Posts

The Portlist 7: New Blood

 

With Port’s two debutants, and a very fresh-faced bench on Sunday, it must be time for another Portlist.

 


 

1 (1) Sergio Suarez

Suarez has been out of action for a few weeks now, and my word does it show. Without him in the side, no other player is capable of linking midfield and attack, making Port look disjointed and impotent going forward. Even having missed several games now, Suarez is still Port’s top T1 scorer with 13, although Boskovic has now overtaken him in all competitions.

2 (2) Dragan Boskovic

Ever since that fateful Chainat away clash, we’ve seen a completely different Dragan. He works harder, he links up play better and he has far more confidence in front of goal. That last fact means that he now has 19 goals in all competitions. That’s what he was signed to do.

3 (3) David Rochela

El Capitan continues to be a crucial figure in Port’s team, especially with injuries and suspensions meaning that changes in personnel are now weekly occurrences at the back. Crucially, Rochela’s calming presence helps those who play alongside him.

4 (4) Kevin Deeromram

He flew up the last Portlist, and I see no reason why he doesn’t deserve to stay at number four. Always full of energy, contributing wholeheartedly to the attack and making key defensive contributions too, you couldn’t hope for a better full back in Thai football.

5 (7) Kim Sung Hwan

Kim regains a couple of spots, having slowly but surely settled in to the rhythm of Thai football. He makes fewer errors, adds another dimension to Port’s play with his vision and long passing, and has popped up with the odd goal from midfield, too. We certainly miss him when he’s not in the side. Having said that, the feeling has to be that Port could do more with their Asian quota spot, and it’s hard to imagine former Buriram star Go Seul Ki, who is rumoured to be in talks with Port, not doing a better job than Kim.

6 (5) Nitipong Selanon

There’s no direct competition for Nitipong in this Port squad. Setting aside for a moment how absurd that is, it means that even when he gets sent off and suspended, his importance to Port is just further underlined. With Adisorn suspended, will they use a left back out of position, or deploy a winger like Chakrit or Terens there? One thing is for sure, Port will miss Nitipong on Saturday.

7 (9) Elias Dolah

The second half of the season has gone well for Dolah. He has missed some games with injury and suspension of late, but his performance levels have been consistently good, and it really feels like Port are missing something when he’s not on the field. Todsapol is still a viable alternative, but Dolah does seem to have taken a lengthy stride ahead of him for now.

8 (13) Adisorn Daeng-rueng

He seems to be the answer to just about every question, and he doesn’t seem to do injuries. Whether it’s Suarez, Kim, Siwakorn or Nitipong that’s unavailable, you can be sure Jadet’s solution will involve the little terrier. His performance level rarely changes (for better or worse), and the energy he brings to the team is undeniably a big positive. On Sunday he gave the ball away then won it back twice in the space of 15 seconds. Typical Adisorn.

9 (14) Rattanai Songsangchan

He has cemented his place in the team, and he put in one the best Port goalkeeping performances of the season to give us a fighting chance against Air Force. His distribution is still a constant source of frustration, though. It may have improved significantly from when he first broke in to the team, but he still insists on aiming the ball at Pakorn or Nurul rather than Suarez or Boskovic.

10 (8) Siwakorn Jakkuprasart

Siwakorn continues to drift down the list. He still makes the odd important contribution, but the frustration at his final ball continues to overshadow the neat linkup play he provides in midfield. Last season, I couldn’t have imagined putting Adisorn above Siwakorn, but on the basis of their performance levels throughout 2018, it feels justified.

11 (10) Pakorn Prempak

I just can’t bring myself to drop him lower than eleven, even though I’m monumentally annoyed by his attitude and work rate of late. Why not? Well, he’s the top provider in the entire league for one thing. Yes, he may be just about as frustrating as could be, but he continually, consistently provides chances for his teammates in a way that other wingers like Nurul, Bodin and Terens just don’t. On merit, I’m sorry to say he has to stay in the first XI.

12 (12) Bodin Phala

Bodin is probably closer than he’s been at any point this season to changing that, though. His forced move in to midfield against Sukhothai was the revelation that most of us thought it would be, but with Nurul injured he will be occupying Port’s left wing for the foreseeable future. It’s time to add goals and assists to all that clever one-touch nutmegging stuff now, fella.

13 (15) Todsapol Lated

His goalscoring record for the last two seasons stands at 6 goals in 20 starts. Most Thai strikers would be proud of that strike-rate! Nevertheless, Todsapol has rightly slipped below Dolah in the defensive pecking order, although it’s still a close run thing, and Jadet may well call on him when more mobility is required.

14 (11) Worawut Srisupha

An excellent second choice goalkeeper, and getting plenty of minutes in cup games.

15 (17) Terens Puhiri

Finally, he started a game! In keeping with Terens’ frustrating season though, the red card meant he was asked to play right wing back for the majority of the game and was unable to show the pace and attacking ability Port fans are so clamouring to see.

16 (16) Arthit Butjinda

He’s had a fair few chances this season, but really hasn’t made a convincing argument that he brings much to the team. Yes he can win the ball in the air against most Thai defenders, but more is required in front of goal for Arthit to be anything other than a squad player at Port. Having said all that, experience tells me that as far as Thai strikers go, he’s really no worse than most teams have on their bench.

17 (21) Chakrit Rawanprakone

Is he Port’s second choice right-back as well as fifth choice winger? We will know on Saturday when the first XI is named.

18 (19) Panpanpong Pinkong

Gains a spot based on the fact that Kevin must be bloody knackered, and Panpanpong will be required to actually play some football at some point.

19 (20) Worawut Namvech

Injury and suspension have finally given him a first team chance, and the results are… inconclusive. Worawut was hooked at half time in a tactical switch in his first start, but played 90 minutes in his second. He looked good in the air, solid in the tackle but has to be partially at fault for Air Force’s first goal, where he let Air Force’s only striker have far too much room. Still definitely fourth choice.

20 (NE) Somprasong Promsorn

Somprasong was the first of the three new arrivals from Europe to make a match day squad, and against Air Force he became the first to make an appearance. Looks quick, lively and Jadet must quite like him.

21 (6) Nurul Sriyankem

Poor old Nurul fought his way up to sixth in the Portlist, but his long-term injury and the raft of young wingers chomping at the bit to take his place mean that The Penguin will do well to get back on to the pitch this season. Get well soon, little guy.

22 (26) Pummared Kladkleep

Named in several successive match-day squads due to injuries, although he hasn’t seen a minute of action so far in 2018.

23 (NE) Sammy Slot

I think young Sammy may well move up this list in coming weeks, although that will require Jadet to take something of a leap in faith in a young player, which would be rather out of character.

24 (22) Watchara Buathong

Still third choice goalie, and has even made the odd first team squad, as well as getting a few games for Port B. Is he the most unambitious man in Thai football? Quite possibly.

25 (24) Chanayut Jejue

Chanayut made his first match day squad against Air Force. He impressed in a friendly a couple of months ago, but he really looks like he needs to bulk up in order to make an impact in T1. Should be having daily appointments with Rod Pellegrino!

26 (NE) Anon Samakorn

The final arrival from Europe and the youngest of the three has made one matchday squad, but was not sent to warm up. Don’t expect to see him on the pitch in 2018.

27 (RE) Sarawin Phakdeekan

Reentering the Portlist, having been absent from the last four. The defensive injury crisis looks short-lived though, as will be Sarawin’s time on this list.

28 (23) Chaowala Sriarwut

Poor old Chaowala – Port B’s top scorer despite playing in central midfield – must be wondering if he’s ever going to be given a whiff of hope of first team involvement with the likes of Pummared and now Anon being favoured.

29 (25) Jetjinn Sriprach

Third choice left back behind two left backs who don’t get injured.

30 (27) Anipong Kijkam

With Watchara expected to move on, Anipong was in line for a promotion. Now he’s back where he started, which is still at the head of the Port B queue. Not bad for a young ‘keeper.

99 (99) Tana Chanabut

 

 

What’s that? You thought with Tana leaving Port he would lose his place in the Portlist? What you fail to consider is that Tana is doing far more for Port in a Nongbua Pitchaya shirt than he ever did when he was actually with the club. Promotion hopefuls when the crooner arrived, they have slipped down the T2 table with just one win in six since his arrival. His contribution so far? A yellow card. His shirt number? 69. Lulz

 

 

‘Mare Force: Air Force Central FC vs. Port FC, 15 July 2018

 

Port will look to bounce back in the league after Air Force ended their 7 game unbeaten run with a shocking upset in the League Cup on Wednesday. Whether you look at league position, squad strength or form, Port are massive favourites to take 3 points home from Thupatemi Stadium, although a much improved performance from a squad really starting to struggle with injuries and suspensions will be needed.

 

Air Force Central FC

Players to Watch

 

We all know how these Croats love to overachieve. Aleksandar Kapisoda (5) is your prototypical T1 foreign defender and the leader of the Air Force back line. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that, with the exception of a couple of loanees, he’s the only player in their entire squad who deserves to be starting for a T1 team. He’s 6 foot 3, dangerous coming forward from set pieces and ought to be well acquainted with Elias Dolah by the end of the evening.

Speaking of those loanees, the headline names are Ernesto Amantegui (13) and Sarayut Sompim (23). Ernesto surprisingly lost his place in Bangkok United’s back line this season after excelling for them in 2017, but has played every minute for which he’s been available since joining Air Force mid-season. He’s a Thai-Spanish left sided player who can play at full back or on the wing, and has experience in Spain’s third tier. 21 year old Sarayut is on loan from Buriram, who he has yet to make his debut for, has also been ever-present since joining in June. The youngster has even impressed enough to be made Air Force captain in recent games. Expect stiff resistance at the back from Sarayut and Kapisoda.

 

Kapisoda, Ernesto and Sarayut

 

There will also be quite a few familiar faces in Air Force shirts this Sunday. Expect to see Kayne Vincent (10), re-signed from T2 after Air Force’s big-name signings flopped, lumber around up front looking disinterested. At least one of former Port stars Ekkapoom Potharungroj (36), Pinyo Inpinit (44) and Jirawat Makarom (7) should also get a run-out off the bench. Pace and unpredictability are the name of the game for Ekkapoom and Pinyo, whereas Jirawat is an expert from dead-ball situations.

 

Vincent, Ekkapoom, Pinyo and Jirawat

 

Finally, Frenchman Greg Houla (19) is a bit of a wildcard. The attacking midfielder is just a few games in to his first spell outside Europe. He has played for a load of teams that I haven’t heard of, including a few, like Les Herbiers VF, that I suspect might be made up. He’s scored once in 5 games since joining last month.

 

Greg Houla

 

Form

 

Awful. Just awful. Many (myself included) picked Air Force to stay out of trouble this year after signing Leandro Assumpcao, Jaycee John and Renan Marques, but things have gone worse than anyone could have imagined. All three have left and 5 points have been accrued all season, making Air Force unlikely but legitimate contenders to ‘beat’ Super Power’s record low 6 points in 2017. They’ve lost 11 on the bounce, too. Ouch.

 

Port FC

Injuries and Suspensions

 

The one thing undoubtedly in Air Force’s favour is that they’re playing Port at the ideal time. Not only have they just enjoyed that morale-boosting success in the League Cup, but Port are reeling from injuries and suspensions too.

Todsapol (6) misses out having picked up his fourth yellow cards against Sukhothai, which wouldn’t ordinarily be a big deal, except that Dolah (4) will also miss out through injury. Another big name also joining Suarez (5) and Dolah on the sidelines is Nurul (31), who is expected to be out for around 2 months with a knee injury. Bugger. Arthit (29) was also withdrawn having picked up a knock on Wednesday, but we have no idea how serious his injury is.

 

No-Brainer

 

Rather than creating a dilemma for Jadet, though, this might just make things a bit simpler. He doesn’t have a lot of options at his disposal, so experimenting with Rochela (22) or Bodin (10) in midfield this week is pretty much off the table.

Expect Worawut Namvech (24) to make his fist league start of the season, having played 45 minutes in the cup on Wednesday. The youngster on loan from Chiang Rai is a great prospect, although his two appearances so far this season have consisted of a mistake leading to a goal away against Ratchaburi, and being withdrawn at half time on Wednesday. I have faith that the sturdy centre half will find his feet given time, but he’s got to take chances like this when they present themselves. Playing alongside El Capitan rather than Todsapol this time out might just help him out a bit.

In midfield, the trio of Adisorn (13), Siwakorn (16) and Kim (8) picks itself. With the shortage of defenders meaning Rochela must move back in to defence, Nurul’s absence meaning that Bodin is a shoo-in on the left wing, and Arthit likely being injured, moving Kim in to an advanced role would seem to be the only viable solution.

Pakorn (7), Bodin and Boskovic (23) will be tasked with making things happen going forward, something which they have struggled with in the absence of key man Sergio Suarez.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 


 

The match will be shown live on True Sport HD2 at 19:00 on Sunday 15 July, 2018. For those who can’t make it to Thupatemi 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.

 

I Will Follow: The Port FC Instagram League Table

 

Back in the old days of Bovril, half-time oranges and jockstraps, we rated footballers using such vague, inaccurate criteria as goals scored, medals won, international caps and so on. Thankfully in the digital age we have a much more precise metric to assess just how good footballers are – Instagram followers. So with the assistance of my lovely wife (and keen Instagrammer) Linny, I’ve ranked Port’s players based on how many people are following them on Instagram (with the exceptions of Kim and Chakrit, neither of whom appear to be on Instagram).

Note that all of these figures are dwarfed by our fragrant chairwoman Madam Pang, who has over 350,000 followers.

 

Nurul – 176,195

The wee fella has clearly benefitted from national team action, and is by far the most-followed Port star with over twice as many followers as his nearest challenger. Here he is celebrating with the time-honoured cunnilingus gesture.

 

Pakorn – 81,893

The Midfield Monk may not be a national team player yet but he’s Port’s second most followed player. Here he is with his mum. Awwwww.

 

Siwakorn – 72,476

Completing Port’s top 3 is yellow card collector and unlikely midfield hard man Siwakorn. He may put it about on the pitch but his Instagram feed is pure kawaii.

 

Terens – 59,781

Bodin – 17,761

Boskovic – 15,604

Put them away Dragan

 

Nitipong – 14,949

Todsapol – 10,573

Kevin – 10,359

Rochela – 8,637

Nope, me neither

 

Worawut (defender) – 5,317

Worawut (goalkeeper) – 4,487

Arthit – 4,156

Suarez – 3,614

Jetjinn – 3,298

Dolah – 3,153

“BEEFCAKE! BEEFCAKE!”

 

Rattanai – 2,306

Pummared – 1,069

Midfield Monk II

 

Adisorn – 795

Panpanpong – 646

 

Big thanks to Linny Russell for collating the stats for this piece.

 

 

2018 King’s Cup Roundup

 

Thailand’s King’s Cup Campaign ended in disappointment with a final defeat against a strong, experienced Slovakia side. After playing out a pretty poor 0-0 draw with Gabon, Kawin helped Thailand triumph in the semi-final shoot-out, before – despite a spirited display – they were relatively comfortably dispatched 3-2 by Martin Skrtel and co.

In keeping with my usual national team coverage on The Sandpit, I’ll be looking at each of Thailand’s players and giving my thoughts on their performances. Hey, there are even some Port players to talk about this year!

 

Kawin Thamsatchanan (1, goalkeeper)

Not only is he a great shot-stopper and very comfortable under the high ball, Kawin is a penalty specialist. His last few shoot-out performances have all resulted in victories for Thailand, with captain Kawin starring each and every time. The semi-final was no exception. In the final there wasn’t a great deal Kawin could have done with the 3 goals, particularly the third which was an absolute peach of a finish.

 

 

Philip Roller (13, right back)

One of Thailand’s weakest link in this tournament. Rajevac likes his full-backs to stay back, and you could tell that Roller was constantly fighting the urge to bomb forward down the right. This made him pretty ineffectual in the semi-final, when miserable Mongkol struggled to get any joy down the flank in front of him. Then in the final, when up against a winger much bigger and stronger than him, Roller really had a torrid time. Slovakia’s first goal pretty much summed it up, with Roller being comprehensively out-muscled as Slovakia’s winger broke in to the box and pulled the ball back for a simple goal. His one redeeming moment was his well-taken penalty in the semi-final.

 

Pansa Hemviboon (6, centre back)

This guy just keeps getting better. Not only is he the best Thai centre back by a country mile, on his form over the last season and a bit I would have him over most of the foreign defenders, too. Aside from his fine defending, the Buriram man almost broke the Gabon keeper’s wrists with a powerful strike in the semi final, netted the winning penalty with aplomb and scored from a set-piece in the final.

My player of the tournament for Thailand, narrowly beating out Kawin and Thitipan.

 

 

 

Chalermpong Kerdkaew (4, centre back)

I thought the Korat centre half was good in the semi-final, and didn’t do much wrong in the final either. He doesn’t do anything spectacular, he’s not great on the ball but he doesn’t make mistakes either, and that’s why Rajevac likes him.

 

Peerapat Notechaiya (2, left back)

With Tanaboon still out injured, Peerapat must take his place as the most overrated Thai player in the national team. Whoever allowed him to take another penalty this year needs a good slap. In last year’s King’s Cup, he smashed his effort a mile over the bar, and this year he passed it straight down the middle. Similar to Siwakorn in the Leo Cup for Port, everyone knew he was going to miss, except apparently him. Kevin can feel pretty aggrieved not to have played at all over the 2 games.

 

Thitipan Puangchan (8, centre midfield)

My player of the tournament in last year’s King’s Cup, and once again one of the best players on the park across both games. As well as his driving runs forward he must have made as many tackles as the rest of his teammates combined in the semi-final. In the final he had a compelling running battle with Slovakia’s bigger, stronger number 8, but such was his determination that he by no means came off second best. I’ll keep saying it: he is one of very few players in Thailand’s team with the guts to stand up and be counted when heads start to drop around him. He always puts in the work, he always wants the ball and he will put his body on the line like no one else.

 

 

Jakkaphan Kaewprom (7, centre midfield)

Largely anonymous across the two games, until he popped up with a tap-in in the final. His performances throughout the last season at Buriram have rightly earned him this opportunity, but I didn’t see anything to convince me that he will contribute much at international level.

 

Mongkol Tossakrai (11, right wing)

Probably Thailand’s worst performer, although Teerasil ran him close. As ever, Mongkol played with no creativity, and was unusually poor when he got himself in to the threatening positions that he has scored a decent number of international goals from. Rajevac gave him barely an hour in the first game, before rightly hooking him at half time in the final.

 

 

Theeraton Bunmathan (3, left wing)

Well, he didn’t really play on the left wing. Theeraton was all over the place throughout both games, and once again I just don’t think he contributes as much when he has the freedom to go wherever he wants. Drop Peerapat, stick Theeraton at left back, let him get forward as much as possible so he can deliver those wonderful left-footed crosses to Teerasil. How many goals has this formula provided over the years? I rest my case. Theeraton was also typically reliable form the spot, with his stutter-step technique continuing to prove successful.

 

Chanathip Songkrasin (18, attacking midfield)

What a superbly talented player. His first half performance in the final was absolutely vintage Messi-Jay, and the way he was doubled-up on and fouled in the second half showed just how scared of him Slovakia were. With Thailand chasing an equaliser late on he nearly had the shirt ripped off his back, much to the chagrin of the home support. Still needs to add more goals in order to really take his game to the next level, though.

 

 

Teerasil Dangda (10, striker)

What a let-down. The striker who has done well since arriving in Japan this season certainly didn’t show much of that promise over the two games. His touch was heavy, he wasn’t strong enough and was just frustrating for a player who has the ability to do so much better. Thankfully he did manage to keep his head when the goalkeeper passed the ball to him in the area, playing an intelligent pass to Jakkaphan who converted the chance easily. Also made no mistake from the spot, although if the ‘keeper had gone the right way he would almost certainly have saved it.

 


 

Bodin Phala (15, left wing)

Played about an hour in total, and looked pretty darn good. He was outshone by Nurul in the semi final, but still had quite a few threatening moments in both games. Bodin’s season so far has consisted of 8 substitute appearances in 8 games. If only he could get a start for Port every now and then!

 

Nurul Sriyankem (14, right wing)

Also used twice from the bench, where he was threatening and dynamic at times in both games. Was unlucky not to score with a chip in the semi-final, but came through with an assist for Thailand’s second goal in the final. If I’m honest it looked like an awfully miss-hit cross that made it’s way through to Pansa at the far post, but we’ll take it!

 

 

Siroch Chatthong (22)

Typical Pipo, really. Used his physique to create a promising break in the final, then booted the ball way too far in front of him, allowing the ‘keeper to gather comfortably. The promising Pipo of a couple of seasons ago is becoming a more and more distant memory, I’m afraid.

 


 

All photos by Umim Supatchana

 

A New Career in a New Town: Rating Port’s Debutants

 

Following a close season of lavish spending, Port took to the field against Pattaya on Sunday with three debutants, and another two coming on as subs later in the game. So how did the new boys fare on their first day in the office? Here’s our verdict…

 

Dragan Boskovic

The big Montenegrin striker with a beard you could hide a badger in came with a huge reputation and a price tag to match, and so expectations were sky high – and the Bosk probably exceeded them. He’s more than just a striker and was frequently found dropping back to midfield or moving out to the wing looking for the ball and creating chances for teammates – his interplay with Nurul in the second half was electrifying.

But scoring goals is what Dragan does best and he can’t have scored too many better than his debut effort for Port. In the 44th minute he picked up the ball on the left, ran into the box at high speed, pretended to overrun the ball, bamboozled two Pattaya defenders with some nifty footwork, and then fired an absolute thunderbastard of a shot into the far corner, before celebrating in front of a packed terrace – an unfamiliar experience for him after 3 seasons at Bangkok Utd.

DEBUT RATING: 5 stars

 

Nurul Sriyankem

The Thailand international also arrived with a hefty price tag, and before the game the talk was of how Jadet could accommodate both 2017’s top assister and Port’s own king of the assists, Pakorn, in the same team. He tried, Nurul starting on the left whilst Pakorn began on the right, but it wasn’t until the second half when the pocket rocket from Chonburi switched to his favoured side that we saw him at his best.

With incredible pace, lovely technique and a very low centre of gravity Nurul is a defender’s nightmare, and he gave Pattaya’s defenders a torrid time, winning a host of free kicks and drawing yellow and red cards, as well as creating Port’s second goal (his shot was saved and rebounded to Suarez) and striking up an early understanding with Boskovic. He was my MOTM and looks like one hell of a signing.

DEBUT RATING: 5 stars

 

Bodin Phala

In years to come, Port fans will be boasting that they were there when the young ex-Port Futsal player made his debut. Given just 15 minutes to make his mark, having replaced Pakorn from the bench, he grabbed the chance with both hands and made himself the main post-match topic of conversation.

After crashing a shot against the post with his first touch, he then took on free-kick duties and curled in a sublime Ronaldo-esque effort in the last minute to give Port a 3-0 win and close out the game, before celebrating by doing the funky chicken in front of Zone C. A brief debut, but he crammed more into those 15 minutes than last year’s left-wing substitute Tana has managed in two seasons.

DEBUT RATING: 5 stars

 

Kevin Deeromram

The young Thai-Swede only joined on deadline day and so hadn’t had much preparation time with his new teammates, but with only Panpanpong and Jetjinn for competition he went straight into the first team and didn’t disappoint. Like Panpanpong, Kevin likes to get forward and has a cracking cross on him (his 7th minute free kick almost led to a goal for Todsapol); unlike Panpanpong he doesn’t require a motorbike taxi to get him back into position and he fulfilled his defensive responsibilities admirably.

It was a solid, unspectacular start for the defender, which is exactly what you want from a left-back, and a rare clean sheet for Port was testimony to the fact that we no longer have a weak link at the back.

DEBUT RATING: 4 stars

 

Terens Puhiri

The inch-high Indonesian had a flash symbol shaved into his head in readiness for today’s game, ready to delight his army of Indonesian (and, increasingly, Thai) fans. Sadly The Flash only got a couple of minutes and didn’t get a touch, though he’d have been away if Boskovic had picked him out late in the game. So it would be unfair to give him a rating, but his proximity to the first team suggests we’ll be seeing a lot of him in 2018.

 

 

 

Wicked ‘Vic: Port FC 3-0 Pattaya Utd

 

The most hotly anticipated Port FC season in living memory kicked off at a jam-packed PAT last night with a win over a Pattaya side who were organised and physical but lacked a cutting edge up front. Stunning debut screamers from Boskovic (23) and Bodin (10) sandwiched a Suarez (5) goal to give Port just the start they wanted and to increase fans’ appetites for what is to come.

 


 

Ah, the first day of the season. The familiar taste of Leo and ice in a plastic glass. The meeting up with old friends. The unveiling of a rather tasty new shirt, then being told you can’t buy it until next month. Some things never change.

Quite why new Port shirts are treated with the kind of secrecy normally afforded to MI5 missions or buying beer on Buddhist holidays is a mystery; an even bigger mystery is how the club can spend over 100mBHT on new players but still not get the club shop stocked for the opening day of the season. Yes, I was given a free can of Leo with my season ticket, but I’d rather have had the option of BUYING A BLOODY SHIRT. Sort it out.

 

It was easier to find a Super Mario outfit than a new Port shirt

 

OK, rant over, because apart from the annual shirt debacle there was nothing whatsoever to moan about. The decision to put ModernDog on stage before the game was an inspired one, with their derivative but highly anthemic Thai rock music working the local fans up into a frenzy of excitement before kick-off. With Zone B visibly filling up, we took our seats 30 minutes before KO and found the stadium already full to the rafters, and Port’s performance will ensure that’s likely to be the norm this season.

Port, as expected, went at their opponents from the whistle, and although their first half performance wasn’t quite as fluid as it would become later in the game, the result should’ve been done & dusted by half-time. Boskovic in particular was serving notice that he’s here not just to score goals, and his all-round play, dropping deep or moving out to the wing to look for the ball, was a revelation to fans so long starved of a genuine Scary Foreign Striker. On 4 minutes, the bearded Montenegrin bombed down the wing, skinned two defenders and fired in a low cross, which rebounded off a Pattaya defender straight back onto his head, forcing the Dolphins’ excellent keeper into the first of many smart saves.

Port came closest to opening the scoring on 7 minutes when an excellent inswinging free kick from new left-back Kevin (97) found the head of Todsapol (6). Tossa directed his header into the corner but somehow the keeper pulled off a miraculous, Gordon Banks-esque save to keep it out. And on 15 minutes Pakorn (7), sensing that he’s no longer the only game in town when it comes to dead balls, hit the crossbar directly from a corner.

Despite their superiority, it took Port until the last minute of the half to break the deadlock. Suarez fed Boskovic down the left and he appeared to overrun the ball before cutting back, leaving two defenders for dead with a sublime bit of trickery, and firing an unstoppable strike into the top corner sparking scenes of delirium on the terraces. Port finally have a real SFS, one who can create goals out of nothing, and it feels damn good.

 

The PAT at its best – packed to the rafters & in full voice

 

Half-time saw the kind of frenzied beer queueing not seen since the repeal of prohibition, so your correspondent decided to forego the usual HT bevvy and thus made the start of the second half. 10 minutes in the referee – who had a generally poor game – awarded Pattaya what I initially thought to be a highly dubious penalty. But after using the VAG system – Video Assisted Guesswork – I can see that Pattaya’s big no9 Lukian has a wrestle with Rochela (22) on the edge of the box, the cap’n goes down, then has a little kick at the Brazilian as he tries to get away. Well spotted ref, and it looks as if Port’s penchant for piffling penalties is continuing into 2018. Thankfully Worawut, with his only real action of the night, pulled off a stunning save to keep it 1-0, with Suarez amusingly appearing to tell the ref where he could stick his penalty.

This proved to be the first of two incidents that turned the game, the second being a red card for Pattaya on the hour mark after Nurul was – for the umpteenth time – upended on the edge of the box. It was now 11 v 10 and, with Nurul restored to his preferred position on the right, Port were playing some champagne football and looking dangerous every time they crossed the halfway line. And yet the next chance fell to Pattaya, with a cross from the left spectacularly volleyed over Worawut but against the Port crossbar.

On 73 minutes, Port finally got the second goal their football deserved. Pakorn picked out Nurul in the box and his shot was again brilliantly saved by the Pattaya keeper, only for the rebound to fall to Suarez who gleefully blasted it into the roof of the net for hopefully the first of many goals this season.

It was Pakorn’s last act of the game as he was replaced by new boy Bodin (10), who almost announced his arrival in the most spectacular fashion, smashing a shot against the post in the 76th minute. Five minutes later, Nitipong (34) went down in the box and the referee, for reasons best known to himself, decided it was a penalty (the VAG tells me Niti was going down before the defender, who played the ball, touched him). Rochela, still taking pens despite the arrival of Boskovic, stepped up to take it but his shot was weak and the keeper saved it comfortably.

Seasoned Port fans may have seen the penalty miss as the beginning of Operation Fuckup, that post-80th minute phenomenon that seems to kick in every time Port have a two-goal lead; but thankfully this team is made of sterner stuff and they put the game to bed on 89 minutes, with the boy Bodin curling a delightful free-kick into the top corner and celebrating with a funky dance routine in front of Zone C. Nurul then went off to a standing ovation and to have the rare experience of being replaced by someone smaller than him, with Terens ‘Flash’ Puhiri making a late debut. Sadly the popular Indonesian didn’t get a touch, but his time will surely come.

So a comfortable, and thrilling, 3-0 win to start off this most anticipated of seasons, and the job done in very impressive fashion. There wasn’t a weak link on the pitch, with the defence solid, the midfield quick and creative, and the forward players often dazzling. Pattaya may not have been the strongest opposition Port will face this season, and they offered little goal threat, but the way Port dispatched them – and, for once, closed out the game – bodes well for 2018. The four new players all made quite superb debuts, and the incumbents visibly raised their game to match their new superstar teammates. Jadet has the winning start he wanted – and needed – and with Kim Sung Hwan soon to take his place at DM, the future is surely bright for Port. Hopefully starting at Muangthong next week!

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match – Nurul

A very, very tough choice this week, with all 11 starters, plus Bodin, staking a claim for the coveted Sandpit MOTM award. I was initially going to give it to Rochela, who put in a masterclass in calm, unflustered defending, however his giving away a penalty at one end and missing one at the other mean he misses out. Boskovic was also a contender, as was Suarez, who revelled in his new free role. But the award this week goes to debutant Nurul who, particularly once he switched to the right, absolutely terrorised the Pattaya defence, drawing fouls, free-kicks and cards almost every time he got forward. Only a miraculous save from Pattaya’s keeper prevented him from scoring on his debut, and his partnership with Boskovic looks like a recipe for goals.

 

Friendly Fire: Port FC 4-0 Bangkok Thonburi

 

For the second consecutive year, Port began their pre-season preparations against University side Bangkok Thonburi. Last season saw Port secure a comfortable 4-1 victory, with French trialist Saer Sene bagging a brace, and giving Port fans some hope that they had found themselves a top striker. It’s a year later, and Port once again find themselves in a similar situation. The competent if not exceptional Josimar was allowed to leave, the very good but arguably not exceptional Marcel Essombe has been signed and loaned to Police Tero, and Port are currently left with Wuttichai and Tana up front. Nevertheless, Port’s first XI excelled in a promising second half which yielded four goals, narrowly bettering last season’s scoreline, even if there wasn’t a recognized striker to speak of. Onward and upward!

Due to a shortage of photographic/video evidence of the game at the time the report was written, I will be inserting alternative artwork of my own choosing. In honour of retired Port midfielder Piyachart they will be a symbolic or artistic representations of what happened in the game, with some kind of Instagram-like filter applied to them.

 

‘The Football Match’ by LS Lowry with ‘Glow Edges’ filter applied to make it look less like a 5.6 million pound piece of art and more like one of Chris Coles’ representations of Soi Cowboy.

 

Port started with something between a second and third XI, and appropriately they turned in a performance that belonged somewhere between T2 and T3. Quite possibly below that, actually, as their opponents were a University team and Port certainly didn’t outplay them.

 

Tracy Emin’s ‘Messy Bed’ with a ‘Concrete’ filter. The huge turd on the bed represents Port’s first half performance.

 

Incidents of note during the opening period included several diabolical first touches, a missed header from 2 yards by Wuttichai and an argument between him and Jadue which had to be broken up by Pakasit. Jadue had just made one of about a hundred school-boy errors that had been made by the team in the first period, but Wuttichai took particular umbrage with this particular mistake and gave Jadue a dressing down which he was in no mood to listen to. The two were eventually told to go their separate ways back to the dressing room by Pakasit, and presumably their ‘conversation’ was continued behind closed doors during the break.

 

Wuttichai and Jadue as David Goliath with ‘Cut Out’ filter applied to represent the fact that both should be cut out from the Port squad ASAP

 

In terms of Port’s first half personnel, there were a few unfamiliar faces worth mentioning. Thanakorn (37) and Supachai (30) were sold to Songkhla and Sukhothai respectively last season, and appear to be training with Port until they find other club. Pinyo (21) is a winger who was on loan at Prachuap in the second half of 2017, and was injured for more or less the entire year and a half before that. Pinyo is a player with excellent potential, but that certainly wasn’t realized in this performance. Narakorn (29) is a left winger who joined Port from BBCU in 2017, but didn’t manage to make a competitive first team appearance. It’s pretty clear why. Port also brought Burmese trialist Aung Lwin (18) on up front, and in a team chock-full of pretty poor players he managed to stand out for being particularly awful. We’re going to tentatively predict that even while Wuttichai and Tana are the only available options, his trial will not be a successful one.

 

A representation of Aung Lwin’s first touch, with ‘Pencil Sketch’ filter applied to emphasise the sketchiness of his performance.

 

Things got going very quickly indeed in the second period, though. Port started with new signings Bodin (15) and Nurul (31), who played in a fluid front four with Pakorn (7) and Suarez (5). For the most part it was Pakorn on the right, Bodin through the middle and Nurul on the left with Suarez playing as a kind of ‘false nine’. Port immediately showed what the gulf in class should look like between T1 and University. Nurul was the stand-out performer, showing energy, dynamism and most of all superb skill. He was robbing the ball from his opponents, dribbling around them at will and linking up well with his teammates. Bodin was also excellent, playing in teammates on both sides of the pitch from his outpost in the centre and playing a lot of one and two touch football. In didn’t take long for the gulf in class to turn in to goals.

 

Port’s new formation, with Brightness and Contrast turned up to the max as Port’s performance was so bright and in contrast to anything we’ve ever seen before.

 

The opening goal was typical of Port’s early play, with Bodin playing in Nitipong (34) on the right, who fizzed in a dangerous cross which Suarez nonchalantly flicked past the goalkeeper. The Spaniard was looking very happy indeed with the tiki-taka football going on around him, although this was one of the rare occasions that he got on the end of anything as you would expect your ‘striker’ to do. A few minutes later it was Nurul’s turn to cut the defence to ribbons, which he did all by himself. First he broke through on the right and dinked an ambitious chip just over the bar, then after another jinking run he was scythed down well inside the area, although the referee charitably gave a freekick rather than a penalty, which Pakorn fired in to the wall.

The second goal was another combination between the two wingers, with Pakorn this time on the left and Nurul coming in from the right. Another flowing Port moved ended with Pakorn dinking in a cross with his weaker foot, and 5 foot 4 Nurul somehow getting the better of his defender to head the ball back across goal and in to the net. Something tells me he’s not going to be scoring many headers in T1!

 

Nurul Dinklage from Port of Thrones

 

The poor old Thonburi defenders just couldn’t get to grips with livewire Nurul, and before long he again bamboozled a defender down the right and was scythed down inside the area. This time the official did point to the spot, and interestingly Pakorn (7) rather than Rochela (22) stepped up to take it, comfortably beating the ‘keeper from 12 yards. It was to be Pakorn’s last action of the half, as he was replaced soon after. If he’d only stayed on another couple of minutes he would have had another penalty to take.

 

Salvado Dali’s impression of Pakorn’s penalty, with a ‘Smooth’ filter applied.

 

We weren’t sure what this one was given for, but it was in the middle of a move where Port embarrassed so many defenders with one-touch flicks that the referee may just have awarded it as a kind of mercy killing. Port weren’t done with gratuitously humiliating their opponents, though. With Pakorn off it was Rochela’s turn, and in the fine tradition of Johan Cruyff and most recently Lionel Messi, Rochela tapped the ball to his left where Suarez was waiting to score the simplest of tap-ins. Ay Caramba!

 

A representation of Rochela and Suarez’ penalty.

 

In terms of what we learned from the personnel in the second half, we learned that Pakorn, Nurul and Bodin all being on the pitch together works a treat! Admittedly they will need to do the business against better opposition than this, but this performance was certainly a good sign. The left back battle is well and truly on, with Yossawat (28) and Panpanpong (19) both getting a run-out with the first XI. Todsapol (6) has also maintained his position ahead of Dolah, and on a day where practically no defending was necessary nothing will have changed with the pecking order. Adisorn (13) has hung on to his place, but he looks very much like a placeholder until Kim Sung-Hwan starts his Port career. We would be nervous about him not being there today if we hadn’t already seen him on Madame Pang’s Instagram! Speaking of which, Chakrit, Athirbordee and Nebihi have all yet to be inducted in to the Madame Pang timeline of Fame, so their transfers may potentially still be up in the air.

 


 

First and second half lineups

 

Tom’s Transfer Talk: Nuru and the Montenegrin Coat of Arms

 

So, this isn’t exactly the most punctual Transfer Talk ever. To be fair though, when the news broke about Port’s marquee Thai signing, The Sandpit was eyeball deep in craft beer and couldn’t have told you whether ‘Nurul’ was a Thai footballer or a style of Japanese erotic massage.

 

Port’s new signing?

 

Then, just as our social media accounts started to be bombarded with news about the pint-size winger – that in our inebriated state we probably mistook for an actual pint of beer – we discovered a Thai Port bar not far away on Udom Suk and proceeded to celebrate by swilling Leo like thirsty privateers celebrating the capture of a Spanish treasure ship. Somewhere between taking on the ‘buy 5 get 1 free’ promotion as a repeat challenge and engaging in an extremely intense debate about the objective value of music, we eventually called it a night, and resolved to report on the good news in the morning.

 

 

Come the morning however, we discovered that it was not a Spanish treasure ship that we had captured, but a Moby Dick of a headache so savage that between us we would have probably offered to pay Nurul’s 20 million baht transfer fee just to make it stop. But stop it didn’t, hence why we bring you news of Port’s excellent new signing rather later than we would have liked.

 

Nurul Sriyankem

For the basic details on Port’s new superstar winger, check out his player profile here. Whilst Nurul is an excellent signing, his acquisition certainly raises a tricky issue for coach Jadet. He now has two of the best right wingers in the country at his disposal, and has to figure out what to do with them. The simplest way I can think of to explain his conundrum is to relate Nurul and Pakorn to the rather better known Giggs and Beckham. Nurul is our Giggsy, with his electric pace and lightning changes of direction, while Pakorn is our Becks, with his pinpoint crossing and dead-ball expertise. So, if Giggsy was right-footed, what would you do? For me the answer is to stick him on the left anyway, because if you put Becks out there you lose the whole point of having him in the team in the first place, whereas Giggsy can still do a job even if his performance from that side of the pitch is likely to be a bit sub-optimal. Alternative ideas have also been proposed, such as putting Nurul on the right, using Pakorn through the middle and starting with new leftie Chakrit on his natural wing.

 

Bajram Nebihi

Another now confirmed signing is that of German attacking midfielder Bajram Nebihi. He scores his hattrick of transfer-talk references today, and we are still none the wiser on what Port intend to do with him. As we’ve said before, if he’s replacing Suarez then we’re over the moon, but if he’s going to be used as a centre forward then we think Port could most certainly do better. With rumours still flying around left, right and centre about strikers, it seems likely that Nebihi is indeed being rightly seen as an attacking midfielder, which could mean that Suarez will be finding a new club and Port will continue to try to secure a big-name goalscorer. Speaking of which…

 

Bangkok Untied

The latest superstar to be linked with PAT Stadium is an absolute corker. It’s based on a story about Bangkok United’s foreign players, which says that they will be keeping hold of just 2 of their current 6. That means that only 2 of the superstar trio Dragan Boskovic, Mario Gjurovski and Jaycee John will remain at Thammasat stadium, assuming that Yohan Tavares, Mehrdad Pooladi and Chinedu Ede all move on as expected.

Bangkok United’s – and indeed T1’s – leading scorer in 2017 was Montenegrin scoring ace Dragan Boskovic, and reports have emerged in the last couple of days suggesting that with Jaycee John holding an Asian passport, Boskovic is the forward most likely to give way. Now, let’s be very clear, this is a very suspect story indeed and I’m not saying that I think there is even a grain of truth in it, but if nothing else it is Exhibit 87 so far of the transfer window of Port being linked to exactly the right kind of players. At the risk of getting too many hopes up, we know from a less-than-sober chat we had with Dragan earlier in the season that he is a big, big fan of the PAT Stadium atmosphere and already a Khlong Toei local, and that the Montenegrin Coat of Arms features a lion. Up next, how Port are being linked with David De Gea, who they plan to loan to Samut Prakarn FC, and how Mezut Ozil is set to be named team optician.

 


 

Additionally, it just so happens that The Sandpit’s very first Birthday coincides with my 100th Sandpit contribution, so here’s a massive thank you to everyone who helps me churn out the untimely, error-ridden ramblings that I offer up on this fantastic website. Thanks to Editor-in-chief Tim for providing this awesome platform and pointing out my constant spelling mistakes, Dom in his unofficial capacities as Port historian, chief news-spotter and reports/previews editor, and all those who send me rumours and news. Thanks also to all the guests who have appeared on Zone F podcasts and the players who have participated in our interviews. Most of all though, thank you to all of the Port fans who continue to make going to games the highlight of my week. Here’s to doing it all over again in 2018!

 

Tom’s Transfer Talk: Essombe Signed By Port; Nabbed by Police

 

Port’s annual striker search is well and truly in overdrive, with rummy rumours about huge names all over the shop in the most recent round of gossip. The four names currently in the frame to replace Josimar are Bajram Nebihi, Dellatorre, Marcel Essombe and the big prize Jaja Coelho. Prepare yourself, because this story could well have a real sting in the tail! In other rumours, Port are in for two top Thai wingers, both of which would be excellent if pricey signings, and a couple of Port’s old guard are rumoured to be heading to Isaan.

 

The Foreign Strikers

 

Let’s start with the strikers. In ascending order of excitingness…

 

 

We covered the rumours linking Bajram Nebihi to Port in the last Transfer Talk and the conclusion was that as a replacement for Suarez he would be a good acquisition, but as an out-and-out striker he certainly isn’t what we are after. With the all-star cast on our radar, Nebihi is certainly the runt of the litter. Pass…

 

 

Dellatorre is a big, strong Brazilian forward who has been at Suphanburi for the last 2 seasons. He had a bit of an underwhelming campaign in 2016, notching just 10 times in 26 starts, but really clicked in to gear at the start of 2017, scoring 8 goals and making a further 5 in his first 13 games. Dellatorre struggled with injuries in the second half of the campaign, but still managed to net 14 goals in his 22 appearances, including 3 in 2 games against Port. If Dellatorre shows the form he usually displays against Port in the orange and blue next season, we will most certainly have one of the better forwards in the league.

 

 

Rumours have been going around about Ratchaburi’s Cameroonian forward Marcel Essombe for a while now, and the story has really heated up in the last few hours. I’m not going to lie, this is going to get wierd. Essombe was one of the stars of the first half of 2017, scoring 13 goals in his first 14 starts, and although he fell out of favour towards the end of the season, he still finished with 19 goals. Now, the latest news, which we have seen on both Goal.com and SMM Sport is that Essombe has already signed with Port, but has been loaned straight out to Police Tero for 2018. All together now… WHAT THE F*CK?! Are we about to see Maranhao-level tomfoolery rear its’ ugly head again? If this story is true, it would suggest that Port have either signed a bigger name already, in which case I’m not sure why they see the need to sign Essombe and then loan him out, OR they are playing a very risky game indeed by putting their eggs in what is most likely a Jaja shaped basket. Speaking of which…

 

 

The man who’s name just won’t go away, and undoubtedly Port’s main target for the last few months has been Buriram’s Brazilian battering ram Jaja Coelho. Yes, the man who bent time and space to convince the linesman that he was onside when Port visited the Thunder Castle has confirmed that he will not be at Buriram next season, whilst Muangthong will reportedly be sticking with Heberty and Assumpcao as their Brazilian forward line in 2018, meaning that the race for the 34-goal strikers’ signature is legitimately wide open. With Port having thrown away the chance for a top signing already, they’d better pray that they are in the box seat for Jaja’s coveted signature.

 

The Thai Wingers

Port To Sign Dom? Things Bodin Well…

 

In Thai transfers, Port are apparently in the frame for two potentially major signings. Youngster Nurul Sriyankem had an absolutely blistering year in 2017, scoring 8 goals and assisting an outrageous 18 for Chonburi, but has a 30 million baht price on his head, which apparently Buriram and Chiang Rai are both willing to stump up. Port can consider themselves well and truly in third place in the hunt to sign the pint-sized superstar.

 

 

In an interesting twist, though, if Buriram get their man then Port’s chances of landing 22 year old Buriram winger Bodin Phala could well get a huge boost. Port are apparently interested in the cultured attacking player – nicknamed Dom – who ran rings around Port defenders in a Bangkok Glass shirt back in 2015, and he could be available for a much more affordable 7 million baht. Interestingly, Bodin represented Port Futsal Club back in 2013 as a teenager. His excellent close control and short, sharp passing at speed is clearly a product of his futsal background. Bodin could also be a more sensible signing as he has more experience of playing on the left – where Port are in desperate need of an upgrade – than Nurul. There are srong rumours that this deal is close to being completed if it hasn’t been already. Exciting times…

 

The Dead Wood

 

Of course there are also rumours about outgoings too, and mercifully Wuttichai appears to be at the front of the exit queue. Behind him, waiting patiently for a permanent Port exit is left back Piyachart Tamaphan, who was on loan at Ubon in the second half of 2017. Both are apparently on Sisaket’s radar, and it would make a lot of sense for all involved for these moves to get done.