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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!

 

It’s Grim Up North: Sukhothai FC 1-2 Port FC

 

Port made it three wins out of three in their first away game of the season, but where wins one and two featured goals galore and champagne football, win three was gritty, ugly and somewhat fortunate. What with Sukhothai on a Wednesday being one of the least accessible fixtures on the calendar, the Sandpit crew watched the game from the comfort of The Sportsman, accompanied by the dulcet tones of a loud American (a tautology I know) relating the plot of long-forgotten 1980s Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor comedy See No Evil, Hear No Evil to an audience of baffled Thai girls. Thanks for that.

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Here Comes the Fear Again: Ratchaburi FC 1-1 Port FC

 

Pulp’s underrated 1997 single ‘The Fear‘ is an exercise in paranoia, loss of confidence, sexual impotence, the sound of a man who made it to the top but found it impossible to stay there. Watching Port’s fragile, overly-defensive performance at Ratchaburi on Saturday was to see Jarvis Cocker’s words made flesh – back in April/May, Port would’ve swaggered into the Mitr Phol and breezed past these piss-poor relegation strugglers without so much as breaking sweat; July’s Port just looked terrified. And as for the line about having a monkey on your back, Dom knows exactly what that means.

 

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Tim’s Transfer Talk: Send for Josi!

 

Following last week’s double-signing, the Port transfer window rumour mill went into overdrive yesterday with a story that threatened to shake T1 to its very foundations. Port’s fragrant chairwoman and her no doubt equally fragrant entourage were seen getting on a plane to some unspecified destination. At roughly the same time, former Buriram goal machine Diogo was ALSO seen on a plane to the Philippines, and thence onto Thailand. Several publications jumped to some rather bizarre conclusions and assumed all this air travel added up to one thing: Port were about to announce the signing of Diogo.

After a brief period of excitement during which we planned the Sandpit’s T1 Champions party, it appeared the story was, as we all suspected deep down, groundless. But hours later another equally surprising story emerged, but one that, it seems, is actually true – 2017 top scorer & Sandpit favourite Josimar Rodrigues is coming back to the club!

Since leaving Port, Josi has won a trophy in Brazil and helped PTT Rayong get promoted, and has spent the 2019 season absolutely banging in the goals for T2 side Police Tero. His 11 goals in 15 games have kept Tero in sight of the promotion places and, clearly, impressed his former employers who are sorely lacking in backup forwards, especially since Arthit’s costly miss at Nakhon Ratchasima probably scuppered his chances of regular action this season.

Obviously The Sandpit are big fans of Josi, having interviewed him not long after his arrival at Port & had a very enjoyable couple of hours in his company. He was also a participant in the first ever Sandpit podcast, though such was our inexperience at such things that the results were barely audible. He’s clearly in the form of his life and, unusually, is getting a lot of goals from headers, so will be an excellent addition to a squad still lacking a target man. He also knows how Jadet plays and will be a very good fit if he does join.

Of course if Josi arrives, then one of Port’s current foreign contingent has to make way, and rumours suggest that, sadly, that man could be captain David Rochela. We won’t speculate more on this right now as nothing has been made official, but with Todsapol having played superbly well this season, and Port having already reinforced the defence with Tanaboon and Piyachanok, it might just appear that a foreign CB is something of a luxury at Port 2019…

Dolah’s Incensed: Chiang Rai Utd 2-0 Port FC

 

 

There can be few better places to enjoy a game of football than Chiang Rai in September. Lovely cool evening weather, a beautiful purpose-built stadium, and a mature attitude to in-stadium beer consumption all contribute to the ideal Thai footy experience, and throw in some particularly friendly food vendors handing out free crispy worms, and the weary travelling fan couldn’t ask for more. Apart, of course, from a decent crowd (note to the FAT – on what planet is 5.45pm on a Wednesday a good kick-off time?), and a referee with a degree of competence and integrity. That, in Thai football, seems too much to ask.

 

Stadium food Chiang Rai style. Who needs pies?

 

Following the piss-poor performances against Prachuap & Chainat, the uninformed observer may have expected Jadet to make a few changes to take into account certain players’ poor form and the inevitable fatigue that comes with playing two games per week. Those of us who know better were not at all surprised that the only change was an enforced one, with the suspended Pakorn replaced not by another winger, but by Port’s own midfield Jack Russell, Adisorn (13). Quite how Jadet had told his players to line up was a mystery to us and the players themselves, with Boskovic (23), Nurul (31) and Suarez (5) all having spells on the right, left and middle. It would’ve been no surprise had Bosko popped up manning the sausage stand under the away end, such was the players’ obvious confusion.

 

 

But Port began brightly, bossing possession and passing the ball around crisply. Chiang Rai simply couldn’t get near them until the 3rd minute, when Chaiyawat (and you’ll be reading more, oh so much more, about this dickhead later) broke forward and fed the left winger who crossed to an unmarked Phittiwat on the edge of the box, who fired home impressively past Worawut (36) to give the Beetles an undeserved lead.

Port once again began passing the ball around comfortably without really threatening and Chiang Rai, rather like a man whose wife has been invited out for the evening by Elton John, were happy to sit back & let them get on with it in the knowledge that there would be no penetration. But after a while Elton, presumably feeling nostalgic for his brief 1980s liaison with busty German saucepot Renate Blauel, started feeling a bit frisky. On 18 minutes Nurul broke into the box and picked out an unmarked Suarez, but the out-of-sorts Spaniard could only pass the ball tamely into the keeper’s arms. A few minutes later Siwakorn (16) curled a shot just wide of the post, and just before half-time Suarez headed narrowly over the bar. 1-0 at half-time, with Port much the better side and Chiang Rai seemingly happy to park the bus against far more talented opponents.

 

 

The second half began in similar vein, with Bodin (10), briefly remembering how to play football and hitting the side netting with a long shot, before the game was transformed by the worst piece of refereeing I’ve seen at a Port game since the infamous Chainat Debacle in 2014. Dolah (4) blocked a shot from Chaiyawat – known henceforth as Chaiyatwat – and the players briefly collided. The big Swede, being the decent sort of gent that he is, tried to help Chaiyatwat to his feet, but the latter reacted angrily and then, seeing that Port were bombing up the pitch at considerable speed, fell to the turf clutching his face. Port played on, and when Chiang Rai regained possession, they gave a similar number of fucks about Chaiyatwat’s plight as the rest of us – that number being zero – and launched an attack of their own, only to start surrounding the ref as soon as the ball went out of play. The ref, who throughout the game seemed to be waiting for the home side to tell him what decisions to make, bizarrely booked both players; at which point CR defender Victor, a huge bear of a man temporarily doing a pretty convincing impression of a weasel, minced over to the ref to point out that Elias had already been booked, and the ref produced a red card. An early bath for the big no4, and my sources tell me that he went the full Thiago on the dressing room door on his way back. And why not.

Minutes later Chaiyatwat cut out a Port attack with his hand – technically a straight red but at least a yellow – yet, despite being given a good mauling by a by-now incandescent Boskovic, the ref let him off. By this point the Port players were in a state of fury, as were the away fans, with one Sandpitter who shall remain nameless (cough) heading down several rows to the front of the away end to hurl abuse at the cheating fucker in the orange 18 shirt. Clearly fearing for their player’s safety, Chaiyatwat was subbed off to a rousing sendoff from the Khlong Thoey Army.

 

Chaiyatwat’s personal dressing room

 

With Port’s twin farang strike force always playing better when they’re nursing a grievance, Port tore into the home team but their best chances fell to Bodin, whose brief moment of enlightenment at the start of the half had long since passed, and who had reverted to his by now standard impression of “man seeing football for the first time”. It was inevitable that Chiang Rai would catch Port on the break and they added a second in injury time, condemning Port to a very unfortunate away win in a game they dominated and, but for the ridiculous referee, could well have won.

That said, all is clearly not well at Port. The team have won just twice in the last 11 games in all competitions (against Police Tero & Trat), and a team that was tearing T1 apart with pace, style and intensity a few weeks ago now looks lost & demoralised. Several players clearly don’t want to be there, others have visibly regressed, and any semblance of a tactical plan has long since vanished. Boskovic in particular seems like a lost soul, popping up all over the pitch when he should be planting himself up front and demanding some decent service. Jadet needs to look up the word “meritocracy” in the dictionary because at the moment he’s picking his standard first XI regardless of form and attitude, and the team are suffering as a result. Mme Pang was away on an Instagramming holiday to Paris, and there will be few people on the Port staff looking forward to her return.

We left the stadium with the red mist still hovering above our heads, but thankfully our faith in humanity and the fine townspeople of Chiang Rai was very quickly restored. Having taken a “fuck it, let’s worry about it later” approach to getting back into town after the game, we found ourselves stranded and facing a long walk. 5 minutes down the road I spotted a farang returning to his car and asked him how one might go about getting to the night market. He didn’t understand me so, recognising his accent, I switched to the old francais, and the farang in question revealed himself as Alain, French retiree and longtime resident of Chiang Rai. Not only that, but he also turned out to be a fellow St Etienne fan, having followed the mighty Verts throughout Europe during their late 70s/early 80s glory years, and happily ushered us into his car and took us all the way into town. Merci monsieur. Then, having located a khao soy stand, the chef complimented us on our choice of football team and threw an extra chicken leg into each bowl. It may have been the warming, hearty goodness of the soup, the kindness of strangers, or the large amount of beer I’d consumed by that point, but my wife informs me there was a tear in my jaded old eye as I slurped down my bowl of the very best.

And so as is often the case, another away trip which would’ve been perfect had we not had to go & watch football. As Alain would say, plus ca change…

 

Post-match khao soy therapy

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: David Rochela

Despite dark mutterings in various Port fan circles about his declining powers, El Capitan was at his very best last night, mopping up at the back, starting attacks with his accurate passing, and making several last-ditch tackles. Honourable mentions to to the ever-reliable Nitipong (34), Adisorn (who was our best player until Jadet inexplicably subbed him off) and Kim (8), who at least tried to instill some order into the tactical chaos that was Port’s midfield.

 

Where Eagles Daren’t Score: Ubon UMT Utd 0-1 Port FC

 

The fixture computer had not been kind this year, in terms of away trips anyway. Before the season started I’d made a list of stadiums I was hoping to cover off this season and also make a weekend of at the same time, Chiang Rai and Sukhothai were quickly crossed out after being put on Sunday nights. Weekends in two polar opposite Thai seaside resorts, Prachuap and Pattaya, were both on the cards until they got moved due to the impending U19 Tiddlywinks championship that will decimate the August program. Luckily, Ubon was still being played on a Saturday night so I went ahead and booked it up. The return flight was just shy of 1500 baht and thanks to striking lucky on Agoda, I got a voucher which meant I was able to get 2 nights at Ubons 4 star Sunee Hotel for a total of 300 baht cash. The team stayed here last year if I recall correctly as I saw the team bus parked up at the shopping mall which sits under the hotel.

When I checked in, the staff clocked my Port shirt and asked me if I was one of the players checking in. I know Thailand attracts some veteran journeymen players during the twilights of their careers, but alas, my fleeting substitute appearances for Cockney Lokomotiv in the Sceptre Sunday League over 15 years ago, may not be quite enough for me to nail down a starting spot in 2018 Thai Premier League.

I spent an enjoyable Friday evening at a Mexican restaurant near the airport with the Sandpits Ubon correspondent, Gary Jones and a few of the Thai Ubon fans. Over dinner it seemed there was still optimism of beating the drop but please, please, please, could Port roll over for them tomorrow? Stranger things have happened in Thai football. My secondary mission for the evening was to scope out a bar to watch the World Cup action on Saturday night with the France v Argentina game kicking off an hour after the Ubon – Port fixture finished.

 

 

“If found, please return to PAT Stadium”

 

Coming down for my morning swim, I got in the lift to find myself surrounded by Ubon players who got out at the same floor as me, as I passed through the gym reception on the way to the pool I inadvertently walked in on their morning team meeting. I began pondering if I should try and listen in, but dressed in a wife beater and neon orange swim shorts, I wasn’t exactly inconspicuous. Bumping into staff and players was the theme for the rest of the morning. Over lunch I saw Nurul and Siwakorn walking around the mall, it was the most I’d seen Siwakorn move without picking up a yellow card. My next trip down the lift shaft our own Rod Pellegrino got in. As he got out I joked that he might catch the end of the Ubon team meeting if he’s lucky, he advised both squads were having lunch on this floor. Sure enough when I reached Starbucks in the mall a bit later, there was Jadet sat with a few of the Ubon guys. While our only true heated rivalry is Muangthong, it was still a bit jarring and fourth wall breaking, to see both sets of players and staff all chummy chummy with the game a few hours away.

 

“We’re going to play Four-Four-F**king Two!”

My next mission for the day was to secure some proper beer for the game. My memory of Ubon last year was that they were locked into a supply from Chang, pet peeve #28 in following Thai football. Apart from Chiang Rai and Bangkok Glass, Leo and Singha need to up their game in controlling the beer supplies. Any lingering ideas from the hotel staff that I was on the Port playing staff must have finally been quashed, when I came back through hotel reception carrying a slab of Leos to the lifts.

 

 

Arriving at the stadium just over an hour before kick off, the Port party bus was already here quickly followed by Del, AC and the two Tims (that isn’t the name of an act you’ll see at Edinburgh fringe this year). The Chang tents did a roaring trade out of the Sandpit contingent ….in cups of ice. They seemed perplexed we didn’t want to buy any of the Devil’s Piss that they were promoting. In true American style we tailgated from the case of Leo in Gary’s car boot.

 

“You’ve seen the Rat Bar, now welcome to the Boot Bar”

 

Checking the team news on twitter, there was no Dolah or Suarez, their places going to Todsapol and Bordin. Entering the stadium, attendance looked very, very low, although it did fill up a bit as the game wore on. After so many away trips to <Thai city name> municipal athletics stadiums, it was nice to finally visit a purpose built football stadium again. The UMT Stadium is reminiscent of some League Two or non-League stadiums in the UK. Ticket prices seemed a bit steep with even home fans paying upwards of 200 baht for some sections, maybe a reason why attendances have slid, the ground was definitely fuller last for the match last season.

 

 

Ubon started very brightly, belying their lowly league position. After some decent performances on the road, it looked like Port were slipping back to the lethargic apathy shown at Chainat. Were some of the team still a bit leggy from having to play in the cup game on Wednesday? In Suarez’s absence, Bordin, Nurul and Pakorn seemed to be rotating, and taking it in turns to unsuccessfully audition for the part of “number 10”. Ubon had showed more attacking intent in the opening exchanges than they did for the entire 95+ minutes at the PAT earlier this season. On the 11th minute their Serbian midfielder Dimitrov connected with a diving header that was tipped onto the crossbar. From the resulting corner, large Brazilian defender (Yul) Brinner wriggled free from the attentions of Todsapol to get a free header which was over the bar. As highlighted in the preview, their direct replacement for Victor hasn’t quite filled his shoes in the goal scoring stakes. Compared to last season, Brinner aside, Ubon now had a much smaller team.

Ports highlight of the opening 25 minutes was Kevin making a low drive from outside the box, it took a deflection after clipping the heels of an Ubon player but the keeper managed to recover his footing and gather it safely. Ubon were still causing Port problems but were lacking a finisher to put them away. On the 26th minute, DImitrov had a low drive which was spilled by Rattanai into the path Apiwat who did tuck it in, only to find the offside flag was (correctly) raised with two Ubon players offside when the initial shot was drilled in. In the last 10 minutes of the first half, Port finally began to maintain some possession and pressure in the Ubon half for a couple of minutes, but Ubon quickly snuffed it out and were back in control.

 

 

Somewhat against the run of play, Port took the lead a couple of minutes before the break. Bosko finally found himself with the ball in their area and won a corner. Pakorn, who had been sluggish all game whipped in the corner which El Capitan flicked on at the near post and into the net. Totally undeserved, but as Toby said in his most recent report “It’s a funny old game”. David pointed and looked up towards the heavens as he returned to the halfway line. A poignant moment for the captain after a recent family bereavement.

Jadet made a much needed change at half time with Adisorn replacing Bordin to protect our back four a bit better. This had an instant effect as Port started the second half much more positively. Nitipong collected the ball and made a run to the Ubon byline, cutting the ball back for Nurul to blaze his shot out of the stadium. On the 55th minute, Boskovic was wrestled to the ground in the box but nothing was given. On the hour Tossapol was replaced with Dolah to add more defensive grit and to counter-balance the threat of Brinners height at set pieces. While Port were now starting to threaten a lot more, Ubon were still carving out chances which somehow were not being put away. On the 66th minute, an Ubon freekick found Dimitrov at the near post, who acrobatically did an overhead kick towards the back post where Brinner was charging in, but he didn’t connect.

A rare lapse from Nitipong saw him take an airshot on the edge of his own box, which let in the Ubon winger Jedsadakorn, his low cross-come-shot couldn’t connect with the sliding Apiwat who was trying to connect at the back post.

To try and solidify Ports defensive position further, Pakorn was then swapped for Chakrit to help Port see this out. It turned out to be an astute move as he offered more defensively on the right hand side, Pakorn had looked out of sorts all game, aside from delivering the corner onto Davids head.

The final whistle came with a sense of relief, a definite smash and grab for Port today. A better team would have carved us a new one on this form but it was “Heartache Tonight” for the Eagles fans, who slip deeper into the relegation mire and are now 12 points adrift of 15th placed Tero, with their next two games at home to Muangthong and away to Buriram.

There were joyous scenes in the car park after the game, and even a little bit of rain couldn’t dampen the spirit of the party bus, or the extinguish the flare that had been lit up.

 

 

I don’t think the Crocodile Dundee test is needed here

 

After the game we moved on to “Take Care” bar to watch what turned out to be a great match between France and Argentina. The Ubon fans, including Gary had laid on a spread for us and we also took great advantage through the evening of their “5 (large) Leos for 299” offer. The hospitality in Ubon from Gary and the Thai Ubon contingent was fantastic all weekend.

 

 

On other matchdays, it has been known that the owner takes their group out to the local Tawan Daeng, he was also a visible presence around Ubon’s “sandpit” before the game greeting and talking to fans, with no minders or staff around him. I wonder if Madam will ever try such an approach at the PAT???

Next up for Port, PTT Rayong visit on Wednesday in the Cup and then John Baggio and the Firebats are at the PAT on Sunday, in desperate need of 3 points to lift themselves out of the relegation battle.

 

The Sandpit MOTM: David Rochela

It wasn’t a great team performance today, but it was the captain who did stand out with some great last ditch blocks and tackles to keep us from embarrassment in the first half, capped off with heading in the winning goal to seal all three points.

 

Not Today, Desmond Ray: Chonburi FC 0-1 Port FC

 

 

Port extended their winning run to 5 with a hard-fought win at a rainy Chonburi Stadium (their first here since 2006) last night, to cement 3rd place and finish the first leg of the 2018 season in some style. If last week’s 7-1 scuttling of Navy was champagne football, this was more Carlsberg Special Brew – rough, gritty, and not particularly pleasant, but it got us where we wanted to go.


Chonburi on a Saturday night – there are few more welcome away fixtures in Thai football and we decided to make the most of it, by leaving Bangkok at 1pm & heading for Bang Saen beach for a few pre-match snifters. Our van driver was clearly also in a holiday mood (as was his wife, who knocked back more Leos in the van than any of us farangs), and decided to take us on a one-hour sightseeing trip around Ramkamhaeng and Rama 3 before finally getting us on the motorway east, much to the delight of Hockers.

 

The Sandpit, with actual sand

 

Once we finally arrived in Bang Saen, we located a toilet (which seemed to be housed in a short-time hotel) and then hit the beach for a few cold beers and snacks. Terens’ minder Bayu had made the trip with us and he confirmed that the petite Papuan will be staying for the rest of the season and should be seeing more action once the cups get underway. Meanwhile Machar ‘The Beerhunter’ Smith had located a craft beer bar not far away so we headed off there, and as we did the deckchair renter told us “Tarua – desmolee!” We had no idea what he was on about but our resident master of the Thai tongue Tom Earls tells us that he was actually saying “Desmond Ray”. Desmond was apparently a US soldier who died in Thailand and, obviously being the only person ever in the history of the world to have actually died, the Thais now use his name when they want to tell you that you’re dead meat. I can’t go into any more detail as there’s nothing about him online and I suspect Tom may have been making it all up. With the deckchairman’s warning ringing in our ears, we were in urgent need of something stronger than Leo, and Hops Addict bar duly obliged. I can heartily recommend the Stone Tangerine Express IPA.

We arrived to find a stadium rather lacking in atmosphere, as Dale had predicted in his preview, with only a large, raucous Port contingent behind the way end to indicate that there was a top-flight football match about to take place. Just before kick-off the heavens opened and we entered the away end to find it even more substandard than usual, with several inches of water on the terracing adding to the cracked seating and poor views.

 

 

Therefore, given the fact that most of the significant action took place at the far end of the pitch (and as such may as well have been taking place on the moon for all we could see of it)  and that note-taking isn’t in the spirit of The Sandpit, most of this report is based on video highlights of the match.

After Chonburi fired a first-minute warning shot across Port’s bows, with striker Naphat heading narrowly wide, Port began bossing the game in the usual fashion, with Kim (8) pulling the strings in midfield, and Pakorn (7), Suarez (5) and Nurul (31) probing at the Sharks’ admittedly very solid defence. Indeed Nurul, on his return to his former club, was clearly a marked man, with Chonburi players hacking him down at every available opportunity and racking up 4 yellow cards in the first half alone for their troubles. Pakorn came close on 20 minutes with his free kick just shaving the Sharks’ crossbar, but Port didn’t have long to wait to make the breakthrough. On 23 minutes, Pakorn chipped in a cross from the right which Chonburi keeper Chanin failed to read with Suarez (5) getting in before him to deftly chip it into the back of the net off the outside of his left boot for 1-0. Chanin, realising he’d been done up like a kipper, added a comical little Weera-esque dive after the event to make it look like he’d been making some kind of effort to stop it.

And that, as far as Port were concerned, was it. After taking the lead they seemed to figure that, given Chonburi’s lack of decent striking options, they may as well let them have the ball and sit back while they wore themselves out. It was a strategy that almost cost Port dear as quickly as the 30th minute when Naphat got away from the typically poor Athibordee (35, once again being played out of position), only to fire straight at the impressive Rattanai (17); then again on 40 minutes when Chonburi’s otherwise comically bad winger Ciro put in a lovely far post cross which was narrowly headed over by Phanuphong.

 

 

After a brief 15-minute respite from what was rapidly becoming a real nerve-shredder of a game for Port fans, during which we calmed said nerves with Leo and other intoxicating substances, the second half was more of the same, with Port seemingly content to let Chonburi have the ball (even passing it to them on numerous occasions) and the Sharks launching wave after wave of attacks without having anyone with the guile or creativity to convert the numerous chances created. When they did get shots away, Port were throwing bodies at them with Kevin (97), Rochela (22) and the Rat all making heroic stops. Port simply weren’t in it, and had the Sharks had a couple of decent strikers, they would have won comfortably.

Thankfully they don’t, and despite the ref adding on a surprisingly generous 5 minutes of stoppage time, Port held on for, as I predicted, an ugly win against a limited but very robust and well-organised side. That is, as I said, Port’s 5th win in a row (3 of them away from home), and since the Chainat debacle Port’s record has been outstanding – 5 games, 5 wins, 16 goals scored, 3 conceded. That is title-winning form and come the end of the season those dropped points against the likes of Chainat and Police Tero could come back to haunt us; but keep this form up, and if Buriram and Bangkok Utd hit rough patches of their own, it might just turn into a 3-horse race. Next up? 4th-placed Muangthong on 9 June, for by far the biggest game played at the PAT for a couple of years at least.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: David Rochela

There were some huge performances in Port’s defence last night, with Rattanai, Nitipong, Kevin and Kim all sweating blood for the shirt. But cometh the hour, cometh the man, and it was cap’n Rochela who took this week’s award with a performance that mixed classy, visionary defending with down & dirty blocks & tackles. It’s actually David’s first MOTM award this season, which is less of a reflection on his form and more a reflection on how much more quality there is in the team these days, that they are no longer quite so reliant on the schmooooove Spaniard. But of course, when needed, he’s always there, and last night was a match-winning performance.

 

Port’s 2017 Season: The Captain’s Verdict

 

The Sandpit interrupted Port captain David Rochela’s holiday this week to get his thoughts on the club’s 2017 season, and found him in good spirits, having led the team to a top-half finish, won the Sandpit’s coveted Player of the Year award, and, best of all, signed a new contract at the PAT for 2018! Here’s what David had to say.


Port had a very strong finish to the season to end up in 9th place, a great achievement for a promoted team. How satisfied are you with the season?

The season was great! I think we did some amazing games that the fans will not forget. So I’m very satisfied about the year. The change from T2 to T1 didn’t feel that  big and I think that we proved it. In my opinion we did really a great performance this season, proving that we can fight with all teams even coming up from T2.

 

The team suffered a mid-season slump when Jadet was replaced with Zico. How did this disrupt the team? What is it that has made Jadet so successful at Port?

Usually when you change something in one club you need time to adapt. With Zico we tried to do it as fast as we could but it was not enough.
And about Jadet…probably the key is that he works but is very close to the players, doing jokes and being one of us. The atmosphere is the key point.

 

What was the team’s best performance of the season in your opinion?

We did some amazing games this season but I will choose both games against Muangthong for what they mean to our fans. The feeling was amazing. I was a little bit sad because our fans couldn’t watch it live, but we know that for them it is the most important game of the season.

 

Which team was the toughest to play against? Which player was the most difficult opponent?

This season clearly Bangkok United, it was difficult for us this time but we will improve to face them next year! As for opponents, difficult to say…Chanatip, Diogo, Boskovic… there are many good players in T1.

Which of your teammates impressed you most this season? Who surprised you? Who would you say is the players’ player of the season?

I knew the potential of all of them but probably Nitipong is who moved his level higher during this season. Butour success this season came from a strong group so is difficult to say one: maybe Nitipong, Suarez, Josimar or Pakorn.

 

What was your personal favourite moment of the season?

My favourite one was the game against Supanburi at home. That day was my birthday, we won and all the fans gave me an amazing birthday gift by singing for me. A really special day!

 

And you were also voted The Sandpit’s Player of the Year again!

Yes! Just to say thanks to everyone who participated in the poll and have been supporting us during the season. And a special mention for The Sandpit for informing everyone about the team during the year.

What were your biggest disappointments this season?

We really had a lot of intention to do well in the cups so I have to choose the game with Air Force.

 

Next season will be tougher with 5 teams going down. What are Port’s ambitions for 2018? Where do you need to improve?

As I always said, the first goal must be to put 5 teams down and after that, try to have a relaxed and gratifying season as this one. We need to improve for sure, we need stay more compact in some moments of the game and keep more balanced in order to concede less goals.

 

And finally, the question everyone is asking – will you still be a Port player in 2018?

I will be at Port FC next year yes, and I’m very happy for that!


Thanks as ever to David for answering our questions, and see you in a Port shirt again in 2018! Enjoy your holiday!

 

The Sandpit’s Port FC Player of the Year 2017 is….David Rochela!

 

Last week we once again opened the polls for the Player of the Year competition, and voting was very lively with over 600 Port fans clicking on their favourite player. The last couple of days’ voting saw some rather suspicious voting patterns, with 36% of our site traffic coming from SPAIN, which possibly explains why it turned into a two-horse race between Port’s two Spaniards, with the rest of the candidates trailing in their wake.

Voting is now closed, and we can reveal the top 3…

 

1. David Rochela 38%

For the second year in a row, Port’s popular Spanish captain wins the award, though not with the landslide we saw in 2016. David has had another solid season at the PAT, leading by example, playing the game with honesty and respect, and even banging in 7 goals. The naysayers may point to Port’s poor defensive record this season, but it has to be said that without David, our Goals Against column would undoubtedly look even worse. As yet, we have no word as to whether the captain will lead Port in 2018 but our gut feeling says he will. Congratulations David, and hope you’re around to go for the hat-trick in November 2018!

 

 

2. Sergio Suarez 36%

You’d have got pretty long odds on this back in June, when many Port fans – myself included – were calling for Maranhao to take Suarez’ foreign player slot at Port, after the Spaniard had an inconsistent first half of the season. But in the second leg, Sergio was a different player and, had the vote been based solely on the last 5 months, he’d almost certainly have won outright. He’s been a lot more focused, given the proverbial 110% in every game, and weighed in with 14 goals – almost unheard of for a Port midfielder. As with Rochela, we don’t know if he’ll still be around next season but given his late-season form, we suspect he might.

 

 

3. Pakorn 6%

Thanks to the Spanish mafia monopolising the vote, the rest of the candidates are a loooooong way back, with the chasing pack led deservedly by the Midfield Monk himself, Pakorn. This was the season in which the Port winger finally realised his potential and added workrate and discipline to his undoubted talent to become Port’s most productive player with 6 goals and a staggering 18 assists. Sadly we are hearing very strong rumours that he may be returning to his old club Police Tero for next season, which would be bad news for Port and surely a backward step for a player who should be looking to get a national team place before long.

 

 

Thanks, or should I say gracias, to all who voted, congratulations again to David, and watch out for more Sandpit fan polls coming soon!

 

Rochela Scoops Second Player of the Month Award

 

El Capitan David Rochela becomes the second Port player to win The Sandpit’s Player of the Month award twice, joining Josimar Rodrigues who won in April and May. Rochela won the inaugural award in February, and has now secured the July award with an impressive 60% of the vote.

 

 

 

Port did not have the best month results-wise in July, but as usual the Spanish skipper did his utmost to keep Port in contention with his solid defensive performances. He also scored a rare goal from the spot against Chiang Rai, taking his penalty tally to 3 out of 3 for the season. Congratulations, David!

In second place was the star attacking performer Pakorn Prempak. Pakorn won the June award, and again underlined his stunning resurgence in the second half of the season by picking up 26% of the vote in July. Pakorn has always been known for his set-piece delivery and his crossing from the right, but in the last two months his decision making and tracking have improved markedly. Pakorn is getting closer and closer to being the full package.

 

 

In third place was Spaniard Sergio Suarez, who garnered 11% of the vote. Suarez shone against Chiang Rai and had two excellent performances in the cups against Ayutthaya, notching a few crucial goals in the process. If Suarez can continue to perform consistently for Port then we fully expect to see him winning one of these awards sooner or later!

 

 

Ittipol Poolsab came fourth in his inaugural appearance on our shortlist, with Andrija Kaludjerovic in last place with 0% of the vote. With the Serb’s departure being exclusively announced by The Sandpit today, I think it’s fair to say that Kalu won’t exactly be missed judging by the amount of fans who turned out for him in our poll!

An honourable mention must also go to Elias Dolah.  A few people quite rightly chastised me for not including the big Thai-Swede on the shortlist despite some excellent performances in July. Clearly I underestimated the ever-growing list of fans Dolah is accruing at Port, but you can be sure I won’t make that mistake again!