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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!

 

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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 2017: Pattaya Utd

 

There’s more to Pattaya than Russian gangsters, ladyboy muggers, and Germans throwing themselves off hotel balconies – they’ve got a T1 football team too, and here’s Pattaya Utd fan Robin Lennon with a look at what 2017 may hold in store for the Blue Dolphins…

 

How will your team fare in 2017?

New owners, a new manager and virtually an entire new team make this campaign likely to be as unpredictable as last season. From the depths of post season despair when it looked like we were Udon bound, there is a renewed sense of excitement and optimism associated with the ownership change. The new manager is a former Pattaya manager who has brought what is hopefully the cream of his Bec Tero crop with him, but it is the return of fan favourites Milan Bubalo, Wellington Priori and ” The Helicopter ” Lee that have got the fans buzzing. Throw in 4 Muang Thong loanees and a few stalwarts from last season, if the manager can get them to gel over this next month in pre-season training and we get a kinder opening fixture run than last year I would hope for a mid table finish. We did it under less favourable circumstances last campaign.

Who is your most exciting new signing?

Who doesn’t want to see Brazilian flair, so for me it’s Wellington Priori. I wasn’t around at the time but I keep replaying the you tube clip of his astonishing goal on his original debut for the Dolphins, it would be up there for a goal of the season anywhere in the world. Worth a watch.

Which departed 2016 players will you miss the most?

On my Brazilian theme again, it was sad but inevitable that we’d lose last season’s goal machine Junior Negro and midfield playmaker Antonio Pina. Throw Soony Saad into the mix and the trio on their day made us an exciting attacking team last season.

What changes would you like to see at your club?

It was my first season following Thai football and Pattaya United and I was shocked at the complete lack of commercial and retail marketing presence supporting the club, travelling to the other cities/clubs put these deficiencies into perspective. The biggest change has now happened, ownership, and I’m hoping that the family conglomerate who’ve now taken control will develop the successful promotional model you see at clubs like Buriram, Muang Thong, Chiang Rai etc. I’m sure there is significant potential to expand the fan base if the club is actively promoted and marketed.

Hopefully a bit of momentum behind the club might encourage a bigger travelling away support. There was some seriously impressive turnouts from other clubs at our stadium last season.

Which teams will finish at the top of T1?

If it’s not Pattaya United, hard to see past Muang Thong, ( sorry ), Bangkok United and Chiang Rai. I want to see the title winners rotate each year to keep interest growing in the league.

Which teams will go down to T2?

I’ll give the newcomers the benefit of the doubt since I haven’t seen them play. I’ll go for Navy who I thought would have gone down last season had it been completed, the new incarnation of Osotspa and (Udon) Bec Tero.

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2017?

All away games but the shortest trip and local derby against Navy was a highlight of last season, they have a great pre-match live music and beer set-up. Unsurprisingly it was our biggest travelling support and the covered away section amplifies the noise level and is situated right next to the young Navy recruits packed singing section, bouncing atmosphere. Thai Port if your owner does selfies with the away fans.

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

If it happens, the ability for another club to jump the promotion queue by buying and relocating another with no thought for the fan base of the acquired club.

 

Crystal Balls 2017: Nakhon Ratchasima FC

 

Time for another 2017 season preview, and today’s contributor is Swat Cat (see editor’s footnote) fan Russ John.

 

How will your team fare in 2017?

Nakhon Ratchasima has the stadium, a huge fan base and now has survived two seasons in the Premier League. Each season from now on, my hope is that the club can maintain its Premier League status, however cementing its place as a top ten team would be a real bonus.

I do not think that the Swatcats will be able to compete with the big boys in the near future. The team needs to develop the ability to attract top Thai players to the club – it would appear that present financial constraints preclude this from happening.

I have great confidence in Milos Joksic. When he took over last season, the team was in a mess, struggling on the brink of potential relegation. His introduction had an immediate effect on the attitude and tactics of the team. In my view the team was playing better in the latter half of the season than they were in the previous campaign when they finished a very creditable 8th place

Who is your most exciting new signing?

Victor Igbonefo, Antonio Pina and Krste Velkoski have all been recently signed. Of the three, I am most looking forward to seeing Igbonefo.

Which departed 2016 players will you miss the most?

Milos has ditched Tagbajumi, Nagano,Lindemann and Chivuta (a mistake in my mind regarding the latter two) and has begun to mould the team into HIS team with some astute signings. The only foreign player retained has been Dominic Adiyeah. Of these football wise Bjorn Lindemann will be missed. Personality and effort wise Noah Chivuta will be a great loss.

What changes would you like to see at your club?

I am pretty happy with the way things are going. People are continually suggesting that the club is badly run (as are many Thai clubs) but as a mere supporter, I see that the club has risen from tier 3 and has initially cemented itself as a mid table team. In the future I would like to see the club to have real ambition and aim for top 5 – everything is in place. 20k attendances would be the norm if the Swatcats were successful.

Which teams will finish at the top of T1?

Bangkok United but with a massive challenge from Muangthong United

Which teams will go down to T2?

Pattaya, Superpower and Navy will be battling to avoid relegation. I think Thai Honda, Ubon and Port will all, for various reasons, survive.

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2017?

Buriram United of course, but all of the Isaan games will draw big crowds. I would like to think that the Swatcats could emerge as the top team in Isaan.

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

Many things need change. Decisions made at the top in recent years have turned the TPL into a bit of a circus but as we have recently got a new crop of chiefs in, I don’t see much hope of change. The league needs stability and strong leadership to avoid continual name changes, location changes and teams just dropping out of the league. I would also like to see more professional behaviour on the pitch by players and of course better standards of refereeing.

 

Editor’s Footnote: What Is a Swat Cat?

Whenever we post anything about Nakhon Ratchasima, someone always asks us “WHAT IN GOD’S NAME IS A SWAT CAT?” And it’s a very good question. ‘Swat Cat’ may not be the silliest team nickname in Thailand, far from it, but it is one of the most mysterious. I know exactly what a Raging Mackerel is (I’ve seen a few in my time), and I can even get my head around the concept of a Glass Rabbit. But finding out what a Swat Cat is took me a considerable amount of research (OK, 30 seconds on Google).

Far from the snarling, sabre-toothed bastard of the NRFC badge, a Swat Cat – actually Si Sawat Cat to give it its correct name – is a cute & cuddly pedigree cat breed from Korat.

 

GRRRRRR!!!

 

My research would appear to indicate that they are popular amongst connoisseurs of the feline form, and there is even a Korat Cat Conservation Club, which, if this picture is anything to go by, looks like a whole load of fun:

 

 

Anyone wanting to dive into the sordid, Bacchanalian world of Si Sawat cat appreciation can find out more on the somewhat worryingly named Cat Fanciers’ Association website.

 

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.