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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!

 

Right-Back At Ya! The Sandpit Meets Nitipong Selanon

 

Since his relatively unheralded signing from Buriram in 2015, Nitipong Selanon has steadily improved year on year to the point that he is now undoubtedly Port’s most consistent player – a fact recognised by our readers who voted him the Sandpit Player of the Year for 2019, and by the Thai national team who gave him his first cap last season. Both fully deserved rewards for a player who trains like a demon and quietly gets on with his job, never letting the team down and always putting in a full shift week in week out. Read more

The Sandpit Readers’ 2019 Port FC Player of the Year: Nitipong Selanon!

 

The votes have been counted and we’re delighted to reveal that, after wins for David Rochela (2016-17) and Sergio Suarez (2018), we have our first ever Thai winner of The Sandpit’s Player of the Year award – right-back Nitipong Selanon! Niti won by a big margin, getting 37% of the vote, with Go Seul-Ki second on 13%, & Suarez third on 12%.

In my opinion, no player deserves it more. Whenever we interview Port players/staff we ask them which player at the club is the hardest worker on the pitch and in training, and the answer is always ‘Nitipong!’. His progress in the last few years has been remarkable, going from second choice T2 right-back to FA Cup winner and Thai national team starter, and – at just 26 and with his level of dedication – his best is almost certainly yet to come. He never lets the team down, never has a bad game, and – unusually for a defender – rarely ever gets booked, such is his ability to read the game.

Congratulations Niti!

 

 

Three Time Losers: Port FC 2-0 Muangthong Utd

 

 

“I’m a three time loser
Fucked it up in Khlongtoey
Fucked it up in Muangthong Thani
Now my friends say it’s here to stay”

(Rod Stewart, ‘Three Time Loser‘, 1975)

 

The Choketawee era continued to delight and amaze on Sunday. After inflicting Cheating Chiang Rai’s first FA Cup defeat since 2016 on Wednesday, Port finally beat Muangthong at home for the first time in ten years. Following league and cup wins at the SCG, it was Port’s third win over the Kirins this season alone. What a week.

Read more

Bulls in a Chainat Shop: Chainat Hornbill 0-3 Port FC

 

With Chainat already having defeated Bangkok Utd and Muangthong this season (not that the latter is much of an achievement these days), and with referees often being very accommodating to the Hornbills on their home turf, this was a potential banana skin for table-toppers Port. Despite the Hornbills being in the relegation zone most of last season, Port only took a point from them and turned in their worst performance of the season on their last visit to Khaophlong Stadium. And with title rivals Buriram and Chiang Rai both winning the night before, the pressure was on Port to restore their 4-point lead.

Read more

Port Suffering From Yellow Fever: Port FC vs. Suphanburi FC Preview

 

Two teams who recorded impressive victories last week face off in an intriguing encounter this Saturday at PAT Stadium. Looking at the table, top dogs Port are clear favourites to overcome Suphanburi, who were bottom of the table until their victory last week, but with the attacking talents at their disposal and the utter insanity that has been T1 so far this season, absolutely anything is possible. Port are without key central midfielder Go Seul-ki and right back Nitipong who are both suspended, but Suphan will also be without their own Korean midfielder Kim Sung-hwan as he is on loan from Port.

 

Suphanburi FC

Habitual Mediocrity

 

It’s worth mentioning briefly Suphanburi’s decline into mediocrity since 2013. After their promotion in 2012, The War Elephants finished in the top six for three successive seasons, boasting some of the league’s best talent like former Port star Pipat Thonkanya (visit our ‘Port Legends’ page for more on him) and a certain Dragan Boskovic. They were even managed by Mano Polking for a brief stint. The likes of Charyl Chappuis, who gets a lot of stick on here although when he was with Suphanburi he was without a doubt one of the best performing Thai players in the league, Carmelo Gonzalez and Thai league veteran Bjorn Lindemann were also part of a team which appeared to have an exciting future challenging the top teams in T1 for honours, but then something went wrong. It’s hard to pinpoint what, but since their initial success, Suphanburi have finished no higher than tenth, and there’s little in their current form to indicate that they’re ready to break that slump this season. They’ve got a highly rated T1 winning coach in Totchtawan, a group of talented Thai youngsters and two of the top foreign strikers in the league, but they just can’t seem to recapture that winning formula.

 

Players to Watch

 

Another T1 team, another Brazilian strike force. On paper this one ought to be among the very best in the league, but while Jonatan Reis (7) and Cleiton Silva (23) have a respectable 6 goals between them so far in 2019, their team has scored just 8 goals in total, and neither has yet provided an assist for a teammate. For some reason they’re just not quite gelling. While Reis has been spending a lot of time dropping back to pick up the ball and start attacks from midfield, Cleiton has held his position up front, and although this seems like an ideal partnership, it just hasn’t clicked yet. Either Reis has failed to find his teammate in dangerous areas, or Cleiton has missed the chances when they’ve come. I shouldn’t talk the pair down too much, though. They’re both superbly talented, and they both managed to get on the scoresheet last time out against Korat, potentially lifting spirits in Suphanburi and giving them the confidence they need to fulfil the promise their partnership holds.

 

 

Besides the Brazilians, it’s really tough to pick out anyone else on current form. The players I rate at Suphanburi have been spending far too much time on the bench. You’ll have heard me talk up the likes of exciting Thai forwards Thanasit Sriphala (11) and Chananan Pumbuppha (10) in past previews, but these guys have been in and out of the team this season. Even experienced Thai national team legends like defensive midfielder Adul Lahso (19) and goalkeeper Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool (18) haven’t been playing recently, with former Muangthong coach Totchtawan favouring lesser known players. How’s that been working out?

One of those lesser known players will be known to most Port fans, though. Last time the sides met at the PAT, Meechok Marhasaranukun (20) provided two excellent assists from the right flank, and he will be expected to start at right wing back. Quality defensive duo Anderson (3) and Suphan Thongsong (26) will make up two thirds of their central defence, but surprisingly they’ve conceded 12 goals already in 2018, so clearly there are as many problems at the back as there are going forward.

 

 

Mark Hartmann (9) wouldn’t have merited a mention unless he’d scored an excellent header off the bench last week to spark Suphanburi’s comeback, but the English-born Filipino will almost certainly now make a second half appearance. If you haven’t seen him before, he’s not easy to miss, what with his long flowing locks and the unmistakable aura of a player who couldn’t quite cut it at the Gang Warily Recreation Ground. That’s the home of Blackfield & Langley of the Wessex League, for those of you unfamiliar with English ninth tier football. Shame on you.

 

 

Form

 

Suphanburi have been consistently unpredictable so far this season, but on balance have fallen far short of expectations. It took three draws before they finally recorded a win, but that was followed by three defeats, before they bounced back with a win last time out against Korat. Here are their results in full.

  • Chainat 0-0 Suphanburi
  • Suphanburi 0-0 Buriram
  • Sukhothai 1-1 Suphanburi
  • Suphanburi 3-0 Chonburi
  • Trat 4-0 Suphanburi
  • Suphanburi 1-2 Chiang Mai
  • Bangkok United 4-0 Suphanburi
  • Suphanburi 3-1 Korat

 

Port FC

Yellow Fever

 

Port face yet more challenges to their squad depth this week, with suspensions to key players Go (8) and Nitipong (34). The yellow cards have been coming thick and fast this season, and both have already made it to four. Go will most likely be replaced by Athibordee (35), who has seen a lot of action off the bench so far in 2019, although we are clinging to the hope that one of the breakout stars of last season Anon (20) will be picked instead. Anon performed superbly in some big games for Port last term, and is a player Port should be trying to give as many minutes of T1 action to as possible, but Jadet seems to have promoted Athibordee, so that’s probably that. That is unless Suarez is available for selection after missing out last week. If the Spaniard is fit, Jadet could also ask Siwakorn to play a little deeper, with Sumanya alongside him and Suarez further forward. The spherical supremo has certainly got options in the middle of the park.

Normally Adisorn (13) would also be part of the conversation when the DM spot is up for grabs, but with Nitipong being out, he is sure to deputize at right back instead. With no other options available to Jadet, an out-of-position defensive midfielder will have to do. If only we’d considered our paucity of right backs in the transfer window when we were signing left backs like they were going out of fashion!

The rest of the team could remain unchanged, although with captain Rochela (22) returning to near full fitness it’s a question of when not if Todsapol (6) drops back to the bench. Watchara (1) has surely made the goalkeeping spot his own with an assured performance against Muangthong. I haven’t seen a Port goalkeeper looking as confident as Watchara does in all aspects of his game for quite some time. Bodin (10) and Pakorn (7) are undroppable the way they’re playing, so Nurul (31) is going to have to wait for his chance when he returns from injury, too. What an impact sub to have!

 

Predicted Lineup

 

Please, please, please pick Anon.

 

 


 

The match will be shown live on True Sport 2 at 20:00 on Saturday 27 April, 2019. For those who can’t make it to PAT Stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound. Don’t forget to wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount on drinks.

 

Football’s Coming Home – to T2: Muangthong Utd 1-2 Port FC

 

 

The most exciting derby game in Thai football came round again, and for another season away fans were banned, rather than the clubs getting together to sort things out. Some fans watched from home, a few sneaked into SCG Stadium undercover, some watched in the pub, and loads of Pot fans went to Go Dang stadium to watch on the big screen. I was thinking about going to the SCG in my Vietnam shirt (to get it signed by Muangthong keeper Dang Van Lam) but decided I was better going somewhere where a hooligan like me could make some noise!

My last visit to Muangthong was a bit of a nightmare as I ran out of the away end in fear of flying beers and ice, later followed by my husband who was soaked in beer and grinning his head off. When we saw guys in black masks trying to get into the home end we realised it was time to get the hell out, leaving a lot of trouble behind us.

 

We got to Go Dang around 6pm – we’re not futsal fans so skipped the game in favour of Pala Pizza before arriving at Port’s ‘other’ home to find a big Songkran party with DJs, foam machine, water cannons, kids’ paddling pools and bikini dancers on the big screen. This is Thailand 🙂 A few people were a bit annoyed with the water and trying to keep their phones dry, but we found a good place near the screen, put our mats down and waited for kick-off/

Unfortunately when it did start we ended up watching a constantly buffering screen from a shitty internet stream with no sound, whilst most of the fans ignored the game to continue celebrating Songkran. After 10 minutes of this we gave up and jumped in a taxi to The Sportsman to join the numerous fans who’d already left. So I missed the first 27 minutes of the game – forgive me for not writing about them, though apparently I didn’t miss much.

 

Port set up with a 4-4-2, with Suarez (presumably injured) replaced by Sumanya (11). In-form Bodin (10) kept his place and there were no other changes. Watchara (1) also started again and made a stunning acrobatic save from a Heberty free-kick on 35 minutes.

The second half started with a nice pass from Sumanya to Bodin and our boy didn’t let us down with an amazing goal past Van Lam. 1-0 to Port and it was pandemonium at The Sportsman as we celebrated a superb goal.

On 55 minutes Boskovic (23) gave the ball away in midfield and a superb pass from Heberty set Theerasil through, but Watchara made a superb save from the La Liga/J-League dropout. Straight after Port went down the other end and a superb pass from Pakorn picked out Sumanya in the box; he calmly sidefooted it to Nitipong (34) who gleefully buried it into an empty net for 2-0, a mere 10 minutes into the second half. An awesome spell of football.

Port were beginning to tire from the intensity of the game so Jadet made a couple of changes: Sumanya with his two assists was replaced by the White Blood Cell himself, Athibordee (35), and the injured Bodin replaced by Pele himself, Arthit (29) to the delight of the Port fans present. MTU also made some changes to try and get back into the game, with Chappuis from those adverts on the BTS coming on in midfield and blasting a shot wide of the goal within minutes of his arrival. But with 10 minutes to go MTU did get back into it with some nice play from Heberty down the right to pick out the unmarked Weerawut in the Port area who stroked the ball into the net to make it 2-1.

Could Port hang on to keep the 3 points? There were near-heart attacks in The Sportsman as MTU continued to attack, and my throat (and middle finger) got sore waiting for the whistle. Finally, after a ridiculous 5 minutes’ injury time, the whistle blew and Port went 4 points clear a the top and, the cherry on the cake, Muangthong went bottom – I couldn’t have been any happier. The game clearly wasn’t over for Boskovic who had to be restrained by his teammates from attacking an MTU player (or players) for as yet unknown reasons – probably just Bosko’s well-known and fully understandable dislike of Muangthong.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Nitipong

Watchara made some great saves, Go Seul-Ki was superb in midfield, and Bodin scored a beautiful goal. But my MOTM is Niti, who not only got a rare goal but was also back to his best in defence.

 

 

The Sandpit Readers’ Player of the Year 2018 Is…

 

The voting is over and the results are in, and we can finally reveal the winner of the 2018 Player of the Year poll! And there’s a new name on the imaginary trophy this year – Port skipper David Rochela won the award in 2016 & 2017, but only finished a distant 5th this time round. That shouldn’t be seen as an indication of the capn’s declining powers; more the fact that there’s a lot more competition this year with Port having splashed the cash & brought in some top quality players. And yet, as you’ll see from the results below, it was an old hand who won the prize…

 

Winner: Sergio Suarez (41%)

Suarez was narrowly pipped to the prize by Rochela last season; this year there was no doubt who would win with the Spaniard winning in a landslide. Suarez was handed a more attacking role alongside Dragan Boskovic most of the season and revelled in it, scoring 18 goals and contributing 13 assists in all competitions. He may have his critics, particularly here at The Sandpit, and it has to be said that those stats could be even better if he was more consistent and less fond of getting into pointless on-pitch squabbles with referees and opponents, but Port would struggle to replace those kinds of numbers if he left.

 

 

2nd: Dragan Boskovic (11%)

Port’s much-vaunted big winter signing started with a bang (that goal against Pattaya), then went quiet, culminating in the unsavoury scenes of Chainatgate, then went on a run form, then went quiet again, and just as we were about to name him as the disappointment of the season, exploded into life late on, scoring 6 goals in the last 2 games to take his tally to 28 in all competitions. To be fair to the big Montenegrin, Port haven’t exactly played to his strengths and he’s had to go looking for the ball far too often, but his late season form gives us hope that, in 2019, we’ll see the best of Bosko.

 

 

3rd: Nitipong Selanon (9%)

The winner of our Writers’ POTY Award also got some love – though not as much – from our readers, finishing 3rd overall. As we have said already, you’re not going to get MOTM performances from Niti but you are going to get 110% effort, and virtually zero mistakes, week in and week out, and in a season when Port’s stars alternated stellar performances with no-shows, that counts for a lot. Niti’s improvement since 2016 has been a joy to watch and 2019 should be the season when the rest of T1 sits up & takes notice.

 

 

Images (c) Shutterstock

 

 

The Sandpit Writers’ Awards 2018

 

This year, as well as our annual readers’ poll (which opened yesterday – don’t forget to vote!) we decided to add a new award voted for solely by the Sandpit’s editors & contributors – The Sandpit Writers’ Awards. Voting closed yesterday, and we’re delighted to announce the two winners…

 

The Sandpit Writers’ Player of the Year 2018: Nitipong Selanon

Like a Tour de France winner who grinds his way to the yellow jersey without winning a single stage (he didn’t win one single MOTM award all season), Niti impressed our writers with his incredible consistency. Where Port’s more feted stars can be worldbeaters one week and invisible the next, Niti delivers week-in, week-out and never, ever gives less than the proverbial 110%. All the players we talk to tell us he’s the hardest trainer at the club and very professional & ambitious in his attitude, and you can see that in the progress he’s made since 2016. Well done Niti!

 

 

The Sandpit Writers’ Young Player of the Year 2018: Kevin Deeromram

If there’s one player who’s been the biggest difference between Port 2018 and Port 2017, it’s the 21-year old Swede. Last season left-back was Port’s biggest problem position, with Jadet inexplicably preferring the creaking Panpanpong to the young ex-Buriram defender Yossawat; but the night before the first game of 2018, Port pulled off the transfer coup of the season, snatching Kevin from under the noses of Muangthong (many news outlets had already announced him as an MTU player), and after an impressive debut against Pattaya he’s made the LB position his own. Like Panpanpong he’s great coming forward; unlike Panpanpong he can also defend and get back into position quickly when Port lose possession. His performances may have tailed off a bit late in the season, but he still did enough to impress our writers.

 

 

Images (c) Shutterstock

Nitipong Selan-OFF: Air Force Central FC 3-2 Port FC

 

 

Brevity isn’t in my wheelhouse at the best of times, but today, with Super Sunday’s Double Header on the agenda, I’m going to have to give it my best shot. Sunday’s bumper ticket saw not only Port’s away trip to Air Force, but also Port Futsal Club’s trip to Kasem Bundit University scheduled one after another. The famous Port fan bus, with its’ superhero captain at the helm, was taking in both games, and despite the hefty 80 baht price tag, I thought I’d dip in to my savings for the experience. You know the bus I’m talking about: the one that could probably have solved the Waco stand-off in a couple of hours flat just by pointing its’ speakers at the Branch Davidians and hitting shuffle. Let me sum up the experience as concisely as I can.

 

Godang Stadium, greetings, ball-grabbing, music, beer, selfies, unidentifiable food, dancing, Facebook live, beer, dancing, random plane, whiskey, Kasem Bundit University.

 

 

The Futsal

And just like that we’re at Kasem Bundit University a full hour before kickoff. No sooner had we chosen a patch of grass to colonize with beer, snacks and gratuitous whistling, free tickets from the Birthday Boy Mr. Chairman were being gratefully accepted by the Port traveling faithful. Then it was up to the 12th floor and the University gymnasium where Port’s Futsal Professors wasted no time teaching the Kasem Bundit Younglings a thing or two about how top-class futsal is played.

Within a minute Port were two goals to the good, with classy Brazilian Marcos (10) and Thai national team defender Chaivat (7) pinging two long-range efforts past a pretty useless Kasem ‘keeper. Port continued controlling the game without threatening a great deal before a comedy third goal was gifted to the impressive Anukul (22). The hapless Kasem stopper came at Anukul with something more akin to airborne attempted murder than a tackle, but the Thai forward calmly evaded the pilot-in-training and passed the ball in to an empty net.

A few Kasem players and the linesman provided most of the entertainment to the traveling fans in the second half, as several pairs of glasses were routinely offered to the linesman whenever he passed the Port fans. There were a couple of good old-fashioned pantomime villains in there too, including the dangerous heavy-set Kasem number 8 and his buddy Jahja (Binks), a pasty, gangly looking fella with a shit moustache. Number 8 scored a walloping freekick, Port replied with a couple more goals and Jahja got mercilessly abused for the rest of the game. With Port 5-1 winners however, the home players were warmly welcomed by the traveling support, and Jahja even made his peace with the black-clad Port ultras. Kasem Bundit University 1-5 Port Futsal Club. Easy!

 

 

Happy Birthday was sung to Port’s generous chairman and sweaty shirts were handed out by veteran midfielder Thananchai (17) and exquisitely named new striker Keerati (9), who looks and celebrates just like former Thai national team star Leesaw. With the organizational skills of the one and only Spiderming we were quickly back on the bus and on our way to Air Force. There was more…

 

Beer, shirtlessness, music, videos, dancing, beer, karaoke, pole-dancing, u-turns, Isaan music, whiskey, selfies, Thupatemi Stadium.

 

The Football

And just like that, we arrive at Air Force with barely a couple of minutes to go before kickoff. A traveling car-boot Leo saleswoman provides the only humane alternative to the Chang piss-water favoured by the official sellers, and as beer is allowed inside, we’re straight in just as the action is getting going. It’s an even more makeshift Port XI than expected on display, with Siwakorn (16) – presumably injured – absent from the match day squad altogether. That means a long-overdue first start for Indonesian starlet Terens Puhiri (28) on the right wing, with Bodin (10) and Pakorn (7) rotating between midfield and the left wing. There was also a first league start for on-loan Thai under 23 centre half Worawut Namvech (24), and a number of new faces on the bench. Sammy Slot (11) and Somprasong (14) have made a couple of match-day squads in recent weeks without making it on to the pitch, but Anon (20), Chanayut (99) and Sarawin (48) were all included in a first team squad for the first time.

 

 

Port started pretty sluggishly, unable to impose themselves on an Air Force team short on quality but armed to the teeth with energy. Nevertheless, the opening goal did come as a shock, with a nicely crafted passing move finding diminutive Thai forward Yodsak (9) in space on the edge of the area. I’m sure even Yodsak’s biggest fan wouldn’t have expected what happened next. The forward without a goal in 20 games in 2018 cut in, looked up and bent a sublime, unstoppable finish in to the top right-hand corner. As much as anyone has to justify why they’re being picked ahead of Kayne Vincent, Yodsak most certainly did with that finish. Questions must be asked of Nitipong (34) who was MIA, and Worawut, who was too slow to close down the forward. Wait, what just happened? Air Force 1-0 Port. Bugger.

Things quickly went from bad to worse, too. Boskovic fired wide after Pakorn put a chance on a plate for him, although he was then flagged offside, but Air Force looked the more dangerous side. Speaking of danger, Nitipong then broke forward down the right, and was absolutely annihilated from behind by a savage challenge from midfielder Phichit (28). Both feet were off the ground as Phichit scissored Nitipong like a randy lesbian porn star, but the Air Enforcer was lucky to only see yellow, although clips of his ‘tackle’ could well end up on redtube. The referee somehow got it into his head that someone had to see red though, and if not the assaulter, then why not the assaulted? As Nitipong landed, legs understandably flailing, his left boot caught Phichit in the face, and the ref, making his first but certainly not his last ridiculous decision of the day, gave Port’s mild-mannered right back his marching orders, despite the protests (and by protests I mean abuse) meted out by Boskovic.

With 10 men and down a goal, things could only get better. Oh no, wait, they could definitely get worse. Former Port winger Pinyo (44) played the lead role in the next chapter in Port’s tragic tale, with his weak shot bouncing awkwardly off Rochela (22) and spinning up and over a wrong-footed Rattanai (17) and in off the post. Air Force 2-0 Port. Bastard.

Then somehow, Port started to play. Poor old Terens (28) was stuck playing 2 positions on the right hand side, with Jadet loathe to remove an attacking player and shore up the defence. He stuck to his task admirably though, and although it limited his attacking opportunities Terens did a surprisingly good job at right wing back. It was Kim with the breakthrough, though. Having stormed out of the stadium in search of beer after the second goal went in, I was just passing by a gap in the stadium as The Korean stooped to meet Pakorn’s out-swinging corner and direct it in to the bottom left corner. It wasn’t quite Southgate’s conga line, but it did the job, and Port were back in the game at the half way point. Air Force 2-1 Port. Get in!

A reinvigorated Port took just 3 minutes after the restart to draw level. What?! Don’t we have 10 men? Boskovic put 21 year old Air Force captain Sarayut (23) under pressure with some high pressing and the Buriram loanee panicked, gifting the ball to Boskovic, who showed just how he scored 38 goals last season, lofting the cheekiest of finishes over the keeper and in to the net. Air Force 2-2 Port. Class.

What happened between Port’s equalizer and the outrageous conclusion can basically be summed up like this: Great save, Rattanai! Port’s young ‘keeper has been much less busy this season than in previous years, where he would routinely make match-altering contributions, but with Port down to 10 and both sides going hell for leather, his interventions were required on several occasions. Whether it was because of the linesman failing to flag clear offsides, the referee awarding soft free kicks or Air Force actually mounting an attack on their own merit, Rattanai stood alone a couple of times to keep Port level, with the 10 men really starting to tire.

That tiredness showed in the 86th minute when Pakorn poleaxed a marauding Air Force winger on the edge of the box. You’ll notice that I said on the edge of the box, rather than in it; a detail that the referee and linesman with the help of video technology somehow still managed to miss. Air Force forward Greg Houla (19) vociferously made the completely redundant point that Pakorn’s standing leg had kicked up some turf in the area, but the leg he tackled with looked outside the box. Still, as True’s presumably poorly placed cameras couldn’t definitively overrule the referee’s decision, it stood and Houla stepped up to take the penalty.

Rattanai, not yet done with the heroics, dived to his left and sent the admittedly poor penalty back where it came from, but Houla, struggling to regain control of the ball, hacked it back towards goal. Rattanai might still have saved his second attempt was there not a flailing Kim in front of him, but his brave resistance was finally breached and Port’s unlikely comeback attempt was shot down. Air Force 3-2 Port. Done.

After the final whistle the Air Force team was booed and shooed away from the Port end with chants of “Cheat” and “You’re going down” ringing in their ears. Opposition transgressions and refereeing incompetence are much easier to forgive after a 5-1 win than a 2-3 loss. Port’s players, and Madame Pang in particular, were given a rousing sing-song and a hearty post-game cheer. It may have taken them until they were two goals and a man down, but they mounted a gutsy comeback which could easily earned them all three points on another day. With a different referee. Madame Pang also had one her finest moments on the Port bench when she came storming out of the technical area with a face like thunder looking like she wanted to scratch the linesman’s eyes out. It could have made him any less blind, that’s for sure. Ultimately she was restrained by the best-paid bodyguard in Thailand Boskovic, and was given a soothing lullaby by the Port faithful.

Yet another chance to close the gap on second placed Bangkok United squandered. You wouldn’t have guessed it from the bus ride back, though!

 

Disco lights, karaoke, beer, shirtlessness, celebration, inappropriate touching, song requests, dancing, whiskey, lap-dancing, hastily-improvised earplugs, Godang Stadium, awesomeness.

 

The Sandpit’s Man of the Match

It could only be Rattanai, really. Terens put in a good shift, although his final ball was pretty poor when he got the chance to go forward, Boskovic worked hard and scored an excellent goal, Adisorn (13) ran himself silly, although in one sequence of play he lost the ball and won it back on two consecutive occasions. Muppet.

 

Worrying News Update

Apparently Pakorn collapsed after the game and was taken to the hospital from what may have been exhaustion. We’re hearing that on top of Port’s already packed schedule Pakorn played some kind of match for the police between Wednesday and Sunday. We wish him a speedy recovery and hope that this kind of absurd unprofessionalism isn’t allowed to happen again. Apparently his decision making is as bad off the pitch as it is on it.