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Glassed: Bangkok Glass 2-0 Port FC

 

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to say goodbye to Port’s 100% start and in turn their first loss. It was great fun while it lasted and we will remember it fondly… OK, enough doom and gloom; this report won’t be fun to write but before I begin to analyse the subpar performance I’d like to remind you naysayers that Port are still 3rd in the table and this report will be far from a eulogy for our hopes for this season.

The journey up to Rangsit was punctuated with bison grass vodka and a book (novella) salesman pitching his latest effort to us. Thankfully the journey was swift and we were at the stadium with plenty of time to enjoy the local hospitality. As we walked back from the away ticket office, some of us noticed the sprinklers were liberally watering the pitch; this will have an effect on our performance later but I’m not going to blame some gamesmanship on our weak showing. More on that later. The rest of the afternoon was pleasantly spent at The Rabbits Bar screaming “TARUA!” at Glass’ film crew and me breaking a beer tower without even trying.

 

“3 stands! You’ve only got 3 stands!”

 

So let’s get down to the shitshow. Port lost the game in the first 8 minutes due to terrible defensive errors and positioning, a general lack of focus and woeful decision making from several players. In the second minute a cute touch from Mario Gjurovski (70) in front of Dolah (4) found Mendy (10), who up to now had done sweet FA all season, and his first touch put him through on goal. With Dolah already nullified, Nitipong (34) tried to make up the ground but was already too far away and Kevin (97) tried to cut off his run but it was too late; he finished low across Worawut (36) into the bottom corner. The back 4 was made to look like a bunch of mugs and before you ask about Rochela (22), he was already taken out of the game for pushing up too high to cut out the initial pass to Gjurovski.

So far so bad, but it then got worse. In the seventh minute a simple ball over the top found Gjurovski. His first touch was reminiscent of Gazza over Colin Hendry, making Dolah a spectator, and then after letting the ball bounce he fired a quality finish under Worawut, who really didn’t look like the world-beater we saw against Pattaya and The Scum. I’ve watched this goal several times for the benefit of this report and think it would be too easy to point the finger at just Dolah and Worawut; Kim (8) could have easily have got his body in the way of the pass to Gjurovski and Rochela once again had pushed too far upfield to offer cover. Mario had to work for the goal, but the manner in which we gave it to him is more than frustrating.

 

That escalated quickly

 

I’ll sum up the rest of the first half briefly; it was the worst I’ve seen Port play this season and probably since the failed Zico experiment. Glass had multiple chances and hit the post in the 21st minute, and as the half went on it was clear that Worawut was injured. Port showed a lack of cohesion and wasted ball after ball; no shots were registered in the first half let alone chances made. While we were misplacing passes we also had to struggle against the waterlogged flanks which hampered us on many occasions, clearly demonstrated when Pakorn (7) took one of the worst corners I have ever seen and left a sizeable divot in the pitch.

The second half was a little better and real hope was offered when Glass’ keeper Narit (1) played a very weak goal kick straight to his defensive line. The defender’s first touch back to goal was short and Suarez (5) sneaked in to cut out the ball but his first time shot with the outside of his boot went wide. Next, Pakorn had a shot from outside the box which hit the side netting before Mario had a chance to put the game to bed for Glass in the 63rd minute, but also shot wide. Aside from a tame Siwakorn (16) effort our only real chance for a goal came in the 90th minute when Kim acrobatically latched onto a header, his shot was parried away by Narit and Boskovic (23) was first to the loose ball but his shot cannoned off the post across the face of goal. Even with 6 minutes of extra time it was clear it wasn’t going to be our day.

So hats off to Josep Ferre and Glass; he got his tactics spot on and his players didn’t have to go the extra mile to win today. Knowing that our best attacking play comes down the flanks he made sure the pitch would stop us, and by compacting the centre of midfield he made Kim, Siwakorn and Suarez have little effect on general play. In Mario Gjurovski they have a quality playmaker and Matt Smith (4) was assured in defence. They clearly don’t belong in the bottom half of the table and they won’t be there for long.

Enough praise; lets pick away at the corpse of our defeat. The players clearly didn’t turn up to this game and with no focus or concentration they gave the game to Glass on a silver platter. At 2-0 down their shoulders dropped and it wasn’t until half time (and hopefully after some strong words in the changing room) they decided to make a game of it. We had 2 chances that Suarez and Boskovic would usually bury and we could have escaped with a 2-2 draw, but they didn’t and we didn’t. Our captain was not his usual calm, dependable self and this filtered into the rest of our back 4. I’m struggling to think of any player who gave 100% yesterday; they looked lost at times and didn’t seem to have a Plan B.

So what is Plan B, Jadet? At the moment Plan B is the same as Plan A but with different personnel; bringing Bodin (10) on when it’s clear for all to see that the pitch isn’t true will result in the same problems. It was commendable to take off Kevin, who was having an absolute shocker, and replace him with a striker, but Boskovic wasn’t getting any service so how will Arthit (29) make a difference? Jadet stands on the touchline and studies his clipboard intently like a hungry drunk looking at the menu in a Chinese takeaway only for his players to come over and inform him what’s actually going on. He needs to come up with some real tactical alternatives because the opposition is wising up fast about us, and Madame and the fans have high expectations this season.

Next week Port has a chance to pick themselves up, dust off this defeat and redeem themselves against Ubon, before a tricky away fixture to the other surprise package of the season so far, Sukhothai. With the improved squad we have to look at both matches as winnable, but will the bad habits of last season and the dreaded Operation Fuckup creep back into our play? It shows how much we have already improved that we are asking these questions and not just accepting poor performances as par for the course so I for one am hopeful. TARUA!

 

Men of the Match

The Fans

 

Some spectators greet the men of the match

 

There is no way on God’s green earth I was going to award any player MOTM after what I saw. No one remotely earned this accolade so when I was informed I could award it to the fans my decision was made a lot easier. We came in large numbers, sang our hearts out and basically brought Khlong Toey to Rangsit for a couple of hours. Well played everyone.

 

Top Of The Glass: Bangkok Glass vs. Port FC, March 4 2018

 

Port FC will look to continue their reign atop the T1 Table when they take on Bangkok Glass on Sunday. Nope, it’s still not getting old. We are top of the league, say we are top of the league!

Although the 2018 season is barely up and running, both Glass and Port seem to be slipping in to routines that they are far from familiar with. Remarkably, Port – in recent years notoriously poor at the back – have kept 2 clean sheets in their first 3 games, whilst Bangkok Glass – usually among the league’s most attractive teams to watch – have failed to register a single goal. Both sides were very busy in the transfer market, but some new arrivals have fared better than others.

Port brought in – among others – Dragan Boskovic, Nurul Sriyankem and Kim Sung Hwan, whereas Glass signed Frederic Mendy, Mario Gjurovski and Thitipan Puangchan. Boskovic has scored or contributed to 3 goals, Nurul 2 and Kim won our Man of the Match award against Muangthong; Mendy on the other hand has been dropped, Mario has been dividing his time evenly between missing chances and looking annoyed, and Thitipan looks like he spent the entire holiday in Sizzler. And he wasn’t eating from the salad bar, either!

 

Bangkok Glass

Players to Watch

 

Wherever he goes, Mario Gjurovski (70) leaves his mark. His team’s fans love him – scoring roughly a goal every other game from attacking midfield will generally have that effect – but the 32 year old has a rare way of provoking opposition fans’ ire. Whether it’s his affiliation with Port’s best enemies, an ego more commensurate with the achievements of Cristiano Ronaldo than a 12 time Macedonian international or his constant histrionics on the pitch, it’s impossible to ignore Super Mario. It’s fair to say things haven’t started well for him at Glass – he could have had a hattrick against Navy, but ended up drawing a blank – but Mario’s match-winning quality is still there, and he does have a record of turning it on against Port.

 

Mario Gjurovski

 

Behind Mario will be Spaniard Daniel Toti (20) and 30 million baht signing Thitipan Puangchan (8). Port fans should probably remember former La Liga midfielder Toti from when he ripped the Port defence to shreds last season, and for those who don’t yet know much about Thitipan, he will undoubtedly introduce himself to Port’s midfield with his studs within the first 5 minutes. I can scarcely imagine two players with styles as different as these two; Toti with his cultured Spanish technique and graceful style on the ball, Thitipan with his niggly, dirty fouling and gamesmanship. He can play a bit too, mind you, and this really ought to be among the most effective midfield partnerships in the league. In what is set to be one of the key battles, Thitipan and Port’s fouler-in-chief Siwakorn are separated by just a centimeter in height, but what I can only guess is about 15 kilos. Who ate all the pies? It was Thitipan.

 

Toti and Thitipan

 

 

Matt Smith (4) has a new defender alongside him this season: Spanish-Malaysian Kiko Insa (30). Kiko has played for more teams in more countries than I can bring myself to list, and the big, strong 30 year old made his debut for Glass last week, replacing Mongkol Namnuad (18) in the starting XI. Considering that Glass kept a clean sheet and won their first point, we imagine that the back 3 of Smith, Kiko and Piyachanok Darit (34) will remain unchanged.

 

Kiko and Smith

 

Things are not going according to plan for French-born Bissau-Guinean Frederic Mendy (10). He may well start on the bench against Port as he has looked horribly off the pace so far, and was dropped for the 0-0 draw with Navy. He was replaced by young Thai-French winger Jakkrit Laptrakool (17) who I’m struggling to find any information about. As far as the forwards go, let’s just say that the stats read 3 games, no goals.

 

Mendy: He shoots, he misses.

 

Port FC

One Change

 

There is only one likely change from Port’s hard-fought 3-2 win over Ratchaburi last week. It has been reported that Todsapol (6) and Kim (8) are both back in training, but only Kim is fit enough to be available for selection on Sunday. Adisorn (13) should find himself dropping to the bench, with the Korean returning to the first XI. Adisorn acquitted himself well against Ratchaburi, but up against one of the strongest midfields in the league, Kim’s return is certainly a timely one.

 

Kim Sung Hwan

 

Besides the injury concerns, why change a winning formula? The defence is looking all the better for having a quality new left back in it, the midfield is stronger when Kim is in the team and the attacking quartet of Boskovic (23), Nurul (31), Pakorn (7) and goal-machine Suarez (5) has proved unstoppable so far.

 

Predicted XI

 

 

Perhaps the only thing that can stop Port this year is themselves. We know Port have a bad habit of getting complacent when things are going well or weaker opposition come calling. All we can hope is that new arrivals like Kim and Boskovic will continue to hold their teammates to the highest of standards and demand continued excellence from everyone on the field.

Speaking of the field, Glass have played their first 3 games away while the artificial surface so many opposition teams have struggled on has been resurfaced. The Glass Rabbits, having leveled the playing field, welcome their first visitors to the newly blue Leo Stadium on Sunday, and must be looking to make a fresh start in their new-look home. Amazingly they’re probably the underdogs this weekend, but call me a pessimist, I’d take a point if it were offered right now. Glass may not have clicked just yet, but when they do it’s sure to be devastating!

 


 

The match will be shown live on True Sport HD at 18:00 on Sunday 4 March, 2018. For those who can’t make it to Leo Stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match with sound if you ask them nicely. Mention the Sandpit or wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount.

 

Terens Puhiri: Flash in the PAT

 

Indonesian sensation Terens Puhiri, nicknamed The Flash, has been impossible to ignore since his arrival at Port. Whether it’s his miniscule frame, his enormous fan base or his searing pace, Terens has been one of Port’s most-talked-about new arrivals, despite the fact that his Port career to date has consisted of two injury time substitutions and zero touches of the ball. It helps, no doubt, that he is the sort of guy who, rather than taking the quiet route out of PAT Stadium, will happily walk out of the front door, even if that means thirty minutes of selfies with the fans. It also helps that he achieved global fame in late 2017, with an incredible goal going viral and drawing comparisons with some of the fastest footballers in the world.

In our deep dive in to Terens’ career though, we’re going to look past the grinning Instagrams and viral videos to see how the man from the semi-autonomous region of Papua made it from Jayapura to Khlongtoey.

 


 

His story starts in Papua, the largest province in Indonesia, where Terens was born in 1996. An area rife with conflict between indigenous peoples and the Indonesian Government, its’ native Papuans are ethnically, linguistically and religiously distinct from most of their countrymen. Often with darker skin, curly hair, speaking any one of hundreds of distinct languages and more likely to practice Christianity than Islam, Papuans – despite their incredible diversity – have a distinct identity which is a source of pride for many.

In football terms, two of Papuas favourite sons are Terens and the man he is often likened to, Boaz Solossa. Solossa is a hero in his home province, having scored a remarkable 163 goals in 247 games for local side Persipura Jayapura, as well as 14 goals in 47 games for the Indonesian national team.

 

 

When a 10 year old Papuan, one of three siblings to a single mother who worked as a housekeeper, started collecting and selling aluminium cans to raise the money to buy his first football, who would have thought he would one day go on to rival his hero for fame both at home and abroad? Terens would play football nearly every day after school with his friends, and after some practice he was convinced enough of his own ability to go on trial at SSB Numbay Star Papua. At just 10 years old and approximately knee high to a grasshopper, Terens was rejected for being too small, but his resolve was only strengthened and he came back again the next year, when he was finally accepted in to the academy.

 

 

Just one year on, at 12 years old, Terens – playing at that time as a striker – top-scored in the 2008 Danone League, and within another two years he was selected for the Indonesia u16 team, where he was moved on to the wing. Terens would go on to visit Thailand and Myanmar in various international youth tournaments, while SSB Numbay Star Papua were helping put the youngster through high school. He would water plants, clean the yard and help wherever he could to earn his keep.

 

 

In another 3 years, Terens had finally achieved his dream and had been picked up by a professional outfit. The team was Persisam Putra Samarinda in East Borneo, and at just 17 years of age Terens was put in their u21 team. In his second year with the club, though, Persisam collapsed and were moved to Bali. Most fans of the now disbanded Persisam would not go on to support the rebranded Bali United, but would instead switch allegiance to the more local Borneo FC, who had been founded the year before. Terens followed suit, signing a 5 year contract with Borneo FC, for whom he would soon become a first team regular.

 

 

Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of data available from his time with Borneo FC, as Transfermarkt Indonesian statistics are only available from 2017 onwards, but what little I have looks very useful indeed. Terens notched 6 goals and 10 assists in 31 games as his team went on to finish eighth in Liga 1.

What’s even more pleasantly surprising than Terens’ excellent return in 2017 is his apparent versatility. The first four games of 2017 saw him start in four different positions across the attack, and Terens even started once in central midfield, scoring a goal and providing two assists as his team ran out 3-2 winners. His best work seems to come from the right hand side though, which is where he will likely be playing for Port.

 

 

Indeed, the viral video which catapulted Terens to worldwide recognition saw him starting on the right wing, giving up an enormous headstart to an opposition defender but somehow beating him to the ball, before rounding the keeper at breakneck pace and slotting in to an empty net.

 

 

Then there is this excellent highlights package of his goals, assists and skills in 2017, which shows that he’s more than just a speed-merchant. Terens is no Pakorn, but he’s got a pretty useful right foot, delivering some quality crosses from the by-line, which make up quite a few of his 10 assists. Perhaps the most striking part of his game is how difficult he makes life for defenders, though. Terens is tireless, constantly nibbling away at his opposition full-backs, not giving them a moment on the ball and on a few occasions picking their pockets and creating a scoring chance.

This is the part of his game that Port will be most interested in, too, as Terens is set to play the role of impact sub in 2018. Unfortunately for those Indonesians following Port to keep up with Terens’ progress, as promising as he is, he’s not going to be starting many games for Port this season as long as Pakorn, Nurul and Bodin are fit. All three possess qualities which Terens is just not yet able to match, so he will have to wait for his chances from the bench or in cup competitions and try to impress as much as possible when he does get a run-out.

 


 

I must admit to having had my doubts about Terens, thinking that he was probably a bit of a one trick pony, but having learned more about the 21 year old Papuan sensation, I’m more enthused by The Flash than ever before! A hard worker, a crowd favourite and the best thing to come out of Indonesia since the Balinese Goddess of Plenty, here’s hoping that Port give Terens a chance to prove that he’s more than just a Youtube sensation. Looking at all the obstacles he’s overcome to get to where he is today, I certainly wouldn’t bet against him!

 

Run Christian, Run! Port FC vs. Ratchaburi, 24 February 2018

 

There is a bible story that talks of a young German Christian (Ziege) manager taking the first steps on his assent to the footballing promised land, who traveled far to the lands east, for a fat bag of gold coins (one suspects) to lead a mythical sugar dragon and is confronted by a league full of strange beasts, disorganisation and interfering megalomaniac owners. In this very strange league lived a mighty lion who once was shabby and downbeat, even taking on at times the form of a horse and a rather camp dolphin but had recently risen to the top of the local footballing mountain. With the help of its sidekicks the dragon, the flash, the grumpy Spaniard, the calm happy Spaniard and 1990’s Will Smith, the lion had set about slaying all who dared to cross its path. The strange footballing land also had a bunny, a bat, a beetle, a horrible lizard, a shark, a not so camp dolphin, and an elephant amongst others. However, it was the mighty Lion that had recently come to be most feared. First it met the dolphin and with three blows the dolphin was slain. Next was its sworn enemy the lizard. The lion had waited a long time for this moment and savoured his victory, he had won victories over the lizard before but they were bruising affair, this was to be a total victory, tearing the helpless lizard limb from limb, even toying with the poor little lizard as the life faded from it on a glorious Saturday, and the howls of the lion’s famous followers did ring around its den, for although the battle did occur at the lizards dwelling, it was a place no wise man was permitted to visit. Some say that with the battle won and the followers of the lizard falling silent, as they realized that the lion had risen and was again undeniably mightier than their lizard, the roars of the lion’s followers could be heard even though the two dens are many miles apart and even if they couldn’t, it’s on YouTube.

The young manager was filled with fear having seen the lion slaughter the lizard and began to question if this really was the place for him. So, with just days to go before his dragons (none of whom were as mighty as the lion’s dragon, who was the mightiest dragon in the kingdom), were due to face the lion in its den, the young manager asked the lord to help him escape the mighty lion and his now ultra-professional sidekicks. “Save me from the lion’s mouth; From the horns of the wild oxen You answer me.” (Psalms 22.21). (The oxen had been cast out by the other animals for being a bit crap at football and told to spend 40 fixtures and 40 weeks trying to prove itself). The young manger decided to further ponder his position whilst listening to some banging tunes. Luckily being a very modern god, Spotify is the savior’s current go to medium of communication, so the lord did answer the young manager at a crossroads and via shuffle the lord did declare: “dreaming of that perfect home by the sun…Run, Christian run,” for the lord was wise and chose the finest Welsh psychedelic band to have ever walked the earth* to inform the former left back who had traveled as far as Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Milan and some of footballs smaller missionary stations before heading east,  that it was time to high tail it to Suvarnabhumi and see how quickly Lufthansa could get him back to the Fatherland. Thus ends the story of the Christian and the sugar dragon.

Its one of the lesser known bible stories due mainly to having been entirely made up by me in an attempt to make up for having to bin nearly all of the preview I’d finished yesterday. So a series of poor Christian and lions jokes will live forever unused alongside the excellent Captain (playa de las) Americas pun that, given the slim chances of a return to Klong Toey for Asdrubal combining with Super Power making like the son of God at Easter for a game I preview, will never see the light of day in any useful way.

 


 

Or in plain language, Port play Ratchaburi on Saturday at the PAT, 20:00 kick off or if you can’t make it’s on True 4U, True Sport HD2 and various dodgy streams. Ratchaburi had appointed Christan Ziege to be their manager in the close season, however, at some point this week, having already left once, it was decided by the club and/or him that things weren’t working out and his contract with the club was terminated. Oh, and we’re top of the league, having played Muangthong off LEGOLAND Park. We’re also yet to concede a goal this season, and we’re eight games unbeaten in the league including the finish of last season. The last time Jadet took charge of a home defeat was the 6th of May 2017 when Pattaya beat us two nil. So we have nothing to fear. Kinda like being two nil up with ten minutes to go, and we know how that generally turns out for Port!

Ratchaburi

 

Its hard enough to draw any conclusions about teams two games into the season; it’s even harder when they’ve changed manager and when that manager leaves the club, you’re pretty much at a total loss.

 

Christian Ziege

 

Sooooo, Ratchaburi started the season with the least desirable fixture on offer, away at Buriram on a Friday night. Giving a good account of themselves, they kept the scores level ’til the hour mark, before two goals in seven minutes took the points for the champions, despite a consolation penalty scored by Felipe Mendez (20).  Round two saw Air Force Central visit Ratchaburi, again the game was scoreless well into the second half before an own goal was awarded to Chutipol Thongthae (7) for being vaguely nearby when the ball was sent goalward by the Air Force player, securing the win for Ratchaburi.

The Ratchaburi squad underwent somewhat of an overhaul in the closed season as Marcel Essombe moved to Port, who sent him to the BEC Police home for unwanted players and from there he has moved to pastures as yet unknown. Thai national team left back Kevin Deeromram made the same move on deadline day.

They have been replaced by “Bill” (90) a striker from Brazil who has spent the last four years (transferring each season) in the second tier at home, scoring 9, 15, 2 and 10 goals (the 2 occurred while only making 9 appearances). On two occasions he’s been with the champions, only to be moved on without getting the opportunity to play in the top tier. He’s yet to score in the Thai league, but appears to possess a powerful shot. South Korean Soo-il Kang (10) also arrived in the closed season, from Thespakusatsu Gunma who were relegated from the second tier of the Japanese league. A skilled dribbler, he had the most fruitful season of his career last season, scoring 10 goals. Kang too has drawn a blank in his time at Ratchaburi playing on the right, hopefully Deeromram learnt enough in the time they spent together in preseason to keep him in check.

 

Bill and Kang

 

Further attacking options are offered by two half Thai players, Thai-German Phillip Roller (33) who has been used further up the field as a right winger than full back where he started and Thai-Italian Gionata Verzura (16) who arrived from Super Power via Ubon, they’ve started one game each this season. The final foreigner in the group is another Brazilian Felipe Menezes (20) who scored the penalty at Buriram. He will look to exploit the space between Port’s defence and midfield.

 

Roller and Verzura

 

Also arriving was keeper Kittipong (1) on loan for the season from Bangkok United. He was first choice for the Angels last season, but has been moved on in the post cup final shake up. He’ good at getting himself to shots and crosses but somewhat questionable at collecting them. Whilst Pakorn may not enjoy much joy with his shoot on sight policy, others may following up.

The back four has been fairly stable for some time with Wattayuchutikul, (35) who was involved 19 times last season being asked to replace Deeromram at left back. Congolese centre back Joel Sami is captain. He seems a competent foreign leader of a defence, but hopefully we be found wanting against Boskovic and his many helpers.

Port

 

I can see only two spots in the team where a change is possible. Firstly in goal, whilst the decision to make Worawut (36) man of the match last weekend was somewhat of an overstatement of his performance, he was in great form out at LEGOLAND. Combined with a solid performance in the opener, it seems implausible that he’ll be dropped. So even if Rattanai (17) is back to full fitness, I expect his fragile frame will be spending a few more weeks toughening itself up on the bench.

Which brings us to Port’s other man made of biscuits. Todsapol (6) was carried off with what has been reported as a muscle injury, that early in the week was reportedly not serious enough to stop him starting come Saturday or would keep in out for two weeks according to another source midweek.  Dolah (4) came on for the last hour and coped well with all that Herberty and Jaja asked of him. I suspect the weekend comes to soon for Todsapol to start. Thereafter I expect it to be the same team as last week.  Nitipong (34) and Kevin Deeromram (97) have been excellent at the back and equally impressive going forward, Deeromram looked more at ease for a second week of training with the club and enjoyed exploiting the space offered by our out of position right wingers, cutting in. Nitipong (34) thankfully appears to have figured out that defensive side of the game he used to struggle with against all but the weakest of opponents.

 The foreign spine of the team appears to be the real strength of the set up. We know what we get from El Capitan David Rochela (22) and in front of him is Kim Sung Hwan (8), who was superb in the Slum vs. Scum derby, not just with his play but with his organisation. Along with Boskovic (23), these players offer more than just their ability as individual players, as they organise and encourage those around them. The sight of Jadet in discussion with Kim and Deeromram over the tactics board bodes well. We now have players with knowledge and the strength of character to put their thoughts out there mid match.

As noted above Ratchaburi have made it to the hour mark in each of their games this season scoreless. This might be the game when the strength of the Port bench is called to turn the game in our favour late on.

Predicted Lineup

 

 


 

*The Super Furry Animals for the heathens amongst the readership

 


 

The match will be shown live on True 4U, True Sport HD2 at 20:00 on Saturday 24 February, 2018. For those who can’t make it to PAT Stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match with sound if you ask them nicely. Mention the Sandpit or wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount.

 

Kirin Me Softly – Port Take On Weakened Rivals: Muangthong Utd vs. Port FC, 17 February 2018

 

In an early top of the table clash, T1 leaders Port will take on second place Muangthong United at the Theater of Corrugated Iron on Saturday. With Port fan groups calling for a boycott after numerous violent clashes between the fans at the SCG, both sides opted for an ‘away fan ban’ this year, meaning that Port fans won’t be able to watch the game live this Saturday, and Muangthong fans will also be banned from PAT Stadium when the two sides meet in June.

It’s a big let-down for fans that the game can’t just be policed responsibly, as it’s one of the biggest fixtures in Thai football. Surely if fan representatives and police came up with a plan to bus Port fans in and out of the stadium through a secure entrance then the game would be able to go ahead as normal, but instead both sides seem content to let the issue fester and deal with it again at a later date.

For fans still up for watching the game alongside the Port faithful, there will be a big screen at PAT Stadium which is expected to draw a pretty decent sized crowd. We’ll see you there!

Leaving off-the-pitch issues aside, Port have more reason for optimism in this season’s first Slum vs. Scum derby than they have for many years. With Madame Pang spending big bucks to fix all of Port’s major weaknesses, we now have more of a complete team than I’ve ever seen don the famous blue and orange.

The way Pattaya were dispatched also gave fans reason to hope that that Port’s game-management issues might be behind us. Adding a late third goal to secure a comfortable victory, rather than throwing away two late goals to slump to a disappointing draw, was certainly a welcome change!

Port can also call on the memory of their stunning 3-2 victory at the SCG last season, when a four minute masterclass in finishing put such a crushing dent in Muangthong’s title challenge that they never recovered.

Whereas that game was played in a completely empty SCG though, this game will be attended by all of the Yamaha Ultras and their ‘Curva Sud’ balaclavas. With the noise they’re sure to generate – when they’re not dribbling on their ridiculous ‘Money Can’t Buy History’ banners that is – Port will certainly have an uphill battle in a hostile atmosphere.

 

Muangthong United

Players to Watch

 

Muangthong may have lost some key players in the transfer window, but they still have some pretty useful replacements coming in. And some terrible ones, but we’ll get on to them later.

 

The Brazilians

 

The strike force of Heberty Fernandes (7) and Jaja Coelho (50) needs no introduction. Two of the finest forwards in Thai football brought together in a classic little-and-large partnership will certainly give Port’s defence plenty to think about. In replacing Leandro Assumpcao with Jaja, Muangthong have strengthened on the foreign-player front.

 

Heberty Fernandes, Jaja Coelho

 

Then at the back there’s Celio Santos, one of the best defenders in the league. An extremely imposing figure, he will present a tough challenge to Boskovic if he starts, although after missing out on the opening weekend we’re hoping the burly Brazilian is still indisposed.

 

The Thais

 

This is where things are looking significantly weaker for Muangthong this season.

Replacing Port fan-favourite Theeraton Bunmathan (you know him as Hia Um) is Peerapat Notechaiya (2), and whilst he’s second choice in the national team he’s not fit to lace the boots of the assist freak who will be spending 2018 with Vissel Kobe. I’d certainly take Port new boy Kevin Deeromram over Peerapat, and Muangthong must agree as they tried desperately to sign the Thai-Swede on deadline day, before Port swooped in and hijacked the deal. Chin up, fellas, you can have Panpanpong if you want!

Replacing Thailand’s finest striker of the last decade Teerasil Dangda is either the Thai Heskey Siroch Chatthong (35, Pipo to his friends) or the smaller, weaker and even more profligate Thai Heskey Chenrop Sampaodi (22). Whilst Pipo has stuck manfully to his principles, failing to find the net for Muangthong in T1 for half a season and counting, Chenrop went absolutely mental last weekend. The Thai under 23 striker bucked a trend which has seen him net just 3 times in 60 T1 games, firing in a hattrick after coming on at half time to help his side overturn a 2-0 deficit against Bangkok United. Well, I say firing in, but for the third goal he really just tripped over the ball on the line. I don’t know what on earth possessed Chenrop (a professional footballer, perhaps?) but I suspect he’ll be back to his inept best when Port come to town. The evidence of the previous 60 games holds rather more weight than 45 minutes of weirdness!

 

Siroch Chatthong, Chenrop Sampaodi

 

Replacing Thailand’s best ever goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan is Kampol Patthom-attakul (1), who has played 4 games in 7 seasons for Muangthong. Now, to be fair to Kampol he’s been on loan almost the entire time, and has played something like 100 T1 games, but he’s no Kawin.

Replacing Thailand’s most talented player Chanathip Songkrasin is Thai-Swiss Charyl Chappuis (23) who picked up a silly second yellow card on the opening weekend but won’t miss out on Saturday * as suspensions are only given to players who get a straight red card. With defensive midfielder Wattana Playnum who started that game missing out with injury, reliable captain Sarach Yooyen (6) and back-up Thossawat Limwannasathian (8) should start, which should make for a competent but hardly inspiring midfield.

Also looking competent but not exactly fearsome is the defence, with aforementioned left back Peerapat being joined at the back by Japanese veteran Naoaki Aoyama (4) and Thai national team duo Adisorn Promrak (25) and Tristan Do (19).

 

Naoaki Aoyama, Adisorn Promrak, Tristan Do

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 

 

Port FC

Full Strength?

 

I’m actually going to enjoy previewing our line-ups this season. At full strength Port are solid all over the park, with a few outstanding players to boot. There are even selection headaches for Jadet due to an overabundance of attacking talent in the ranks. What a time to be a Port fan!

We have no idea if Rattanai (17) is back to full fitness or not, but regardless, Worawut (36) dealt with everything Pattaya sent his way, including a second half penalty, with aplomb.

At the back the usual suspects Nitipong (34), Rochela (22) and Todsapol (6) should be joined by Kevin Deeromram (97), who did enough to hold on to his left back slot in his debut on Sunday. Sound defensive work, largely mistake-free play in possession and some tasty dead-ball deliveries put Kevin well ahead of his competition. It’s sure to be a tough day at the office for the Port back 4 though, with Heberty and Jaja posing some very difficult and very different problems. Heberty will be trying to find pockets of space in and around the area to unleash his pinpoint finishes, whereas Jaja will be using brute force to crash through.

 

Kevin Deeromram

 

Port’s fit-again defensive midfielder Kim Sung-Hwan (8) should be the only change to Port’s first XI. Kim will provide more reliable protection for the back four and better distribution than Adisorn (13). Siwakorn (16) was one of many names in the Man of the Match hat last week with a typically smooth display. He even whacked someone in the first couple of minutes and didn’t get booked. Remarkable! Against a weakened Muangthong midfield, Kim and Siwakorn must try to give Port a solid platform from which to attack.

Bodin (10) certainly gave Jadet something to think about with his electrifying cameo, but I doubt he will lose faith in Pakorn (7) just yet. Nurul (31) was practically unplayable in the second half, and will enjoy himself on the right wing against Peerapat if he gets a chance to play there, but with Do at right back, it seems unlikely that either Pakorn or Nurul will make too many inroads on their less-favoured side of the pitch.

In what seem to be more loosely defined roles this season, Suarez (5) and Boskovic (23) were popping up all over the place on Sunday. It worked a treat, as Port overran their opponents in midfield and never seemed short of attackers. Breaking down the Muangthong defence will be more of a challenge, but you have to fancy Port to get on the scoresheet at some point.

 

Dragan Boskovic

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 


 

When the article was first published, I wrote that Chappuis was suspended, but Dom informed me that only a straight red card or an accumulation of four yellow cards gets you a suspension.

 


 

The match will be shown live on True 4U and True Sport HD2 at 18:00 on Saturday 17 February, 2018. Again, away fans are banned so for those who can’t make it to PAT Stadium to watch on the big screen, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match with sound if you ask them nicely. Mention the Sandpit or wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount.

 

A Season In The Sun Or Another False Dawn? Port FC vs. Pattaya Utd, 11 Feb 2018

 

Anticipation (n): A feeling of excitement about something which is going to happen.

Delusional (adj): characterized by, or holding idiosyncratic beliefs or impressions that are contradicted by reality or rational argument, typically as a symptom of mental disorder.

 


 

Anyone who has followed Port over the past few seasons will recognize both states of mind, and, as the new season approaches, will no doubt be embracing the first, while waiting anxiously for the alternative to rapidly kick-in. You have to be mental to follow Port at times.

And, to be honest, there does seem something not quite right about the coming season. It all started when news of Port’s new signings filtered through. Boskovic? Didn’t he score 38 goals last season for Bangkok Utd, the same Utd who stuck 11 goals past us without breaking sweat? Then, to follow: an imperious Korean midfielder, a 2010 AFC Champions League winner to boot. More impressive signings followed, amongst them, Nurul, a budding Thai International winger. Then, this week, came the bombshell; we had pinched Kevin Deeromram right from underneath the noses of the MuangScum to solve our problem left-back slot. What started off as a worrying trend had become a full-blown epidemic.

 

Kevin Deeromram

 

Even more significant for denizens of Zone B, we now have a ready-made song to replace the popular, and ever so catchy, “Gen-ki Na-ga-sa-ko.” This new one is inspired by a 1963 Crystals hit, ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’. Sometimes it pays to be old.

 


 

Dee Rom Rom, Ram, Ram, Dee Rom Rom Ram

 

Saw him on a Sunday; my heart missed a rev

Dee Rom Rom, Ram, Ram, De Rom Rom Ram

Someboy told me that his name was Kev

Dee Rom Rom, Ram, Ram, Dee Rom Rom Ram

 

Yeh, his name was Kev,

Yeh, and it rhymes with Trev

He said F**k Off Muang Thong

Dee Rom Rom, Ram Ram, De Rom Rom Ram.

 

It needs a bit of work. Here’s the original.

 


 

Then, with Port in the throes of building up a decent team, it got really weird. The fixtures for the whole season were released in one go. Altogether. At once. February to October, with seemingly minimal interruptions. 7, A4 size pages. No shit.

Imagining this was all a bad dream, I wandered down to Port for a couple of friendlies and I was IMPRESSED. For the first time, in my now nine years as a Port fan, I thought I might be witnessing something special. This was confirmed this morning with a Bangkok Post article proclaiming Port as potential title contenders. Next thing we know, the season tickets and new strip will be available for collection on Sunday!

And this set me thinking about what this might mean for me, and my fellow Sandpit correspondents.

 

WTF are we going to write about now that we might actually be good?

 

Will our pens be dipped in sickly honey rather than essence of deadly nightshade? Will our bitter barbs become sycophantic superlatives? Surely, they couldn’t do it to us. Then I noticed that Tana was still on the teamlist, at 11. That’s not 99, in numerical pecking order somewhere down the Sukhumvit Road towards the Cambodian border, but 11, about as close to the first 11 that 11 can get. And then it dawned on me; this was Madame Pang’s comic gift to the Sandpit. The venerable bard, Shakespeare, had moments of comic relief in his tensest dramas, so why shouldn’t we? Tana could be the Falstaff to Rochella’s Prince Hal, the Malvolio to Boscovic’s Duke Orsino. He might even take to the pitch in a pair of yellow stockings or one of those floppy hats with bells on to confirm the analogy.  When we are 6-0 up against Muang Thong in yet another, crushing, processional victory and yawns are spreading across Zone B like a blanket of fog, on will come Tana to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and all will once again be well in Klong Toey. Pencils sharpened, the words will flow in a venomous stream of invective. So, to the game.

 

Things That Have Impressed Me

 

Dragan Boscovic has added pace and power and will be a go-to man to relieve pressure through the occasional long ball, expertly delivered by the impressive, classy Kim.  Josimar was at his best with his back to the goal, spreading it wide and getting in the middle to knock in the resultant cross (sometimes). ‘For a big man’, Boskovic is quick and will chase the ball down, at the same time scaring the shit out of most Thai defenders, as he did with Bangkok Utd. Backing him up will be Suarez and Siwakorn, who bring different strengths to the game, but both looked sharp pre-season, with Suarez always capable of goals.

 

Dragan Boskovic

 

On the flanks, Nurul (and Terens) look tasty, whilst I confess a growing admiration for Pakorn, now that he has improved his decision-making. I hope I’m not being delusional when I say that I think we will score goals.

 

Pakorn and Nurul

 

At the back, Worawut is in mostly by default; the full backs and Rochela pick themselves, while I feel Todsapol is solid on the ground and in the air and can sneak a goal at set-pieces.

So, my preferred starting eleven in 4-2-3-1 formation is:

 

 

Dolah, Terens, Bodin amongst the subs.

 

The Dolphins

 

Our opponents, Pattaya Utd, enjoyed an excellent 2nd season back in TI finishing a respectable 8th, just one place above Port after losing only 3 games of the final 17, the most memorable from our point of view being our ‘phoenix from the ashes’ 5-2 victory heralding Jadet’s welcome return.

Pattaya’s Sandpit correspondent Robin Lennon, optimistically predicts a top six finish, an accomplishment widely associated with Port in these heady, pre-season days. A key battle will no doubt be between the Dolphins’ twin Brazilian strikers Lukian and Rafinha and Todsapol/Rochela. The Samba strikers are a bit of an unknown quantity even for Pattaya fans but they are Brazilians for Chrissakes so it’s sure to be fun. Siwakorn’s battle with Peeradol Chamratsamee, who after a 6-way swap period with Muang Thong is now a Dolphin player, should also be interesting. Boscovic’s tussle with the Dolphins’ Korean captain, Lee Won-yeong could be bruising.

 

Lukian (9) and Rafinha (10)

 

This will be my eighth full season as a Port fan and the excitement as match day approaches never really diminishes. Last year I wrote a personal reflection on the opening day and I am hoping this year will be much the same, apart from the result!

 


 

The match will be shown live on True 4U and True Sport HD2 at 19:00 on Sunday 11 February, 2018. 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 if you ask them nicely. Mention the Sandpit or wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount. For those who are coming along, remember to get there early as we’re expecting a full house!

 

,

Higher Sights: The Sandpit’s Big 2018 Preview

 

How things can change in the space of a year. 12 months ago newly-promoted Port were shopping in the bargain basement and hoping to avoid relegation back to T2. A year on, and the club have signed up some of the top players in Thailand and are aiming a lot higher than mid-table. Optimism is running high amongst fans, players and staff with the club looking like genuine title contenders. So here are the thoughts of the Sandpit team as we head into what promises to be a thrilling 2018 season…

 


 

TIM RUSSELL

 

Which new Port signings are you most excited about?

Obviously Boskovic and Nurul are exciting signings – you can’t fail to be excited when your club sign the top scorer and top assister from last season – but for me the key signing is Kim Sung Hwan. If you asked any fan what was missing from Port’s team last season I suspect the majority would say “a good defensive midfielder”, and if his friendly performances are anything to go by, he’s just that. Port’s defence was very leaky and prone to conceding penalties last season precisely because they lacked a midfield shield – Kim looks like the man to provide that. He also likes to get forward and has a tasty long throw on him too.

The late signing of Kevin Deeromram is also fantastic news, as Jadet’s favourite Panpanpong was the team’s weakest link last season. It’s so good to see Port signing up the best young players – and gazumping Muangthong.

Having met him the other week I’m also looking forward to seeing Terens get some game time. He is going to be a real fan favourite and is quite a character, so hope we get to see him on the pitch.

Which 2017 players were you sad to see leave? Which players won’t you miss?

Obviously I had a lump in my throat when we said sayonara to Genki last season. It was also a shame to lose a committed player like Ekkapoom. But not a surprise they’ve left given Port’s sudden attack of ambition. I certainly won’t miss Wuttichai or Siwapong, and hope Tana follows them through the exit door before too long.

Which areas do Port still need to strengthen?

You can’t win the league without a decent goalkeeper, and in my opinion Port still don’t have one. Rattanai is very promising but gets injured going for a piss, whilst Worawut doesn’t instil much confidence in me.

is Jadet the right man for the new, big-spending Port?

I hope he is. His stock rose after the Zico debacle and his record at Port isn’t in question, so he deserves to have a crack at driving a Ferrari instead of a Lada for a change. But he’ll be under pressure from day 1 and if Port fail to hit the ground running, I’m sure Mme Pang will have no hesitation in pulling the trigger. But nothing would give me greater pleasure than seeing the big fella lifting a trophy this season. Well, a few things would, but this is not the time or the place.

Tell us your ideal Port starting XI, and why…

 

 

Deeromram is a huge signing who can potentially transform Port from a top 6 side into genuine title contenders – surely even Jadet can’t rate Panpanpong ahead of him? I’d also start Bodin ahead of Suarez as he looks to have more attacking nous about him – the competition between those two for a starting place will be intriguing to watch.

Where will Port finish in T1?

All depends on whether they can play to Boskovic’s strengths. On the assumption they can, I think we will finish top 3 and if we can avoid injuries and our new players gel from the start, we can even win it.

Which games are you most looking forward to in 2018?

Muangthong home & away for obvious reasons. This is one of the biggest fixtures in Thai football and it’s criminal to play it behind close doors purely because MTU are incapable of policing a game properly. Also looking forward to a weekend in Prachuap, and to renewing hostilities with Cheating Chainat.

Which teams will be in the T1 title hunt, who will go down, and who will come up from T2?

It’s hard to see beyond Buriram & Muangthong, though Buriram are gambling on two strikers new to the Thai game and may not be the force they were last season. Outside those two, I think Port, Chiang Rai, Glass and Bangkok Utd will form the chasing pack, with maybe Police as dark horses. Port have the quality to win it but we cannot rule out Operation Fuckup cranking into gear at some point.

In the drop zone, I think Navy, Nakhon Ratchasima, Ubon and Prachuap will all struggle badly, and with 5 going down, I think Chainat and Sukhothai will be fighting it out to avoid the last spot.

Finally, what are your 3 wishes for the 2018 season?

1. For this team I’ve supported since 2014 to win a trophy. It would mean so much to the fans, both locals and Importz. Just the thought of Supachalasai taken over by the Khlong Thoey Army gives me the shivers.

2. Port to start picking players based on form & ability rather than age/experience. In the last couple of years we’ve lost the likes of Tatchanon, Hansson, Pinyo & others whilst sticking with the likes of Tana, Wuttichai & Panpanpong, for no other reason than seniority. Let’s hope the same doesn’t happen to Bodin & Yossawat this time round.

3. That the season isn’t interrupted by stupid long breaks. The fans hate them, the players hate them, the club owners hate them. It’s become obvious they don’t help the national team either, so keep them to 1 week max the way Europe does.

 


 

TOM EARLS

 

Which new Port signings are you most excited about?

For me, the six big signings have been Boskovic, Kim, Nebihi, Nurul, Bodin and Kevin. With Nebihi out and Bodin looking like starting the season on the bench, it’s got to be one of Boskovic, Kim, Nurul or Kevin. Any or all of the four could end up having a huge impact, and with this being Port any or all could end up falling flat, but my money is on Boskovic to make the biggest impact. The goals will come, with assists aplenty for Pakorn, Nurul and Suarez, but the Montenegrin will ultimately show that killer instinct in front of goal that Port have struggled to find in recent years. Kim will also have a huge impact coming in for Adisorn in midfield, and Nurul will show more pace and creativity on Port’s left than Genki, hopefully being ably backed up by Kevin.

Which 2017 players were you sad to see leave? Which players won’t you miss?

Josimar, Genki and Ekkapoom will all be missed for their attitude and application, although with Port strengthening so much in the transfer window letting them go was the right thing to do for all concerned. Josimar and Genki have been replaced by Boskovic and Nurul, whilst Ekkapoom’s role as fan-favourite back-up winger has been enthusiastically taken on by Terens Puhiri.

Ittipol was also a useful squad player and a good experienced guy to have around, and Pinyo had a lot of potential, although injuries prevented him from fulfilling it at Port.

I won’t miss Wuttichai, and I hope none of Port’s new arrivals take up the ‘entitled gobshite still dining out on a couple of decent performances in 2015’ mantle.

Which areas do Port still need to strengthen?

If you’d asked me a couple of days ago I would have undoubtedly said “The defence,” but a couple of signings later and all of a sudden things don’t look to shabby at the back.
Port could struggle a bit between the sticks if Rattanai spends as much time on the treatment table as he did last season. Whilst Worawut is a very capable shot-stopper, he doesn’t exactly inspire confidence under the high ball.

is Jadet the right man for the new, big-spending Port?

Tricky. Yes, if only because he’s shown himself adept at dealing with Madame Pang in a conflict-free way, and he arose from the Zico debacle smelling like roses. Port need a manager with the confidence of their owners, which they now have. However, does he have the smarts to take this group of players in to the top 5? I’m skeptical, but don’t think it’s outside the realms of possibility, either.

Tell us your ideal Port starting XI, and why…

 

 

My team is probably the same as Jadet’s, besides Dolah. Kevin being given the chance to make that left back spot his own is a no-brainer, and I think that particularly after Nebihi being given the boot Port will need the extra physicality that Dolah provides.

Where will Port finish in T1?

6th, just behind Bangkok Glass but ahead of Chonburi.

Which games are you most looking forward to in 2018?

As always, the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ away games in places like Ratchaburi, Prachuap and Chonburi are minibus trips to look forward to, and a final day Saturday trip to Pattaya will undoubtedly be a weekend to remember! The home game against Muangthong should also be belter in terms of the famous PAT Stadium atmosphere!

Which teams will be in the T1 title hunt, who will go down, and who will come up from T2?

There are question marks about all of the potential league challengers this year. Will Buriram’s new Brazilian striker Edgar make the grade? Will Muangthong struggle for firepower after loaning out Teerasil and Adisak getting injured? Is Peerapat anywhere near as good as Hia Um? Spoiler alert, he’s not. Will Nebihi play a starring role for Chiang Rai? Will Bangkok United’s new foreigners gel quickly enough to mount a challenge?
I think of those four any could make things interesting, with Bangkok Glass, Port and Chonburi lagging a little behind.
Navy will finish bottom, with Prachuap, Ubon, Sukhothai, Chainat and Nakhon Ratchasima fighting for survival. I’ll give Nakhon Ratchasima the edge because of Rangel’s goals, but it should be close.

Finally, what are your 3 wishes for the 2018 season?

1) Port continue to play exciting football.
2) Port take 6 points off Muangthong.
3) FAT do as little as possible and stay out of everyone’s way.

 


 

DOMINICK CARTWRIGHT

 

Which new Port signings are you most excited about?

Boskovic and Nurul, the leading goal scorer and the player who set up the most goals last season. I can’t wait to see these two put on their Thai Port shirts and run out at PAT. Finally we have a decent striker! Nurul looks like he has the attitude of Ekkapoom already a fan favourite and it’s only pre-season.

Which 2017 players were you sad to see leave? Which players won’t you miss?

Although I always saw Ekkapoom as a back up left wing, he was a great impact player for the energy he brought on the pitch, and the spirit he had for Thai Port. Everyone wanted him to do well. I will never forget him scoring a header, yes a header against Air force or was it Luuk Tap Faa?, anyway I remember the last minute goal. Extra time header sneaks in, it can’t be…. Yes it’s only bloody Ekkapoom, great bloke, great memories.

Who won’t I miss? I can’t remember any other players that left, Wuttiwho?

Which areas do Port still need to strengthen?

Written on February 2nd …. “Left back, we said it all last season, Panpanpong(19) can cross well and is a reasonable tackler. But far too often he drifts forward and leaves Port exposed at the back. How can we spend all that money on the squad and not upgrade the biggest hole on in the starting 11? Lord only knows.”

Written on February 6th,…. After a late night phone call, Pang followed my advice, we now have one of the best left backs in the league things are looking pretty good for the starting 11. If there is one problem Port have now it’s what happens if Boskovic gets injured. Now Nebihi has gone our back up is the inexperienced 23 year old Butjinda or using Suarez as a forward. This is also a problem if Jadet ever felt the need to play two strikers, it’s happened once or twice in the distant past. In midfield and defence we have options and utility players but we don’t have a decent back up striker.

Is Jadet the right man for the new, big-spending Port?

In a word YES. Jadet was the last manager to run Buriram/Munagthong close in the league. He’s maybe not the best tactical mind in the game, but he has shown he has support in the dressing room and he can work with Pang. These are the two vital skills at Port. How long will he be given to bring a new team together, I’m guessing about 7 games. Good luck Sir Det.

Tell us your ideal Port starting XI, and why…

 

 

Bodin, and Terens being used regularly as impact subs. Bodin starting some matches especially against a slower opposition midfield vulnerable to the quick passing game.
The Dolah vTodsapol choice is a close one, Dolah gets the edge for being less injury prone and a bit more imposing. If we are playing a wing back system with Kim, Rochela, + 1 as a back 3 Dolah might be the better choice.

Where will Port finish in T1?

4th.

Which games are you most looking forward to in 2018?

Prajuap away missed it last time, when we were both in T2. Everyone said they were a great bunch of fans, they even laid on free canteen food in the away end. It’s near the seaside, wouldn’t mind going down to Sam roi yord for another away day plus holiday.

Pattaya away, last game of the season, carnage.

Which teams will be in the T1 title hunt, who will go down, and who will come up from T2?

In the hunt for top spot, Burirram, Muangthong, Chiang Rai, Bangkok United and ……us.

Going down, Cheating Chainat, pleasant Prajuap, Unbelievably Chaotic Ubon, and Navy will run aground, we will miss the puns. One more ? Police, yes Police, if Scott Cooper loses 3 games and the owner decides this is unacceptable, even though they are in 6th place or so. Cooper leaves before the mid season transfer window, the players he’s brought in drift away and opposition teams run riot at Boonyachinda Stadium.

I think Sisaket, Udon Thani and PTT Rayong will come up again. Sisaket, great fans and have been working on their stadium. Surely they will want the newly finished stadium to host T1 football. Will be interesting to see if they get an injection of cash or fade away. Udon Thani have already tried to buy their way into the league, let’s see if they can do it legally, the money is there so it’s definitely on. PTT Rayong are a bit of a plastic club but they have the best T2 stadium. Also Hockers will be in a good mood about getting another trip to the seaside which he loves so much.

Finally, what are your 3 wishes for the 2018 season?

A team other than Buriram or Muangthong winning the league. Continued domination with two clubs is only interesting if you’re in a specialist nightclub in Patpong.

Port Silverware
It would be great for us to win something, we’ll be dancing in the streets of Klong Toei, grown men will cry, the streets will flood with free flow Leo.

Pang hot or cold?
Solid information about what Pang’s plans are for the club after the 5 year leasing agreement is up. It’s always tease tease tease, …. Will you stay, or will you go now? If you stay there will be trouble, if you leave it could be double.

 

The season kicks off on Sunday 11th Feb at 19:00. Follow all the season’s ups & downs at www.portfcsandpit.com! 

 

Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting: Port FC 2-3 Suwon FC

 

What should have been a laid-back pre-season friendly ended up being a hard-fought 5-goal thriller involving a mass brawl following a spat centred around Sergio Suarez. Port ended up coming out on the wrong side of the 3-2 scoreline, but with some more clinical finishing the result could easily have gone the other way.

 

 

 

Jadet went with something pretty close to his first XI, with the two eyebrow-raisers being that Suarez (5) was preferred to Nebihi (18) and Bodin (15) to Pakorn (7). The first half, while it lasted, was a pretty even affair, with both sides having a few attacks and winning a penalty each, although we weren’t convinced entirely by either of them. Suwon were first up, as their left-winger ghosted past Nitipong, who the referee adjudged to have pushed his opponent in the back. From what we saw the Korean tripped over the ball, but Nitipong (34) – who regardless of whether or not he committed the foul was completely caught out by his opponent – may well have helped him on his way down. Suwon’s resident Brazilian hit the top corner, with Worawut (36) going the wrong way.

Then it was Port’s turn up the other end, with Boskovic (10) being sent through down the middle. The Montenegrin, who had largely been starved of service up to that point, looked to have delayed his shot too long, although his blushes were saved when a sliding challenge came in from his right, and he took a tumble which convinced the referee enough to point to the spot. From our angle it looked like a questionable decision, but we can’t say we’re not happy to have a forward with enough about him to win the penalty if he’s not going to score the goal. Boskovic handed the ball to captain Rochela (22), who still seems to be on spot-kick duty despite the arrival of his record-scoring teammate, and El Capitan dispatched it in to the top right corner with the usual ease.

What was a pretty low-key affair was about to turn very ugly indeed, though, and the man at the centre of the big first-half controversy was Sergio Suarez, who may well have bought his own ticket away from Khlong Toei with the way he reacted to a bit of handbags from an opposition player. Suarez came in with a late challenge which sent both players to the turf, then the Korean player appeared to throw a little slap in his direction. Suarez got up quicker than he ever has done in his Port career and proceeded to kick out at his opponent. Now, I’m not talking a Beckham-versus-Argentina little flick of the foot here but a full on studs-first attack designed to hurt his opponent. In an instant at least 3 Koreans were aiming myriad martial arts kicks at Suarez, who was forced in to a hasty retreat. Within seconds there were dozens of people on the pitch, with a fair few players pushing, shoving and having to be restrained by teammates and staff on both sides. Dolah (4) was summoned from the bench to remove Suarez, who was sat down and given what looked to be a pretty stern talking to by Madame Pang. Reports that Nebihi was seen grinning like a Cheshire cat are unconfirmed but almost certainly accurate!

Eventually, with Rochela, Kim (39) and Nitipong mediating on the Port side, peace was restored and incredibly the referee agreed not to send anyone off, but presumably insisted that both sides sub-off all of the offenders in a bid to restore sanity. Suarez, Todsapol (6) and Bodin went off for Port, but it was a long time before replacements Nebihi, Dolah and Pakorn saw any action. The first half was stopped, despite there having been about 30 minutes played, and there was a longer-than usual half-time break for all of the players to regain their composure. It seemed for a moment as if the Koreans weren’t going to be returning for the second period, with all their equipment disappearing from the side of the pitch, and the whole squad in the dressing room. Eventually they did reemerge to play the second period though, and within just a couple of minutes were back in the lead.

The move came down Port’s left, with a Suwon attacker getting the wrong side of his marker to head his team back in to the lead. Port tried to get back in to the game, with Pakorn and Dolah combining a couple of times from set-pieces to threaten the Korean goal, but despite the Thai-Swede’s significant height advantage he couldn’t find the target with his headers. There was also a moment of interest for fans of Delap-era Stoke City, with Kim (39) unveiling a very useful-looking long throw, although his teammates were not best positioned to take advantage of it. Now, I’ve never really seen a Thai team set up to try and attack a long throw, so Port may be best served letting Kim take a training session himself and teach his teammates how to wreak havoc in the opposition box with these deliveries. Port could well have a dangerous attacking weapon on their hands that few opponents will be prepared to defend against if they play their cards right.

Suwon had a few useful attacking ideas of their own, too, and just a few minutes after scoring their second they got a third. The attack once again came down Port’s left, which most Port fans will be used to with Panpanpong (19) ‘defending’ that side of the pitch. He was soon replaced, with Jetjinn (51) once again being preferred to Yossawat (28) as back-up in that position.

With the Koreans perhaps content with their two goal lead, though, Port really ratcheted up the pressure, and it was Nebihi who was at the heart of most of it. The ungainly German almost always seems to be about to lose the ball, before one of his long legs flicks it around a defender. At times he was embarrassing his opponents, with a superb piece of exhibition skill featuring a couple of cheeky nutmegs down the right between him, Pakorn and Nitipong drawing numerous cheers from the rowdy foreigners in Zone C.

The other star performer was Kim who, aside from his long throws, also impressed with his long passing. On a few occasions, searching passes from deep were aimed either forward at Boskovic, whose movement was excellent throughout, or wide to Pakorn, whose control and crossing was of the standard we’ve come to expect from The Midfield Monk. If Boskovic had been able to convert a one-on-one chance against the keeper, where the bounce of the ball seemed to foil him, or a simple volleyed chance from a Pakorn cross, then Port would have been victorious. He did get on to the score sheet late on, though, as Port were awarded the least controversial penalty of the night for a clear handball. This time, Boskovic stepped up to take the spot-kick, and rolled the ball home impudently, sending the ‘keeper helplessly in the wrong direction.

 

 

The final incident of note came from a freekick which Port were awarded just on the edge of the area in the dying seconds of the game. Boskovic, having just converted the penalty, was determined to take it, but Pakorn isn’t used to being challenged in this sort of position. Nevertheless, the fire-breathing Dragan got his point across and was allowed to take responsibility. His effort looked in for a second, but some combination of the gigantic Korean ‘keeper and the crossbar kept it out, denying Port a draw, which after the amount of chances they created in the last 20 or so minutes, was the least they deserved.

So, what did we learn today? Pre-game, Suarez had earned the right to start ahead of Nebihi, but quickly shot himself in the foot with his karate kid antics. If Nebihi was behind Suarez for the final foreign player spot, he has most certainly moved ahead of him with another superb 45 minute performance. Port are very dangerous going forward, but the defensive frailties are far from a thing of the past.

 

Port FC Man of the Match

 

 

Nebihi may have impressed again, but my Man of the Match this time was Kim in central midfield. We haven’t seen vision and passing as good as Kim’s at PAT Stadium for quite a while, and that long throw could come in handy, too.

 

Swede As! The Sandpit Meets Elias Dolah

 

Since joining Port from T2 side Songkhla at the start of 2017, big Thai-Swede Elias Dolah has become a fixture in Port’s defence, terrifying Thai strikers with his size and no-nonsense tackling. Off the pitch however, Elias is a friendly, laid-back, eloquent character with a lot to say about Port and Thai football in general. The Sandpit met up with him to find out about his beginnings in Swedish football, his first year at the PAT, and what 2018 might hold for him and his team…

 


 

Tell us how you got started in football…

I come from a village outside Lund in the south of Sweden and my first team was my village team, Dalby GIF. I played there until I was 15-16 or so, in central midfield. I played defence also, but usually central midfield. Then I moved to Lund and played there for 4 years, in the junior and then the senior team.

 

 

I guess your size was less of a big deal in Sweden?

Right, I wasn’t oversized when I was young, I was the same as everyone else, so I played central mid, that’s where I played my best games in the Swedish First Division (the 2nd tier of Swedish football – Ed). But when I came to Thailand they saw my size and wanted me to play as a central defender.

 

When you were growing up, which players were your heroes & role models? Which team did you support?

I got a Chelsea shirt from my father when I was 6 years old – back then Chelsea weren’t the team they are now so I thought it was a nice team to cheer for. At that time Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was the goalscorer so he was my hero. But the role model for me was my big brother – he was a footballer but he studied law & had to give up football. He’s two years older than me & was the one I always looked up to. Now I don’t really have any players I look up to but Maldini is the defender I’ve always admired, I often watch his Youtube clips, he was so consistent. He kept up that level for so long, until he was 40!

 

How did the move to Thailand come about?

My father is from Narathiwat in the south of Thailand so I was visiting my relatives and my father said “Maybe you should go & train with a local team”, and he started doing some research and got in touch with Songkhla which was the closest team, and they were in the TPL at the time. So I did some pre-season training with them the season they were in the TPL, and they wanted to sign me, but I still had one year left on my contract with Lund and in Sweden you can’t just break contracts like you can in Thailand! So I went back to Sweden and played one more year, then agreed a 2-year contract with Songkhla to see if Thai football was right for me.

 

What culture shocks did you experience moving from Swedish to Thai football?

It was a bit of a change! It was the first time I’d moved out from my parents’ house so that was a change too. Swedish football is like most European football – it’s more structured, more organised, more tactical, you have to follow the tactics and if you don’t you will not play. Here it’s more impulsive – if someone feels like going on a run they’ll do it! It’s more free, more end-to-end. It’s something we players have to manage – we can’t just go-go-go all the time because in the end we will lose.

Thai clubs need a whole new way of training, diet, lifestyle. Come in at 9, take it seriously, this is your job. The players’ diet isn’t controlled. I think it’s a lack of knowledge about what your diet does to you. In Sweden we learn about this in school and when playing, the coaches told us what to eat. We went to Chiang Mai for the Leo Cup last week, even though it’s just a friendly game, we didn’t have any lunch – we flew at midday when we were supposed to eat lunch to prepare for a game at 6pm, so we had to take care of lunch ourselves and most people went to McDonald’s! Some of the foreign players don’t eat Thai food so they have to try & find something to eat – David (Rochela) always eats rice & eggs! He just mixes fried eggs & rice, it’s funny, it’s his way of dealing with Thai food.

 

What about the talent of Thai players? Is there a lot of potential here?

If they take care of themselves then they can be as good as Swedish players. Here in Thailand they need to get more chances to play – don’t pick players because of age hierarchy. That’s a big problem in Thailand, younger players don’t get the same chances as older players.

 

Who’s the best player you’ve played against, and with, in Thailand?

I think Theerasil, he’s quality. He’s a good target player, even though he’s not the biggest or strongest, he finds the spaces. And I’ve played with Sergio (Suarez) for 4 years now. From the beginning he impressed me and every day he still impresses me, he has really good technique and if he plays in the right position – creative central mid… Also Nitipong, he has something really good going on. He’s really serious and professional, he goes to the gym every day even when we don’t have training.

 

What were your first impressions of Port?

My first impression of Port was playing at PAT Stadium. That was amazing – in T2 the crowds are usually really small, you play in these shit stadiums, some of them don’t even have showers, then you come to PAT Stadium and you think wow, this is what Thai football is all about. Playing Port home & away I thought this is something else, it’s not like playing against teams like Ang Thong or Krabi. I got a really good impression so to be able to come here & play was perfect. The fans are amazing.

 

Port had an up & down season, with some amazing performances interspersed with some…not so good ones. Our defence conceded a lot of goals & penalties, why do you think this is? What are you doing to tighten things up for 2018?

I think it’s the lack of a base…if you feel like the game isn’t going your way, as a player you need to be able to fall back on a base, like a holding pattern, and if you don’t feel like you have that to fall back on when things are going badly then it can be really difficult. That’s what happened in some of the games where we performed really badly, like Thai Honda away (groans from all assembled). That night we didn’t do anything right, but we had nothing to fall back on. On the days when we’re playing well and everything’s working we can beat anyone. We also need to focus when we play smaller teams – you see some players going “sabai sabai”, and only getting fired up when we pay bigger teams. I think it’s natural, it happens everywhere, but it has something to do with professionalism.

Also last season, even when we were 2 goals up, we always found a way to concede a late goal. That comes back to what I said about having a base playing style. What is our philosophy? What is our style of football? We just need to learn to finish off games. The clinical aspect of our games has to be better. And sometimes you need to learn when to foul!

 

 

Was the Zico appointment a big disruption?

It was the wrong time to appoint him, because at that time we were performing well, we were in a very good position. Maybe we could have performed with Zico if he’d been appointed at the right time, but at that time we didn’t need a change. But nobody played well under Zico, the whole team played badly, Josimar scored once in, what, ten games…it’s not easy to win when you play shit.

Zico tried to make the team more professional and he could make decisions, because of his status. We could go and talk to him and he could change stuff. Big stuff. He made some changes in basic stuff, in the locker room and so on, because he brought a lot of staff with him – we had double staff when he was there. 20, 22 staff! Things like, after training he introduced boiled eggs & bananas, so people ate the right stuff, not eating shit – good protein & nutrition after training, and we’re still doing that now.

But sometimes he took things a little too easy with match preparation – he was like “I believe in you so much, it’ll be OK, the results will come”, but we didn’t analyse the opponents much which is important, as you need to be prepared in your mind and all pull in the same direction. That’s a good thing about Jadet, his assistant coach takes care of this, he’s really professional and we watch a lot of videos of other teams. And it seems to be working.

 

You were unlucky last season in that several times you had penalties given against you for fouls outside the area…

Yeah I was unlucky but also it was against bigger teams so it’s kind of natural…sometimes when you have your back to goal and you can’t see the line it’s difficult to decide whether you should make the foul. And in Thailand, with my size, it’s difficult to have the referee on my side actually – other players can do what they want with me, they can pull my shirt, tackle me, because it doesn’t look that bad. But when I do something, even if I make a good tackle it can look harder than it is. I think I play fair but it’s difficult because of the size difference. But the level of refereeing in Thailand is going up, some of them are OK.

 

What were your best & worst moments of 2017?

The best has to be the win against Muangthong, because it means a lot for the fans and for the players. It was a big win. (Tom mentions the post-game dressing room celebrations) Haha, that’s something I miss from Sweden, because there, after the game, if you win you make noise! Everyone can hear you. You do it from a young age, celebrate a win, but it doesn’t usually happen in Thailand. It’s like, the second best moment was the away win in Chiang Rai. That was the best smash & grab win I’ve ever been part of – we flew up & back in the same day so it really felt like a smash & grab! Go there, 90 minutes, go home. And in the dressing room after that game I really wanted to sing, to make some noise, but the Thai people said no, take it easy.

The worst has to be Thai Honda. It made us look so bad – they were one of the promoted teams, and they got relegated, and we go there and we lose 5-1. It was so bad. I watched some of the Weera clips…(laughter all round) It was bad timing as I was maybe getting called up to the national team, I was a reserve when they went to Australia, but after that game…

 

What about your future at Thai Port?

I feel really happy here, I’ve signed a long contract – I signed up for 1 year when I first came, then after 2 months they wanted to extend to 3 years which I did, so I’m under contract until the end of 2020. There’s good competition for my position with Todsapol, it’s a good environment to develop, so I have no fears I won’t be playing. In the end it’s up to me to perform on the pitch. I played many games in 2017 and I’m satisfied with my performance.

 

Port have streamlined the squad for 2018 with older players like Wuttichai, Ekkapoom and Pakasit moving on…

Yes I was really surprised to see that when I came back! I thought that would never happen. I feel really bad about Ekkapoom because he was supposed to play in the last game at Ratchaburi but I injured him in training! And I couldn’t go to his wedding after that as I was flying back to Sweden, so I feel really bad…

 

…and Tana?

Haha, we came back for training and nobody even knew where he was! Then one day he was stood there at training without his shirt, and told me he’d been away with the police doing training for 3 months. He has this police grade so he has to do some training sometimes. But he’s left Port for sure. He’s a really funny guy, doesn’t take things seriously at all, but he can shine sometimes when he wants to! 

 

What are your personal ambitions for 2018?

Scoring goals would be fun! I scored one in the FA Cup. But the problem is every time we get a set-piece I always get the biggest defender on me, or sometimes two of them. But that creates opportunities for others. Otherwise, keep developing, I’m still quite young and still have time to develop and I want as much playing time as possible to perform in front of the fans, and together with the team get some results, as I really think we have a strong team.

As for the national team, they usually pick from teams that are performing well. Last year, whenever it was time for national team selection, and you look at the results we had, I can understand why noone from Port was picked. We could be really good, but we could be really really bad, and that made the players look bad. This season I hope there will be more of a spotlight on the team.

 

Are you surprised at the quality of players Mme Pang has brought in this time round? What are the club’s ambitions for the season?

Yeah, actually I am. Before it felt like we bought quantity not quality – we had 40 players, in training you had to stand in line! Now it’s under control and Madame has told us she wants a top 5 finish. Which would be good.

 


 

Big thanks to Elias for giving up his Saturday morning to talk to us, and to Joe & Rob at The Sportsman for their hospitality & cooperation. And don’t forget to listen to our podcast with Elias!

 

Boskovic vs Cleiton: Port to Face Chiang Rai in Leo Cup

 

The draw for the forthcoming Leo Cup pre-season tournament has just been made, and Port have been handed a tough draw against Chiang Rai Utd in the first round, with the game taking place on Tuesday 9 January at 20:00 in Khon Kaen 18:00 in Chiang Mai

The draw pits two of the dark horses for 2018 T1 honours against each other, with both sides splashing the cash during the break, and two of the Scariest SFSs in Thai football history – Port’s Dragan Boskovic and Chiang Rai’s Cleiton Silva – coming face to face.

The other fixtures can be seen in the image above. If Port win, they’ll join the other R1 winners in the semi-finals which are scheduled to take place on the hallowed turf of the PAT on Friday 12 January, with the final being held in the godforsaken Theatre of Corrugated Iron that is the SCG on Sunday 14 January.