Posts

Shark Week! Chonburi FC vs Port FC Match Preview

 

One of Thai football’s oldest – and friendliest – rivalries resumes this Wednesday as Port travel down the coast to play Chonburi. With both teams somewhat unexpectedly sunning themselves on the upper slopes of T1, it should be a hard fought game between two sides whose original ambitions have been somewhat revised in the light of very encouraging starts to the season. Port will be playing to hold onto their 5th place, or even move up into 4th; Chonburi will be aiming to leapfrog them into the top 6.

After two poor away performances Port have won twice on the road – including THAT win at Chiang Rai – and are starting to play like a team who believe they belong in the top 6. They’ll need to show all that confidence in what is likely to be a tough test.

With both teams scoring – and conceding – plenty of goals in their first 11 games, entertainment is most definitely on the cards, though given Chonburi’s dwindling home crowds, and the difficulty for Port fans of getting there & back on a Wednesday night, there may not be a huge crowd there to see it. However, the Sandpit will be there so look out for a dozen or so farangs piling out of two minivans and come & have a beer with us!

Port Lineup

Imagine The Smiths without Morrissey. Or Fawlty Towers without John Cleese. Or a bacon sarnie without the bacon. That will give you an idea of the prospect we Port fans are facing on Wednesday because – and you may want to sit down when you read this bit – David Rochela will not be playing. The captain – a pretty much permanent fixture in the Port starting XI since he joined from Buriram in June 2015 – picked up a ridiculous yellow card against Police Tero on Sunday, and as it was his 4th of the season, he’s suspended for one game. Ohhhh the humanity.

The Sandpit’s sources at the club (yes, we do have sources, and not just the ones we put on our pre-match chips) suggest that young Thai-Swede Niran Hansson will be called on to replace Rochela and make his first competitive start for Port alongside his compatriot and best mate Elias Dolah. Niran looked very impressive in the one friendly appearance he’s made so far and his pace would be very useful in dealing with Chonburi’s livewire striker Renan Marques (9 goals already this season), though there is still a nagging feeling that the somewhat conservative Jadet may go for the more experienced Anisong.

 

Will young Niran finally make his Port debut on Wednesday?

 

Elsewhere, Elsie Tana is also suspended, and whilst he had one of his better games against Police, in a game like this, where Port will likely be doing more defending, it will be reassuring to see Genki take his place. Tana’s attitude towards tracking back is rather like my own towards doing the washing up – I’m aware of the basic concept, but I certainly don’t intend to get involved in it & would rather leave it for others – whereas Genki’s balls-out (not literally, I hasten to add) energetic wing play would make Port a lot more resilient.

 

Elsie Tana celebrates Sunday’s win with Jadet

 

Reliable LB Pinpanpong Pinkong Pingpong was stretchered off against Police so if he is unfit to play tomorrow, expect Nitipong to switch to LB and Meechok to come in at RB.

Otherwise I expect the lineup to remain the same, with Siwakorn and Adisorn harrassing Chonburi’s midfield like a pair of Jack Russell (no relation) terriers, Suarez hopefully playing like he did on Sunday, and Josimar continuing his run of 5 goals in his last 5 games.

 

 

The Opposition

For a look at Chonburi FC, who better than the legendary Dale Farrington, founder of one of the original English-language Thai football sites? Take it away Dale!

Chonburi v Port or Port Authority of Thailand or Thai Port or Singhtarua or any variation on the above, will always be a fixture that resonates with older Chonburi fans, as this was our first ever game in the top flight, way back in 2006. Much has changed for both clubs since that historic occasion – which was then a local derby and cost B30 to get in – and, even though Wednesday’s match isn’t as eagerly as anticipated as our TPL debut all those years ago, there’s still plenty surrounding it to pique our interest. Most notably, the return of our most successful head coach.

The current Port boss, Jadet Meelarp, has had three spells in charge of the Sharks (and would anybody rule out another return at some point in the future?) during which he delivered the League title (2007), the FA Cup (2010) and the Kor Royal Cup (2008). He also led us to a second place TPL finish in 2008. “Sir Ded” is still very highly regarded by the local fans and will receive a tremendous welcome when he takes his seat in the dugout, or his standing position in the technical area – I’m not really sure which he favours these days – before kick off (Ded is definitely a dugout guy these days and leaves the touchline stuff to others – Ed).

On the flip side of the coin, the home team’s ranks will probably include two former Port favourites – Chonburi loanees, goalkeeper Chanin Sae-Ear and midfielder Kroerkrit Taweekarn – both of whom are still very fondly remembered at their old club. However, as regular readers of my website or my Twitter account will know, I’m not a fan of either of them, and would gladly drive them back to Klong Toey myself, at the earliest opportunity – I wouldn’t even charge them for petrol. The former is too small to be a keeper and is prone to making silly mistakes – his distribution is generally terrible too. Whilst the latter has to rank as one of the most over rated footballers I have ever seen in over fifty years of following the sport. He offers nothing to the team – other than a pretty face for the girls to scream at/squeal over – and how he is an established Thailand international will remain a mystery to me as long as I live – hopefully another fifty years! You can guarantee that I will be paying particular attention to both their performances (if selected) tomorrow night.

Whilst history is most certainly on our side – since that opening day 3-1 defeat over a decade ago, Chonburi have won six and drawn two of the eight subsequent meetings – this match isn’t easy to call. Both teams have had an erratic start to the 2017 campaign and it would take a brave pundit to forecast Wednesday’s result. However, the two sides go into the match on the back of impressive weekend victories, which should see the Sharks and the Lions (who are currently sitting 5th) brimming with confidence. In fact, I’m reminded of Alan Partridge holding a hot apple pie and threatening to squeeze it when confronted by a rival; “A jet of molten Bramley apple will squirt out. Could go your way; could go mine. Either way, one of us is going down”. 0-0 draw, anyone?

On a final note, I will be keeping a close eye on the attendance at this game. Our crowds have dropped alarmingly in recent weeks and the club appears unwilling or unable to address the slide. There was a token effort at the last home match, with tickets being issued to a group of about 25 schoolchildren, but this isn’t enough. Traditionally, Port don’t bring that many fans, and midweek turnouts are generally low, so the onus is on the Chonburi management to try and fill the home stands. I wonder what they’re doing to put things right? No. Don’t bother trying to answer that. I know exactly what they’re (not) doing! Another sub 3,000 turnout will be an embarrassment – it looks particularly cringeworthy on  TV – and it will now be very hard to attract those stay away supporters back to Chonburi Stadium. Worrying times indeed.

 

Matchday programme from the first ever top-flight meeting between Chonburi & Port in 2006

 

 

Crystal Balls 2017: Chonburi FC

 

The Sandpit will soon be publishing an in-depth preview of Port FC’s 2017 season. In the meantime, we asked fans of other T1 clubs to share their thoughts and predictions for the new season, and we begin with Chonburi FC fan Dale Farrington, the brains behind Chonburi’s English language fan website.

 

How will your team fare in 2017?

Hard to say. We offloaded most (all!) of our influential players from last season, and are left with a paper thin squad, made up of youngsters and players who are well past their prime. As things stand, I’d settle for a top ten finish.

Who is your most exciting new signing?

None of our new signings particularly excite me. Renan Marques could prove to be the best of a bad bunch.

Which departed 2016 players will you miss the most?

How long have you got?! Adul, Leandro, dos Santos, Jong Pil all went. They were the first four names on most fans’ “to keep” list at the end of last season. That tells you a lot about our club’s current (lack of) ambition.

What changes would you like to see at your club?

Being allowed to eat and drink inside the ground would be a start. Other than, for the current owners to sell up and let someone else have a go.

Which teams will finish at the top of T1?

In no particular order:
Muang Thong Utd (Boooooo! Ed)
Bangkok Utd
Buriram Utd

Which teams will go down to T2?

Osotspa (Super Power)
Tero if they move to Udon (that would amuse me)
and – hopefully – P*ttaya U*d

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2017?

None. I’m dreading it!
But, if pushed, I always enjoy Ratchaburi and Sukhothai away. Plus I’m looking forward to visiting any grounds I haven’t been to before.

Finally, if you could change one thing about Thai football, what would it be?

I’d leave it exactly as it is. If it wasn’t for all the off field shenanigans, we’d only be left with the football – and that’s nowhere near entertaining enough to sustain interest.

 

End of Term Report: Jadet Meelarp

After a great start to the season Port faltered. The early form was built on very good individual performances saving a disjointed team. Coming up to mid-season Port stuttered throwing away a two goal lead at Bangkok F.C. and losing to Prachuap at home. The 2016 season that was meant to be a procession turned into a promotion battle. Another old shark Masahiro Wada, did a fair job at the end of last year nearly saving Port. He just wasn’t able to gel a squad of very good individual players together.

 

The Jadet Meelarp appointment wasn’t met with much approval, most fans wanted to see our old coach Dusit tempted away from a mid-table Prajuap F.C. Jadet’s poor record at PTT didn’t inspire any confidence. The 2016 PTT team picked up a bit after Jadet left, only to slip back with a criminally poor run at the end of their season. Suggesting he might have been managing to hold a poor team together.

 

The new manager effect helped out Jadet he came in with a couple of good wins. Then away to a strong Thai Honda team Jadet had fans shaking their heads when our Japanese winger was played in defence. The schoolboy error had no real logic to it, Gengki isn’t that good even playing where he should be. Out of position he was all over the place. Port lost, Thai Honda and Ubon UMT started to cement the top two spots and things looked difficult for Port.

 

After this hiccup Jadet took a bit more control and with a couple more wins, we were back on track. Port were playing a less disjointed game but still fighting for promotion. Misfiring Thiago wasn’t happy and attacking midfielder Pakorn often Port’s saviour with winning free kicks was intent on never passing the ball after he made 5 yards. The height of Pakorn’s arrogance and poor temper came when he booted the ball into Zone A in reaction to getting subbed. This tantrum lost possession for Port. Jadet came out in the press saying he needed to stop throwing his toys out of the pram if he wanted to stay in the team. Fair comment and he seemed to calm down the situation.

 

One reason to expect good things from Jadet was his history of managing Thiago, but he was used to Thiago 2015. However the new model 2016 Thiago expected to get played even without the goals. Thiago probably ended up doing the best thing he could do, helping his old friend Jadet by walking out the broken door. Was this a masterstroke from Jadet? I doubt it. I think it was probably just a result of Thiago threatening to leave, and Jadet not caving in to his demands to start every game. This exit gave us the chance to bring back another foreign player. The replacement was a holding midfielder Wagner. He added a bit of back bone to the team and rescued a bit of team spirit. Wagner was exactly the player Port needed. Why we got rid of him mid-season no one knows.

 

Jadet binned off the FA Cup Game against Sukothai playing a team of subs. I never like seeing this, but it did pay off. The next game saw Port win 2-1 home against a recently promoted Ubon UMT team. This left Port only needing one point from the last two games. Jadet has a record he can be happy with. It wasn’t his team but he came in and did a decent job.

 

Jadet has just been confirmed as Port’s new coach for 2017. Will he get to build a team? I doubt it. Madam Pang’s management group will probably search out a group of marquee names again, rather than building a team. Under the new Madam Pang regime, I’m not sure the Coach has that much control over who they bring in. And most coaches aren’t normally around long enough to find out how to put a team together. I think he’s a fair choice for 2017. We are better off with someone who is used to the set up under Pang. He will have to make it to Songkran next year to equal the longest serving manager of the Pang era, Masahiro Wada’s lengthy ten month spell. I’m interested to see if Chonburi have a new coach down the line. Considering Port’s hiring policy maybe Therdsak will come along to replace Jadet in 2018.

Farewell Thiago Cunha

When Thiago Cunha was announced as Port’s first new signing for 2016 hopes were high. Despite all the annoying play acting everyone saw this as a big name, and maybe a sign of more big TPL players to come. Thiago always a threat, even at 31 years old he could get 19 or 20 goals a season in the TPL. Surely he would get a hatful in Division 1? We sat around and tried to work out exactly how many goals he would get. 20 in the TPL equals 30 in Division 1? Seems about right maybe even 40? What’s the Division 1 goal scoring record again? That’s bound to go.

Early on in the season you give a striker with his background a bit of leeway, so a slow start wasn’t a massive problem. Unfortunately early on we saw the first of many stretchered trips Thiago would take to the sideline. We slowly realised this was not likely to be a record breaking year. I kept my misguided faith in him longer than most. I still thought he was worth a starting place up to about 10 games in. After a long goal drought it was more hope than expectation. In Thiago’s favour I don’t think he was 100% fit from the start. Port thought they were getting a bargain and Thiago probably thought he could get away with playing at 80% fit in Division 1, his leg injury seemed to be a constant problem. Chonburi you can consider yourself very lucky you didn’t get to see Thiago version 2016.

When you’re not scoring goals you overthink things. Thiago took an extra touch when previously he would have just hit balls first time. He missed goals he could’ve scored blindfolded in 2015. This saw him sidelined more and more as the season went on. Was there some light at the end of the tunnel? When he chipped the Maungthong keeper to put Port 1-0 up in the first leg of the League Cup, he had his moment of glory. For once in the 2016 season PAT Stadium went crazy for Thiago and for a moment everything was going to get better. Unfortunately it was just one moment.

When you are getting 20 goals a season you can dive all over the place and shout the odds. Teammates and fans will always forgive you. However when you’re not, you are just annoying the hell out of everyone. Thiago ended up getting 5 goals in 21 games. Towards the end of his time at Port he drifted on to the bench, deservedly so. He ended up leaving 5 games before the end of the season. Exactly what happened we don’t know, but the last act of Thiago at PAT Stadium was kicking the dressing room door and cursing his old Chonburi friend Jadet Melarp. If a player deserts your team 5 games before the end of the season, it’s normally shite. Oddly his exit ended up having a more positive effect on the team. Now he’s in Mumbai I just hope they get Thiago 2015 scoring regularly, not Thiago 2016 breaking doors.