in the frame to replace him in the squad. With Kawin expected to continue as Thailand’s number 1 for many years to come, it makes sense for Zico to look to the future and pick players who could one day be Kawin’s successor.

Expect to see Chonburi’s 24 year old Chanin, 21 year old Rattanai, and a host of other young ‘keepers vying for places in the squad in the coming years. If he continues to develop the way he has done in his first year at Port, we’re backing Rattanai to earn his chance at international level. He may have to wait a while, but time is on his side.