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Port Announce Two Friendlies

Port FC will play two more pre-season friendlies in the coming week.

On Thursday 15 December, they travel to Siam Navy FC, and on Sunday 18 December they welcome Malaysian side Pahang FC to the PAT. Both games kick off at 17:00 and as far as we know entrance is FOC. Details are on the Fixtures & Results page.

As usual the Sandpit welcomes volunteer match reporters for both games.

Dolah In The Bank

 

Thai-Swedish centre-half Elias Dolah has reportedly signed with Port. The 6 foot 5 defender was born in Lund, Sweden to a Thai father and a Swedish mother, meaning he will be able to bring his experience of European football to Port without taking up one of the five foreign player slots.

Elias Dolah, 23

23 year old Dolah played 21 games for local third tier side Lunds BK before moving to FC Rosengard and then Songkhla United in the TPL. He made 23 appearances for Songkhla last season, scoring one goal.

Dolah looks to be a shrewd signing, bringing much-needed physical presence to a Port squad that was somewhat lacking in height and strength last term. His arrival will increase competition for places in the Port back-line, where Todsapol (6) formed a solid partnership with Rochela (22) last season. He could also add a goal threat from set-pieces, giving Pakorn (9) a target for his pinpoint crosses.

Welcome to PAT Stadium, Elias Dolah!

 

Portrait of an Icon: Leandro Oliveira da Luz

“Leandro! One-nil”

It could have been John Motson or Barry Davies, screaming those words with accustomed familiarity on Match of the Day, but for us, in those first few games of the TPL season 2014, it was probably just in our heads. Leandro had, inevitably, scored and we were ahead, and for a while, top of the League. They were giddy times, and Leandro, his exploits in the previous season’s promotion campaign still buzzing through the memory banks, was our hero. I loved him and, to show my devotion, popped down to MBK to buy a Port blue t-shirt to have it emblazoned, in bright orange lettering, with that commentary above and, ‘The Perfect 10’ on the back. So, what of the man who had inspired this devotion?

 

The Pedigree (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Leandro was born in Candido Mota in Brazil on March 3rd, 1983. At the age of 19, he joined the legendary Santos in the top echelon of Brazilian football, Pele numbering amongst its former luminaries. The following year, he represented his country at U23 level, scoring one goal in 4 appearances. His career took on a rather wayward, nomadic turn after this, as he wandered through a number of home-based teams before making his way to Hai Phong in Vietnam in 2008.

 

It was here that he reached his own personal level of excellence, scoring 53 goals in 68 appearances, being made captain and winning Player of the Year 2009 in an on-line, unofficial poll. Leandro left Vietnam in 2012 to return to Brazil, but it was no doubt during his time in the V League that he had come under the radar of Dusit Chalermsan, Port manager 2013-14, who was coaching in Vietnam at the time.

 

The Goals 2013-14

Leandro announced his arrival with a stunning, left foot volleyed goal against Bangkok Glass in a rather meaningless, pre-season tournament in Chiang Rai. A header and a trademark free-kick in the first, victorious, away game at Ayuthaya confirmed that we had something special on our hands. ‘Getting a Brazilian’ became a subject that could now be discussed in Port family circles without any hint of embarrassment or recrimination. We won the first four away games in a row, were top of the League and the promotion adventure had begun.

 

The goals flowed: twenty-four that season, to win Leandro the Golden Boot. And they were, often than not, spectacular. Left foot shots and volleys, long and short range, of all description – meeting the ball dropping out of the air; crosses from the right; crosses from the left. Had they been scored by.. (insert here the name of a top Premier League striker) they would have been talked about incessantly. But they weren’t and they were.

 

Then came the headers, dispatched with deadly accuracy: diving with power; hanging in the air with placement; deftly cushioned into the corner. And, the penalties – he never missed. Every corner, free-kick and penalty was met with an expectant intake of breath, ready to be discharged in an exultant roar to announce yet another Leandro goal. We almost expected him to score direct from a throw-in.

 

His goals took us to promotion in 2013, to the top of the TPL at the beginning of 2014, and helped to save us from an unjust relegation after a 9-point deduction following the annual Battle of Muang Thong.

Leandro: what was there not to like…….?

 

The Dark Side

Quite a lot, according to some, and there is no doubt that Leandro had his detractors. He was, without doubt, egotistical; he wanted the game to revolve around him, often berating team-mates for some perceived indiscretion. In the true Latin tradition, he was, to put it kindly, theatrical. He dived, he rolled over, he screamed, clutching numerous body parts with varying degrees of pain intolerance. He argued with officials and had tantrums. He carried his baby into the pre-match line-up. In other words, he was the epitome of the modern footballer.

 

Whether you loved him or hated him (it was hard to be indifferent), you just couldn’t stop talking about him. Still, as Oscar Wilde once said, “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” I suspect Oscar would have admired Leandro.

 

My question to his detractors is: “Would you rather have had him for those two years or not had him? Would we have won promotion and climbed to 9th place in the League without him? If not Leandro, then who?”

 

He could be a rogue, but to my mind, a loveable one, and we English love a loveable rogue – just look at the Krays!

 

The Dismantling of an Icon

So, how will we look back on Leandro? For two years he was our God, our mercurial wizard; his left foot – his magic wand. We all knew he could be a bit of a twat. But, he was our twat, and we adored him. To watch him on his last return to Port with Air Force was to only feel sad at how much he had lost that magic. Never possessing a sylph-like figure, he looked overweight and well off the pace; even his aim letting him down. His once feared free-kicks never surmounted the wall and he spent most of the game in a running battle with the ref, Port players (and his own), and, ultimately, the crowd, that had once adored him and chanted his name. When he was sent off after a second yellow card for a nasty foul on the young Port keeper, Rattanai, his departure was greeted with ironic cheers, or were they jeers? This was the third time he had returned to Port as an opposition player; on the first occasion, he did a lap of honour around the ground, signing autographs and posing for selfies.

 

With each subsequent visit, his allure had diminished.

 

I, for one, will not forget him. Thanks for the memories, Leandro – Once You Were King. 

 

 

2016 Season Review: Great Expectations

A disappointing 2015 saw Port relegated to Division 1. 2016 started off with some impressive signings and a heady confidence that we wouldn’t be in the second tier for long. The first and most impressive of the signings was Thiago Cunha (10) from Chonburi, he was joined by two Brazilian Midfielders Maranhao (29) and Wagner (35). Along with Pakorn (9) Pinyo (21) and Tana (5) from Division 1 championship winning Police United. Looking at the squad list on day one Port had assembled the best group of 35 in the league.

 

Port had a great start with 9 wins and 4 draws. We were top of the league and looked like favourites for the Division 1 championship, but other teams also had impressive records. Ubon UMT held Port to a draw in Ubon and were the main early contenders for the title. Port’s results were good, but often revolved around a few bits of great individual play. This Port team looked great at times but disjointed at others. We had enough good players to beat average Division 1 teams but the drawn matches showed this team was not going to walk the league. The Division 1 championship was going to be decided by which of the top 5 or 6 teams dropped the least points in a top heavy league. Port’s first loss away to Ang Thong FC flagged them up as possible promotion challengers. Thai Honda joined Ubon UMT with decent early form.

 

After the loss to Ang Thong and a draw against Rayong FC worse was to come. Port went on to throw away a two goal lead to last placed Bangkok United. Serious questions being asked about whether Port had any chance of winning the Division 1 title. Then came the first home loss of the season to a well organised but mid-table Prachuap FC. This probably sealed manager Wada’s fate. He’d done a reasonable job at the back end of last season and the beginning of 2016, but it wasn’t going to be enough to save him from Madam Pang wielding the axe. His results weren’t dreadful, but with the squad available Port were underperforming.

 

New manager Jadet Melarp came in and secured an FA Cup win against BEC Tero. Under Jadet Port went on to beat promotion rivals Ang Thong FC when they visited PAT Stadium. He’d knocked a few heads together and the future looked rosy for Port.

 

Unfortunately the next game saw Jadet make the odd decision to switch a winger in to defence exposing an already troubled back line. The strong Thai Honda attack really shut down any chance of a win for Port. We should have been aiming for at least a draw against Honda but the result showed that Port were vulnerable against the top clubs. With this win Honda took control of the race for top spot. The next Port loss 5-1 away to Chiang Mai sounded serious alarm bells back at the PAT. Chiang Mai had a reasonable side, but Port were looking to take 3 points from this game. They ended up being battered 5-1. It was a body blow for Port’s promotion hopes. Coming in between the two mid-week cup games Port were paying the price for a good run of form in both cups. Tired legs and a long trip up North to Chiang Mai did for Port, they never got into the game.

 

Port’s Cup form was a highlight of the season. Beating a decent Bangkok Glass team 1-0 at home, Navy away and Sisaket back at the PAT. Port had developed the infuriating ability to turn it on against the big clubs, then falter against average league opposition.

 

Thai Honda and Ubon UMT weren’t dropping many points towards the end of the season. Port’s championship bid slowly turned into a chase for the last promotion place. Ang Thong, Songklaa and Air Force were all within striking distance of Port if they slipped up. A 6-2 demolition of Samut Songkram set up a promotion clash against Air Force, lead by everyone’s favourite Ex-Port manager Sasom. He had just seen his side dispatch Bangkok United 5-0 and announced in the press he believed Air Force were going spoil Port’s promotion hopes. Port had only narrowly beaten Air Force away. This game would be a chance to control our own destiny in the promotion race or get dragged into a tight four horse race with Air Force, Ang Thong and Songklaa.  In a close game Port beat Air Force 2-0 and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. There was a party atmosphere at PAT as it looked like the job was nearly done. But before Nakhon Pathom in the league there was Muangthong away.

 

In the first leg of the league cup semi-final Port looked solid only losing by one goal to a Muangthong side dominant in the TPL. The second leg of the semi-final saw a tight game with Muangthong holding on for a 1-1 draw getting them through to the final. The match saw some serious fan violence after the game. With these incidents it’s always difficult to tell who started and who retaliated. Both sets of fans were at fault at different times. The beating of a lone Port fan near the exit road of the away end, was probably the key trigger to the ensuing violence. The violence meant both sets of fans would be banned from the stands for the last 5 games of the season.

 

Port still had a crucial game in the league three days later. Another win and promotion would be nearly certain. Next up were a lackluster Nakhon Pathom side that Port had beaten 6-1 at home and hadn’t won in their last five. Three points in the bag for sure, unfortunately Nakhon Pathom hadn’t read that script. They ran a shocked Port side around chalking up a 2-1 win, they could’ve easily scored a few more. Maybe the aftermath of the Muangthong game affected the players, I think it was more likely the highly charged atmosphere and the come down from such a close defeat against the top side in the TPL. This shattered side sleep walked into Nakhon Pathon expecting to be handed the three points.

 

Reflecting on the loss to Nakhon Pathom and the pummeling in Chiang Mai, Jadet played a weakened side away to Sukothai in the FA Cup. A team half starters half subs bowed out of the FA Cup in the quarter finals. This set up a real test of a home game against an already promoted Ubon UMT. A nervous make or break game for Jadet and Port. It was a quiet day at PAT stadium with only Ubon UMT fans allowed in, and Port fans watching the match at the Port Futsal stadium on the big screen. The Futsal Stadium is essentially a warehouse with four big fans plonked in it. The event was a cross between viewing a football match and a 1980’s rave. As Port went 3-1 up flares were lit up, and everyone ended the night all loved up. This win put Port safely in third place. Port needed only one point from the last two games to make promotion a mathematical certainty.

 

On 13th October 2016 King Bhumibol Adulyadej died at the age of 88 after a long illness. The death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej meant the whole country entered a period of mourning. The Thai F.A. decided to end the 2016 season early cancelling the last two fixtures for all clubs. This left Port in third place promoted along with Thai Honda first and Ubon UMT second.

 

 

Siroch: The One That Got Away

Did Port miss the opportunity to sign the Thai Heskey?

Siroch Chatthong, Ubon UMT’s powerful 24 year old forward, has exploded on to the Thai football scene in 2016. His promising displays this term did enough to persuade national team coach Zico to take a chance on him, and he has repayed the faith shown in him with some barnstorming performances.

Siroch vs. Rochela

Siroch, nicknamed Pipo, celebrated his 24th birthday on Thursday by scoring his first international goal in Thailand’s 4-0 thrashing of Myanmar, but it’s not because of his goals that Thai fans have taken to him. Pipo plays a distinctly un-Thai style of football, using his physique to bully and streamroll opposition defenders. Playing in Ubon’s all-white kit last season, Port fans may remember him being covered head-to-toe in Khlong Toey’s hallowed mud as he fought manfully for his team, although he couldn’t prevent them slipping to a 3-1 loss at PAT Stadium. Port fans congregated in the local Futsal arena during the stadium ban were full of praise for the Ubon forward, but if things had turned out differently, they could have been cheering on one of their own.

Before moving to Ubon UMT for the 2016 season, Pipo played for BCC in the regional league. Their home ground? Our very own PAT Stadium. Pipo scored 10 goals in 29 games for BCC before being spotted by Ubon’s scouts, but the Port coaching team must be disappointed that they missed the chance to sign Thailand’s most promising young player while he was right under their noses.

Tana Chanabhut

What’s more, it seems likely that Pipo has now usurped Port striker Tana Chanabhut’s place in the national team squad. Port’s only representative in the national team usually makes the 23 man squad alongside Muang Thong duo Teerasil Dangda and Adisak Kraisorn. Once all four are fit they will be fighting for three places, and it seems almost certain that Pipo will be ahead of Tana in the pecking order.

While Thai fans will be gleefully watching Indonesian players bounce off Pipo as he marauds through their defense in the Suzuki Cup Final later this month, Port fans may justifiably feel a little peeved that they missed the chance to sign Thailand’s latest sensation.

 

 

The Sandpit/Thai Port Importz 2016 Player of the Year

We asked members of the popular Thai Port Importz Facebook group to vote for their 2016 Port FC Player of the Year this week, and the results are in – and it’s an absolute landslide for Port’s Spanish captain David Rochela.

Rochela’s loyalty, his calm, unhurried defending, and his week-in week-out consistency made him the undisputed winner. He surprised many Port fans by pledging his loyalty to the club after relegation in 2015, and his leadership was a key factor in Port returning to the TPL at the first attempt. Thai football’s very own Alan Hansen/Paolo Maldini, his reading of the game means you rarely see him diving into tackles, giving away penalties or getting booked, and his best work is generally so damn smooth & unruffled you barely notice he’s there. Except when he’s stepping up to take penalties of course, which he did with ruthless efficiency on numerous occasions. His dashing Mediterranean good looks have made him a big hit with the laydeez, and, as The Sandpit can confirm after bumping into him on a night out recently, he’s a very nice bloke too. Well done David!

Whilst I was one of the many who voted for Rochela, my second vote would’ve gone to the unfancied Genki Nagasato. He may not have been blessed with the silkiest footballing skills – as Big Ron once observed of Carlton Palmer, “He traps the ball further than I can kick it” – but there’s always something exciting about an old-school, socks-down, balls-out winger. The Genk always gives the proverbial 110%, weighs in with a few goals and, best of all, clearly just bloody loves playing football, which is a wonderful thing to see. If the rumours are correct it appears we may not see him in a Port shirt again, so Genki-san, we, or at least I, salute you.

Anyway, without further ado here are the top-ranked players and some reasons why…

 

David Rochela: 67%

“Our best player by a country mile, and always puts in a shift.” (Danny)

“Over the season Rochela’s work at the back kept us in contention. He held a pretty average defence together.” (Dom)

“Rochela – reads the game well & steady as a rock. A captain leading by example.” (Derek)

“Rochela by a mile…” (Tommie)

 

Pakorn: 11%

“Pakorn must have had more combined goals and assists than any other player by a long shot. Can be frustrating at times, but without his contribution, particularly from set pieces, we would not have been promoted. Without him in the side there is pretty much no one who can take a set piece or cross a ball. ” (Tom)

“When he was on it was a treat to watch.” (Mike)

“Pakorn was an important part of promotion. Without him we wouldn’t have gone up, but for the same money we could’ve got someone better. He was class on the ball, and on free kicks. But he was incredibly selfish, undermines a lot of the good work he did. A big reason Port faultered was big names playing as individuals not pulling together as a team. Can’t give player of the season to someone who boots the ball out of the stadium after being subbed. He would make the top 5 players of the season but can’t bring myself to put him top.” (Dom)

 

Tana: 11%

 

Rodrigo Maranhao: 5%

“Maranhao for me, even though he faded in the 2nd half of the season but still chipped in with a load of goals.” (Kenny)

 

Sivakhorn: 5%

 

Big thanks to all who voted and commented. If you like polls, scroll down to the bottom of this page and tell us how you think Port FC will fare in the 2017 TPL!

 

 

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Tom’s Transfer Talk – 7 Dec 2016

Port could be keeping hold of just one or two of their foreign players from last season, if Thai news reports are to be believed.

Thiago Cunha (10) left under a cloud with five weeks of the season still remaining. His final kick – perhaps his most accurate of the season – was aimed at the dressing room door rather than the goal, which incidentally he had struggled to find all season.

He was followed out of the door by Wagner Carioca (35), a player who many hoped would remain at PAT Stadium after a string of impressive displays in the second half of the season.

Now there are rumours that Rodrigo Maranhao (29) and Genki Nagasato (18) have also not made the cut.

Genki Nagasato

Genki Nagasato

Maranhao made an electric start to the 2016 season, scoring at will and looking every inch a TPL player, but his form faded markedly throughout the year and he found himself in and out of the starting XI in the final weeks of the season.

Genki, on the other hand, was not known for his match-winning displays but for his high workrate and consistent 7/10 performances. He featured in many positions across the midfield and attack without ever really making any of them his own.

It would seem that Jadet Meelarp – or perhaps an even higher power – are demanding more from their foreign contingent, and will be looking to the transfer market to add more firepower to the squad in their bid to secure TPL survival in 2017.

In a surprise twist, it is also being suggested that Renan Oliveira (25), who made just a couple of appearances last season, could remain at the club along with Captain and star player David Rochela (22). As Oliveira has not been seen at training of late, The Sandpit would be shocked if he was kept on, but stranger things have happened in the unpredictable world of Thai football!

Wanchalerm Yingyong, 23

Wanchalerm Yingyong, 23

In confirmed transfer news, 23 year old midfielder Wanchalerm Yingyong has joined on loan from big-spenders Chiang Rai, and in not-quite-confirmed-yet-but-pretty-close news Spanish playmaker Sergio Suarez will likely sign on the dotted line any day now, making him the first foreign signing of the season.

Thai attacking midfielder Pakin Kaikaew, who boasts an impressive record of 13 goals in 96 games over the last four seasons for TPL rivals Bangkok Glass, is also believed to be on the verge of joining, although as always The Sandpit will wait patiently and keep refreshing Madam Pang’s Instagram page until there is real confirmation.

Thanks to Sven from Thai-Fussball for some of the gossip, as without his work I would have almost nothing to steal and pass off as my own!

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Spit in the Sandpit: Cold Turkey

Hi. My name is John Spittal. Proud Port FC supporter since 2013. I am excited to share with The Sandpit my observances, beliefs and more importantly my biases about Port FC, and the sport of soccer…soccer? Whoops sorry, I just gave away my Canadian upbringing. I call these little writings..Spit in the Sandpit

Dear fellow Sandpitters. I don’t know if you will see me at the season home opener in February. The reason is I may have succumbed during this unbearable wait. The excruciating wait to watch my beloved Tarua play a meaningful match at PAT stadium.

You say it’s only two more months; I say two more months might as well be two more years. How bad is my withdrawal you ask? Well, I think I have forgotten what a football looks like! What is even more distressing is I have joined that fraternity of Thai Premier League referees in forgetting the rules of the game. When I see the distinctive blue and orange Port FC shirt on the streets, I run up to the startled supporter, clench his shirt with both my hands and openly weep. You hate to see a grown man cry? Then tell the TPL schedule maker about it.

I honestly can’t remember when was the last time I saw the local lads at PAT. Let’s see, I think it was pre-Cambrian age, way way back to the pre-Brent McGrath age. I have even forgotten why I hate Muangthong United….oh….wait, it hasn’t been THAT long. It’s all coming back to me. Thank you MTU, the thought of you has triggered how willing I am to wait months and even more months to see my Port FC. Go Tarua!

MATCH REPORT: Port FC 4-1 Thonburi University

Port got pre-season up and running with a low-key friendly win against Thonburi University on Saturday. The Sandpit, along with a couple of hundred fans, watched Port run out 4-1 winners in an unusual match played over three thirds.

Trialist Saër Sène opened the scoring for the Khlong Toei Army in the first period, before Todsapol (6) and then Ekkaphum (8) profited from the excellent wing-play of Pakorn (9) to put Port 3-0 up. Thonburi fought back with a smart freekick, before Sène capped a successful trial by rounding off the scoring in the dying minutes.

imag4552

In the first period of the match, Port fielded a combination of trialists and squad players. Young ‘keeper Rattanai (17) enjoyed a meteoric rise last season, winning a starting berth and making his debut for the Thailand Under 23 team. He looked comfortable, despite not having much to do, as Port controlled the game against their unfancied opponents without ever really looking likely to score. It took a mistake to break the deadlock. Thonburi passed the ball dangerously across their own goal and Sène pounced, intercepting the ball and showing composure in front of goal to give Port the lead.

In the second period Port fielded what looked like Meelarp’s first choice team. A front four of Sène, Genki (18), Ekkaphum (8) and Pakorn (9) turned up the heat, playing with more fluidity and creating chances consistently. Pakorn showed his class midway through the period, when he earned a freekick and delivered an inch-perfect cross which Todsapol (6) met with a textbook downward header, leaving the Thonburi ‘keeper with no chance. Port soon made it 3 as Sène flicked a clever pass through to Pakorn who, instead of opting to shoot from a tight angle, squared to the better placed Ekkaphum. On his weaker right foot, the fan-favourite made no mistake with a cool side-footed finish.

imag4561

Thonburi, determined not to go home empty-handed, scored a clever goal that they will remember for a while, but Worawut in the Port goal will want to forget. The Thonburi midfielder shaped to cross, but curled a delightful lob over the head of the Port ‘keeper, who was caught out of position. The ball ricoched off the far post and into the net, ensuring that the visitors could celebrate a goal if not a positive result.

15272343_1475582245789796_4163520404342404121_oIn the final period Meelarp sent out a Port team comprised of mostly trialists who played out an uninspiring 30 minutes until Sène once again underlined his credentials with a goal in the final seconds of the game. Unfortunately, all we can tell you about the goal is that it was well-applauded by the home fans, as we were on our way off to The Sportsman, where we would bump in to Captain David Rochela.

One of the stars of last season’s successful promotion campaign with his consistent rock-solid defending and invaluable leadership, Rochela proved to be as nice a guy off the pitch as he is a formidable defender on it.

We will be bringing you more pre-season match reports in the coming weeks in preparation for February 11th, when the long-anticipated 2017 season is scheduled to get under way.

 

Photos by Tim Russell

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Tom’s Transfer Talk – 4 Dec 2016

Rumours of comings and goings have been dominating discussion among Port fans in recent weeks. The Sandpit can confirm that Rodrigo Maranhao (29), despite talk of his departure, turned out for the first team in Saturday’s friendly, but compatriot Wagner Carioca (35), who announced his departure earlier in the week, was not involved. Despite his dominant displays at the heart of Port’s midfield last season, the combative midfielder has been deemed surplus to requirements for the coming season, but will continue to train with the team as he looks for a new club.

Sergio Suarez, 29

Sergio Suarez, 29

Talk of his replacement has repeatedly centred around Sergio Suarez. The 29 year old former Las Palmas and Songkhla midfielder was spotted running laps around the pitch by The Sandpit’s eagle-eyed scouts, seemingly confirming rumours that he is set to join the Klong Toey Army for the 2017 season.

In other rumours, French trialist Saer Sene scored twice in Port’s 4-1 friendly win against Thonburi University, potentially putting him in the frame to lead the line next season. Playing in a position that no Port player has really made his own over the last two seasons, the towering physical forward staked his claim with a composed finish to put the Klong Toey Army 1-0 up. He showed some skill with a deft flick in the build up to the third goal, but in the latter stages missed two chances that he probably would have expected to do better with. He found the target again at the death to round off the scoring, but The Sandpit was busy buying beer at the time.

Captain David Rochela, speaking exclusively to The Sandpit when we bumped into him outside The Sportsman later that evening, commented that the trialist had been with the club for two days,and that turnover of trialists has been fast and furious. We think that Coach Jadet Meelarp will likely want to see the striker face a tougher defence than that offered up by Thonburi before making up his mind.