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Kannoo Believe It? Thitipan Deal On?

 

The familiar feeling is back. After a quiet start to the transfer window, there are so many transfers in and out of Port at various stages of completion I have absolutely no idea what’s going on. But seeing as we’re here, I’ll tell you what I do and don’t know, and what I think might end up happening.

 

What We Know

Done deals get cancelled, so we don’t really know anything, but the incoming transfers that everyone seems to be able to agree on are Fox Hunt duo Jirattikan Vapilai and Nutchanon Sojit, and Go Seul-ki, who has joined Port on loan from champs Buriram.

Out of the exit door have gone Jetjinn Sriprach and Sammy Slot while loanee Terens Puhiri has rejoined Borneo FC and Somprasong Promsorn has just joined Khon Kaen.

Likely Deals

There are a host of deals that some are claiming are confirmed, but haven’t yet gone on most websites’ lists of done deals. We expect some of them to be confirmed in the new year, but it’s possible that some will still be called off. The players in question are all from Bangkok United: Sansern Limwattana, Ernesto Phumipha and Sumanya Purisai.

We can’t very well have Kim Sung Hwan still on the books next season, so one way or another he’s sure to be out of the door. Apparently he’s not making things easy though, with a rumoured loan move to Suphanburi not yet any closer than when it was proposed to him by the club. Bajram Nebihi is also in the unwanted foreigner category, but he’ll be straight off as soon as he’s got his last month’s salary in the bank.

 

Thitipan’s Japanese Deal Off

BG’s superstar midfielder and my man crush Thitipan Puangchan has gone from being an outside transfer punt to maybe a 50/50, with his proposed move to Japan apparently dead in the water. Last time I wrote about him, the rumour was that if his Japanese move fell through he would join Port on loan, and now the latest news is that Bangkok United have joined the race for Thailand’s most exciting central midfielder.

This deal certainly could happen for Port, but at the moment there are no details. This deal could also affect the transfer of Bangkok United midfielder and recently named 2018 Thai League MVP Sumanya Purisai. With Sumanya carrying a hefty 40 million baht price tag, and the Thitipan loan deal sure to cost a pretty penny in loan fees and wages, we imagine that with Go’s signing already confirmed, Port will want one, but not two more good but expensive midfielders on the books. This is pure speculation on my part, though, so take it for what it’s worth.

 

Kan-Who?

 

 

Now I’ll be honest, this is the lowest kind of rumour. Port’s Wikipedia page currently shows young forward Sittichok Kannoo as a Port player, but I haven’t heard any noise anywhere else hinting that this deal could be a goer. Anyway, he’s one of the more promising Thai forwards around, with an excellent record for Thai youth teams at all levels. He has struggled a bit stepping up to T1 level though, netting 6 in 26 for Honda in 2017, then 1 in 5 for Bangkok United last season. Anyway, we need more depth up top, and he’s young and promising. Can’t argue with the logic.

 

My Prediction

Jirattikan and Go will stay, Nutchanon, as one of 5 left backs, could very easily be gone before the start of the season. Either that or he’ll stay but only play for Port B. Ernesto will arrive, meaning that Yossawat leaves on a permanent deal. Sansern will join, but Sumanya’s deal will fall through at the last minute, as Thitipan makes a dramatic late move to Khlongtoei. Sittichok will rightly deny any link to Port, and the only remnant of the rumour will be this Transfer Talk. Port will go on to sign another striker who won’t be as good as Arthit, because, let’s face it, no one is as good as Arthit. Port will not sign a right back, and end up playing Adisorn there in some critical league games, where he will run around a lot before giving away penalties which cost us points.

 

Tom’s Transfer Talk: Sumanya, My Lord, Sumanya

 

Sumanya Purisai is Port’s first big signing for the 2019 season, although his acquisition hasn’t yet been confirmed by Port. The move has, however, been all but confirmed by Bangkok United coach Mano Polking, who cryptically stated “Actually easy to explain… but not here!” when asked why he was letting one his best performers in 2018 leave the club. The reported fee is a whopping 40 million baht which, bearing in mind Sumanya is 32 years old, is quite a statement of intent from Port, and could well be the easy explanation Mano is teasing us with. This transfer could be interpreted as a pretty shocking example of overpaying for an aging player, but I’ll shelve the skepticism for now as I think this is an excellent signing from the perspective of improving Port’s chances next season.

 

 

Sumanya is an attacking midfielder capable of playing in an advanced role (think Suarez) or a central role (think Siwakorn). Considering Port’s propensity to rely on width and their lack of penetration through the middle in recent seasons, playing Sumanya and Suarez together with a solid defensive midfielder behind them (think Anon or Port’s Asian quota midfielder) could really address this imbalance. Sumanya would offer Port a much more potent attacking threat, while also providing competition for set-pieces, which Pakorn has had a monopoly on for the last few seasons.

This is a really positive move from Port management, who have had a few fans worried by the lack of early movement this transfer window. Those doubters can now be assured that the club intends to strengthen their squad once again this season – whatever the cost – and with another big announcement possibly set for the coming days (my lips are sealed… for now) Port could yet be fielding a significantly stronger first XI than they did in 2018.

As always, new signings go straight on to our Squad Page where we have player profiles including everything you need to know about our players. Sumanya’s is here.

 

Tom’s Transfer Talk: Thit or GTFO

 

Well, once the midfield rumours started, the genie was never going back in the bottle. Port’s search for a new engine room has been revving up, or at the very least, speculation surrounding Port’s transfer dealings has been.

Once again there are two rumours to report, and once again I find myself loving one and hating the other. Let’s start with the good stuff this time, shall we?

 

 

Anyone who has listened to me drone on about the Thai national team will know that I am absolutely enamored by Thitipan Puangchan. He’s my kind of footballer. But before I start the love-in, let’s have a look at where things stand career-wise.

One of the senior members of Thailand’s ‘golden generation’, Thitipan started out – as almost all of them did – with Muangthong. Between 2011 and 2016 he played over 100 top tier games – including a loan spell with Suphanburi – but towards the end of his time with Muangthong he was seeing very little action, and finally in 2017 opted to move to Chiang Rai in search of more regular football.

It was a timely decision, with Thitipan’s impressive exploits at youth level becoming a more and more distant memory, and it took him just one game to launch himself back in to Thai football’s consciousness with a stunning hattrick. He would go on to be named in the T1 team of the season, before Bangkok Glass made him their 30 million baht marquee signing in 2018.

It’s fair to say that things didn’t go quite so well from there. It probably didn’t help that Thitipan appeared to have embarked on a competitive eating career in the off season and at the start of the 2018 season was looking rather more like a football than a footballer. It didn’t take one of Thailand’s hardest working footballers long to shed the Pakorn bodysuit, but it didn’t make much difference to Glass’ fortunes. Thitipan’s performances were certainly not to blame for BG’s eventual relegation – his 5 goals and 6 assists were a pretty reasonable return – but neither he or his team played anywhere near their potential, before relegation was confirmed on an insane final day of the season.

 

 

But whilst Thitipan was struggling for his club he was absolutely excelling for the national team. He was the player of the tournament in Thailand’s 2017 King’s Cup victory, and was again among Thailand best performers in 2018. He has become absolutely indispensable to coach Rajevac, who trusts Thitipan enough to stick him just about anywhere on the pitch – he played central midfield, right midfield and right back for spells in the recent Suzuki Cup semi-final.

This brings us up to his current situation. Apparently, 25 year old Thitipan is on the hunt for a J League club to take his career to the next level, but right now no deal has been signed. The reporting over the last couple of days is that if no deal is reached with a Japanese suitor then Thitipan’s fall-back option is a season-long loan deal with Port. GET IN!

Now, what kind of player is he? The quintessential box-to-box midfielder. He has a superb work rate, he can tackle (and does so in an overzealous way every 30 seconds or so) and he is always on the lookout for an opportunity to drive the team forward with a searching pass or a powerful run. A little known fact about Thitipan? He has never not been on a yellow card. He spends entire games wincing and looking as tired as a fat kid who has just ran a marathon, but never stops going and never gives up. He shouts at his team mates and gets pissed off when they don’t put in the work. He is also capable of the most magnificent moments of laughably awful football you’ve ever seen. Sometimes when he shoots, he misses. The corner flag. When he scores he celebrates like Marco Tardelli. Sometimes he trips over the ball and falls on his arse. He’ll be on the right wing, and 5 seconds later he’ll be playing in goal. You never know what you’re going to get with Thitipan, but you can sure it’ll either be good or it’ll be funny.

Can you tell that I kind of like the guy? Come on Port, sign him up!

 

 

The other rumour is about a bog-standard left-footed right winger from Chiang Rai called Sivakorn Tiatrakul who would have no business joining Port, and would be behind Pakorn, Nurul and Bodin in the pecking order. Blah.

Can you tell I’m not particularly enthused? Come on Port, sign Thitipan!

Please.

 

Tom’s Transfer Talk: Port Court National Team Duo

 

After a shockingly quiet off-season so far, Port rumours have become the talk of the town in the last couple of days. We’ve been opining for some time that in order to make any kind of league challenge Port’s central midfield would need bolstering, and this is very much in line with the big rumour of the moment, concerning two Thai national team stars.

The rumour which started all of this said that the Thai Busquets (more on that nickname later) Tanaboon Kesarat and Bangkok United’s prolific midfielder Sumanya Purisai would be playing together next season at a Bangkok club. The link was quickly made with Port, but what really makes these rumours sound likely was the follow-up story that Madame Pang intends to announce three big signings after the new year.

Whilst the bigger name of the two is undoubtedly Tanaboon, I’m firmly of the opinion that Sumanya is a much better fit for Port in 2019. Or pretty much any team at any time for that matter.

One of the most highly rated stars of Thailand’s ‘golden generation’, Tanaboon is lauded for his ability to play in both central defence and defensive midfield, hence the link to Barcelona’s wily, horrible but bloody brilliant master of the dark arts Sergio Busquets. The problem is that two more different players have seldom existed.

While Busquets is famous for his gamesmanship and exists almost exclusively in the grey area between legal and illegal, Tanaboon wouldn’t recognize a tactical foul if it clipped his ankles from behind, just as he was ready to break forward. Nor would he recognize a gratuitously firm challenge if it knocked him on his arse. He’s a technically sound player, I’ll give him that, and his positional sense is better than most, but what Tanaboon lacks for me is the aggression and nous needed to be an effective defensive midfielder. Put simply, he’s just a bit of a wuss. One only has to watch him in partnership with his polar opposite Thitipan in the Thai midfield to see what I’m talking about. Whilst Thitipan incessantly harasses and fouls opposition players off the ball and drives forward on the ball, Tanaboon calmly stands around in his position and passes the ball sideways and backwards. It’s all well and good when you’re winning, but in big games and tough situations, I just can’t be persuaded that Tanaboon is good enough for Port, let alone Thailand.

 

 

Sumanya, on the other hand, was one of the stars of 2018, and would fit nicely in to Port’s midfield. The 32 year old struck a remarkable 12 goals and provided 8 assists last season for Bangkok United, with the hallmark of his game being his shooting. Where most Thai midfielders will almost always look for the extra pass, Sumanya is quite happy to have a pop at goal, and is also useful from dead ball situations, as Malaysia found out on Wednesday just seconds after he was substituted on. He’s obviously not a long term solution, but on current form he’s among the best Thai attacking midfielders around, and would surely displace Siwakorn in Port’s midfield. And seeing the pair of them doing shooting practice side by side would be a thing of hilarious beauty.

 


 

In closing, it’s probably worth mentioning that I’m still more than a little annoyed about Thailand’s pathetic exit against Malaysia in the Suzuki Cup last night and that some the shade I’m throwing Tanaboon’s way is not entirely unrelated to that. I’ve thought for some time that he’s Thailand’s most overrated player, but his signing would certainly be a positive statement of intent if nothing else. Needless to say his name and number won’t be going on my 2019 shirt if we do sign him. Oh, and he used to play for the scum.

 

Big Game Hunting: Suphanburi FC vs. Port FC, 11 May 2018

 

After a stonking 4-0 win away from home last weekend Port are sure to face a tougher test at Suphanburi Provincial Stadium this Friday. The Swatcats’ almost complete reliance on their foreign striker meant that Port’s defence went largely untroubled last week, but Suphanburi are a much more balanced outfit with a lot more to offer. The War Elephants have gone ten games unbeaten including consecutive victories with clean sheets to boot, so Port will need to upset the form books again to come away with what would be a huge three points for manager Jadet. Port’s boss still looks far from secure in his job with the mid-season break approaching, but beating the likes of Suphanburi would go a long way to convincing the powers that be that he is the man to take Port up to the higher reaches of the table. It’s 3rd vs. 5th. Come on, lads!

 

Suphanburi FC

Players to Watch

 

Well, it wouldn’t be T1 unless the main man was a foreign striker. Romulo (9) is in his first season in Thai football, having played for several clubs in his native Brazil before moving to top-flight Swedish side Hammarby IF. Whilst Romulo didn’t bang in goals consistently he became a cult hero for his hattrick and a few other memorable performances against Kevin Deeromram’s former club and Hammarby’s big rivals Djurgarden. Romulo has continued to cement his reputation as a big-game player for Suphanburi this season by finding the net against top teams like Bangkok United and Buriram, as well as minnows like Muangthong. He’s tall enough to do a bit of damage in the air, and on his day can be pretty useful on the ground, too. Let’s just hope no one has told him Port are a big team nowadays!

 

Romulo

 

Romulo’s supporting cast going forward will be any two of three promising Thai forwards. First – because he’s my favourite – is Tanasith Sripala (11), also known as Taodinho. This Ronaldinho lookalike is fortunately not a Ronaldinho playalike, although he tries his best. He was one of Thailand’s most exciting youngsters a couple of years ago, but hasn’t quite kicked on and added end product to his undoubted ability. Second is Chananan Pombuppha (10). This fella, presumably named by whichever of his parents has a stuttuttutter, started out as an out and out striker, but has been moved on to the wing at Suphanburi. He doesn’t look nearly as useful out there as he does through the middle, but he’s got a good finish on him and is definitely one to watch out for. This third forward is the youngest of the trio, and probably the most dangerous of the bunch on current form. Sirimongkhon Jitbanjong (38) is just 20 years old and has only played a handful of games in T1, but his pace and work rate will certainly be a handful for Port’s full backs. He’s scored two goals in under 300 minutes on the pitch in his breakout season.

 

Tanasith, Chananan and Sirimongkhon

 

Port fans may remember solid holding midfielder Adul Lahso from his red card in last season’s thrilling 3-2 encounter at PAT Stadium, but unfortunately Suphanburi’s hard man has done a knee ligament and is out for the foreseeable future. Taking his place is a man who couldn’t look more different to the diminutive bald Adul if he tried. Naruphon Putsorn (7) is tall with a big man-bun, and interestingly is one of the few Thai players to have plied his trade in the UK. Naruphol played for TNS in Wales, before stints in America and Holland. He has played with Bangkok United and Buriram since moving to Thailand, and he will be partnered by Japanese veteran Takafumi Akahoshi (37).

 

Adul and Naruphon

 

At the back is the familiar figure of Anderson dos Santos (3). The Brazilian centre back has been in Thai football since 2010, and is a hero to fans of former club Chonburi. He’s big, powerful and very dangerous from set-pieces. In a three-man back line Anderson will be joined by the appropriately named Suphan (26) and the recipient of an impressive 7 yellow cards to date Tinnakorn Asurin (33). Siwakorn: meet your idol.

 

Anderson dos Santos

 

Form

 

Suphanburi’s unbeaten run does include an awful lot of draws. Their last 6 saw 4 consecutive ties with Buriram, Muangthong, Ratchaburi and Sukhothai, before they finally got back to winning ways with a 3-0 victory over Air Force and kept the momentum last week by grinding out a 1-0 win over Ubon.

 

Port FC

Is The Swagger Back?

 

One of the most promising moments in the 4-0 thrashing of Korat was Boskovic (23) starting to look confident again. Bole showed his prowess in front of goal with a clinical finish while clean through on the ‘keeper, then – in stark contrast to a week earlier – jumped at the chance to score from the spot. Maybe it’s the return of Suarez (5), maybe it’s the voice of Tim Russell ringing in his ears; whatever it is, the Dragan is breathing fire once again, and that’s what we want to see!

Suarez will have kept his place after returning from injury last week and Nurul (31) scored a crucial goal while looking lively throughout, but what are Port going to do with Pakorn (7)? Well, I wouldn’t mind seeing The Midfield Monk dropped this week for Bodin (10), who has put in a couple of suave performances of late. Despite his unerring inability to miss chances in a laughably predictable way, Siwakorn (16) will once again partner Kim (8) in midfield.

In the defence things are looking very settled. Nitipong (34), Rochela (22), Dolah (4) and Kevin (97) have all made their positions their own, although I’m not sure why Worawut (36) returned to the starting XI while Rattanai (17) was absent from the matchday squad last week. Knowing Rattanai, it’s most likely an injury. Still, both are quality goalkeepers so it matters little which one starts.

Terens (28) is back in training after picking up a knock that his kept him out for the last couple of weeks, but it’s unknown whether or not he will fit in time for Friday.

Dolah, Todsapol (6), Rochela, Boskovic and Nurul are all just one yellow card away from a suspension, so let’s hope they don’t all get booked at once!

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 


 

The match will be shown live on True 4U and True Sport 2 at 20:00 on Friday 11 May, 2018. For those who can’t make it to Suphanburi Provincial Stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound. We’re expecting another good turn out at the bar this week, so come along and don’t forget to wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount on drinks.

 

Robopussies: Nakhon Ratchasima FC vs. Port FC, 6 May 2018

 

Port travel to Nakhon Ratchasima on Sunday looking for something – anything – to banish their persistent away jinx. Statistically our chances look slim. If only away games were counted Port would be in the relegation zone, whereas Korat have won 4 of 6 of their home encounters. Whilst Siwakorn (16) returns from the first of his 3 annual suspensions and Suarez (5) looks set to slot back in to the starting XI, Korat welcome Dominic Adiyiah (10) back to fitness, with their key creative player having missed 5 of the last 6 games through injury.

Manager Jadet has lived to fight another day in the Port hot seat after his side put in a much improved performance last week to take all 3 points from Chiang Rai, although they needed a late penalty to seal the deal. On the other hand Korat coach Milos Joksic – the most spherical of supremos – can be very happy with the form of his side so far in 2018. Having made no big name signings in the off-season, Korat fans could have been forgiven for thinking that their side was under the very real threat of a relegation battle. Instead they find themselves in 6th position just a point behind Port, and the fans haven’t had to suffer through bore draws week after week like last season, either. Indeed the Swat Cats are the only team in the league yet to record a draw, having won 7 and lost 6 in their first 13 games. With Port also having just a single draw to date, we are unlikely to see a repeat of last season’s dour 0-0 borefest in Isaan.

 

Nakhon Ratchasima

Robopussy

 

Before I get on to the usual business of looking at the players, I thought I would take a moment to appreciate the badge of Port’s opponents. We’ve written about their bizarre nickname before, but just look at how The Swatcats’ logo has evolved.

We start of course with an actual Sisawat cat.

 

A Sisawat – or ‘Swat’ – Cat

 

Timid. Then there’s Korat’s first logo, a rather ferocious take on what is just quite a cute little kitty.

 

 

Then shit gets real. The Swat Cat is moving in to the modern age. With its’ straight lines and flawless symmetry this puss-puss is starting to look equally capable of scratching your eyes out and hacking in to your Amazon account to order itself a lifetime supply of Friskies.

 

 

Then there’s the 2018 version. Gone are the sharp fangs and the intimidating glare, replaced instead by robowhiskers and what I can only assume are its’ paws performing some kind of J-Pop pose. It’s most certainly lost its’ menacing edge, but now I’m getting concerned that the 2018 Swat Cat is going to pass the Feline Turing Test and end the world as we know it.

 

 

Players to Watch

 

Right, back to business. Korat’s key man is fresh off scoring a perfect hattrick in just 15 first half minutes last week. Paulo Rangel (9) hasn’t had the most prolific of seasons, but he’s always a threat with his clinical finishing, aerial ability and all around filth. No Paulo, we still haven’t forgiven you for that stamp on Rattanai (17) right in front of Zone B last season. In order to best deal with the big man, Port ought to be starting with Dolah (4) and counting on the big man to win the aerial duels that are Rangel’s bread and butter.

Returning after a month-long injury layoff is former Under 20 World Cup Golden Ball and Golden Shoe winner Dominic Adiyiah (10). The Ghanaian winger who was signed by Milan as a youngster has, as you may have guessed, failed to live up to his potential in a big way. A few loan spells and underwhelming Eastern European stints after being signed by one of the world’s leading clubs, Dominic found himself in Isaan, and is now in his fourth season with Korat. As much as Dominic’s dynamism looks threatening, the end product is rarely realized. This is illustrated perfectly by his performances to date in 2018, in which he has just one goal and no assists in eight starts.

 

Rangel and Dominic

 

Doing a rather better job in the goal department is Thai winger Ekkachai Rittipan (20). This 27 year old winger looks very much like a journeyman squad player, but has managed to notch four goals so far this season, putting him just one behind leading scorer Rangel. He’s not a player I’ve seen before, but on current form he’s one for Ports full-backs to watch out for.

 

Ekkachai Rittipan

 

This lot love a dodgy ‘keeper. Last season it was former Port cheat Weera Koedpudsa who has been banned for life for match fixing, and this season it’s Thai-American Samuel Cunningham (11). What sort of goalkeeper wears the number 11 shirt? Well, maybe I’m being a bit harsh on Cunningham – Korat have one of the better defensive records in the league – but he put in a laughably inept goalkeeping performance when his old team Sisaket visited Port in 2016 when the Zone B crowd laid in to him for a good portion of the match. Fortunately for Cunningham the away fans in the 80th Anniversary Stadium are roughly a mile and half away from the pitch, so he won’t have to worry about them this time around.

 

Samuel Cunningham

 

Other players of note are Korat captain and national team regular Chalermpong Kerdkaew (4), a consistent if unspectacular centre half, and Brazilian central midfielder Antonia Pina (7) who can be a threat from set-pieces.

 

Port FC

Away Blues

 

What on earth are Port going to do about their away form? Well, first and foremost they have to up the intensity. Regardless of what team Jadet picks, the players on the pitch need to show the same desire and commitment that was on display against Chiang Rai last week, as opposed to the dross we were assaulted with the previous Wednesday in Chainat.

Jadet does have some interesting decisions to attend to on the personnel front, though. Bodin (10) put in a superb performance in Suarez’ (5) usual position, while Adisorn (13), Kim (8) and Siwakorn (16) are back to fighting for two positions in central midfield. Dolah (4) and Todsapol (6) are also both in contention in defence, although Dolah ought to have held on to his place with a dominant performance last week.

I expect Jadet will return to what was his favoured attacking formula at the start of the season, which will mean a front two of Boskovic (23) and Suarez with Pakorn (7) and Nurul (31) on the wings.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

OK, so I’ve calmed down a bit after my last effort, in which I dropped half the team and replaced them with youth players. We’re back to a Port team we very well recognize this week.

 

 


 

The match will be shown live on True Sport HD 3 at 18:00 on Sunday 6 May, 2018. For those who can’t make it to the 80th Anniversary Stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound. Don’t forget to wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount on drinks.

 

Bouncebackability: Port FC vs. Ubon UMT, 11 March 2018

 

 

Port will look to bounce back from last week’s disappointing defeat at Bangkok Glass with a victory against mid-table Ubon on Sunday. Ubon has become a bit of a home for abandoned lions, with The Eagles swooping in for precocious yet unwanted cub Yossawat Montha (32), preening lioness Piyachart Tamaphan (99) and the one and only Scar: Wuttichai Tathong (8).

Both Port and Ubon have started the season decisively; neither have yet to register a single draw. Whereas Port leaped out of the gates with three consecutive wins before being pegged back at Leo Stadium last week, Ubon have bounced alternately from defeat to victory, both winning and losing 1-0 and 3-1 in their opening four fixtures. Their latest game saw them overcome a lackluster Air Force 1-0 at UMT Stadium, securing the win in the 80th minute thanks to substitute Thaweekun Thong-on (28).

Whilst Port are clear favourites to take all three points at home, they can expect to face a tough test against Ubon, who have got their points the hard way: with gritty, battling performances. With former Scottish top-tier manager Mixu Paatelainen in charge, don’t be surprised if Ubon set up like British underdogs, put 10 men behind the ball and try and frustrate Port. It will be interesting to see what Jadet has planned if Ubon do try and park the bus.

 

Ubon UMT

Players to Watch

 

Left footed Port loanee Yossawat, who has curiously played three of Ubon’s four games on the right hand side, is ineligible, but both Piyachart and Wuttichai are in contention to start. Piyachart, who really impressed when joining The Eagles on loan in the second half of 2017, has scored already this season, but was dropped last week. With Yossawat unable to play though, he’s probably favourite to start on Sunday. Wuttichai picked up a knock after a T1 Team of the Week performance in attacking midfield against Prachuap and has missed out in the last two games, but Scar is now back in training, and looking to add to his tally of two yellow cards in two games. On that front, I have absolute faith in his abilities.

 

Ubon’s Mane Man and Scar

 

Now on to some actual talent. Angolan forward Aguinaldo (9) will lead the line, and although he has just one goal to his name in his opening four games, he looks pretty useful. Although he’s got the height to do damage in the air, Aguinaldo’s best work is done with the ball at his feet, so Port will need to come up with a much better defensive performance than they managed next week to nullify him. He may be backed up by ASEAN quota player Mark Hartmann (20) – an English-Filipino forward with the likes of Wessex League heavy hitters Blackfield & Langley on his resume.

 

Aguinaldo and Hartmann

 

Ubon’s big team news this week is the return, for the first time in 2018, of Japanese wing wizard Kenta Yamazaki (14). Kenta has been at Ubon since 2015, and has performed at a consistently high level for the last three seasons, with jinking forward runs being a hallmark of his game. With Kevin and Nurul coming at him down Port’s left hand side though, Kenta – who lacks match-fitness – may find himself doing less jinking and an uncomfortable amount of defending.

 

Kenta Yamazaki

 

Ubon have struggled to replace a few of last season’s top players, but they haven’t missed anyone as much as Victor Cardozo. The new foreign defensive player is Brinner (6), who hasn’t done an awful lot wrong, but will be very hard-pushed to match Victor’s excellence at the back or his incredible goal haul, let alone both. The big man netted 20 times in 72 games for Ubon. From centre back. Also in the defence is Thai national team legend – now 35 years old – Suree Sukha (25) who, whilst technically excellent on the ball, could struggle for pace against Port’s free-flowing attack, assuming it turns up this week.

 

Suree and Brinner

 

Port FC

Bouncebackability

 

It’s time to see what this Port squad is really made of. After an abominable first half display against Bangkok Glass, Port came out for the second half and showed that they were capable of out-playing their opponents, but it was too little too late. Now Jadet really needs another decisive win to get Port back on track. Whether he does that by making tactical alterations or simply demanding better performances from his players we shall have to see. First things first, a fit goalkeeper would be nice!

Port have been hit by their first injury crisis of the season, which saw all three first team goalkeepers making simultaneous hospital visits. Thankfully, there has been footage of Rattanai (17) bouncing around the goal in training, although he was later pictured with what looked very much like clingfilm adorning his dodgy shoulder. With the fitness of Worawut (36) and Watchara (1) still in question, Port B stopper Anipong Kijkam (81) could make it on to the bench for the first time, after he was left out in Port B’s last game, presumably as a precaution.

 

Anipong Kijkam

 

Assuming that Todsapol (6) has returned to full fitness (a wildly optimistic assumption by all accounts), it is safe to say (no it isn’t) that he will be lining up alongside Rochela (22) in defence, with Nitipong (34) and Kevin (97) as full backs. It’s set to be a big month for Kevin, who has been called up to the national team for the upcoming King’s Cup, but will have to play much better than he did against Glass to usurp Theerathon in the first XI. The less said about Dolah’s (4) defensive performance the better.

Kim (8) was another of Port’s major under-performers, and will have to put it another authoritative display if he wants to prove that his performance against Muangthong was the rule, not the exception. Siwakorn (16) will, as always, sit alongside Kim in the heart of the midfield.

With Pakorn (7) once again getting overlooked in Thailand’s King’s Cup squad – while Nurul (31) and Bodin (10) were selected – it begs the question… what does Thai boss Rajevac see that we don’t? It’s certainly not a wildly surprising decision that he would choose Nurul ahead of Pakorn on the right, whilst Bodin is competing for a different position altogether on the left, but how is sharp-elbowed Police Tero winger Mongkol Tossakrai still getting in to the squad ahead of Pakorn? To be fair to him, he does have an impressive goal-scoring record at international record, but to compare Mongkol and Pakorn since the start of last season is to compare a player with 9 combined goals and assists to a player with 23. Maybe Rajevac watched Pakorn last week. He was truly awful, but along with Nurul will probably keep his place on Sunday, with Bodin continuing on the bench.

Boskovic (23) and Suarez (5) are dead certs in the attack, and something tells me the Montenegrin is going to be hungrier than ever for a goal this Sunday. After failing to find the net in three games and passing up a huge chance late on last week, it’s time for Boskovic to remind PAT Stadium just what he can do in front of goal.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 


 

The match will be shown live on True Sport 2 at 19:00 on Sunday 11 March, 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.

 

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.

 

The Queen Bees’ Knees & the Return of a King: Port FC 5-3 Sisaket FC

 

In the end, this was a thoroughly entertaining match to round off what has been, despite some frustrations, a solid season from Port. Any place from 10th–8th is now possible and would represent progress. The last time we went into a season sitting comfortably in mid-table with no excitement of promotion to look forward to, or relegation to fear, was in 2011! So, joining the rest of the Sandpit in Zone B in a carefree, happy, Leo enhanced mood was indeed a rare treat.

The Port line-up raised a few eyebrows but every cloud has a silver lining. Some players were being given, we suspected, a final run-out in a Port shirt, most notably, the often, deservedly maligned Tana (99) and he was certainly to live down to expectations. 33 year old Ittipol (7) is already confirmed to be on his way at the end of the season, and he was also given a final 90 minutes at PAT Stadium.

Apart from some typical left wing raids from Genki (18) and a header which went close from the same player, the opening half an hour was typical of Thai League football: great first touch, fast, neat, incisive passing, tricky wing play, rash tackles and the odd dash of theatrics but, like a Japanese tourist in a Nana Plaza pay-by-the-hour hotel, short on penetration.

It might be an age thing, but at times like this my mind does wander; random thoughts started to meander through my head, though still obscurely connected to the scene unfolding before me:

  • Madame Pang’s legs are far too pale for her to be wearing skimpy shorts on a wet Saturday in November
  • I wonder how much it would cost to rent a flat in the orange and blue painted apartment block behind Zone D
  • I miss seeing the temperature updates on the old scoreboard
  • Is Tana the square root of nothing?

 

 

Then, just as my thinking delved into the existential, a goal of infinite beauty, yet stark simplicity, lit up PAT Stadium in the 37th minute; Pakorn (9) delivering a defence splitting pass for Suarez (5) to race on to and power past the keeper. The Spaniard has been on fire recently and was having another of his better games.

Half-time did nothing to disturb Port’s new-found momentum and, after a couple of narrow misses, on 53 minutes, Genki Nagasato ran on to another through ball to the right of the penalty area and smashed in a shot off the post. Beats ‘working as a waitress in a cocktail bar’, the Sandpit in Zone B reminded him. He had laboured hard for that goal and it was well deserved.

 

 

Three minutes later, Zone B was again in raptures when Todsapol (6) seemed the most likely scorer with a glancing header from a corner. At one point it appeared that Tana was about to claim the goal but the hapless midget would have needed a stepladder to have nodded that one in, so his celebrations were largely ignored.

Port were rampant now and chances came and went, at both ends of the pitch to be fair, with Rattanai (17), who had been superb, pulling off a couple of acrobatic saves to deny Sisaket a consolation goal. Then, in the 73rd minute, came possibly Port’s best worked goal of the season, Suarez expertly side-footing the ball into the net after a rapid exchange of passes in the box, the final assist from the recently introduced Ekkapoom (8): 4-0.

 

Image by การท่าเรือ เอฟซี Port FC

 

Sisaket pulled one back before the always energetic ‘Poom’, who adds more to our attack in two minutes than Tana (whom he replaced) does in 200, was to figure prominently for the 5th goal in the 85th minute; the Sisaket keeper bringing him down illegally after another burst into the box. As soon as the penalty was given, David Rochela (22, or David Roosevelt according to Google Translate) left his place at the back to assume his duties and, despite some muted protest from Josimar, duly dispatched it well out of the keeper’s reach.

 

Image by การท่าเรือ เอฟซี Port FC

 

And that, really, should have been it. Port were leading comfortably, and quite deservedly, after a compelling second half performance. But, just as if to remind us that old habits die hard, Port performed at their most Portsy in extra time, conceding two sloppy goals to give a slightly distorted look to the result. Still, none of us would begrudge Sisaket and their wonderful travelling fans this belated consolation.

So, some home comfort to send the fans away happy, which is more than I can say about the club’s, and Queen Bee Madame Pang has to be heavily implicated in this, feeble attempts to commemorate 50 years of Thai Port football and appropriately reward her worker bees. I did mention this in my match preview, but quite frankly, it has been pathetic. My memory may be playing tricks, but I am sure we have had end-of-season parties on the field outside the club shop in recent years, the two most memorable being the promotion party in 2013 and the relegation party (!) the season before.  For various reasons I am sure, the turn out today was very disappointing, but those of us who were there deserved better.

Still, there was one supreme consolation at the end, which will live long in my memory certainly. King Leandro was in the Sandpit. And looking trim. He shook my hand, signed my shirt and said, in a warm, cuddly tone, “I remember you”. Amazingly, all this after we had just been discussing his Port career over post match beers. Those of you who have read my footballing love letter to him: ‘Leandro, Portrait of an Icon’ will understand my turning into jelly – it was man-love at its finest and no doubt cringingly embarrassing for those who witnessed it. I offer no apologies.  Ratchaburi – here we come!

 

 

Tim’s Man of the Match – Sergio Suarez

OK, I hold my hands up on this one – I’ve spent most of the season criticising Suarez for only showing up for one game every 3-4, but in the last few weeks he’s been absolutely superb, and last night he was magnificent. Two goals, and bossing the game like no player I’ve seen since Zidane tearing Howard Wilkinson’s England a new one in 1999, or the peerless Berndt Schuster silencing Old Trafford for Atletico Madrid in 1991. Admittedly this is a slightly lower level than that but if he can keep up this kind of form then SS (er, maybe not) may be lining up in Port’s midfield next season. And maybe he’ll unblock the Sandpit on Instagram now…

 

Arbeitsverweigerung: Bangkok United 5-1 Port FC, FA Cup

 

No, the Sandpit is not now doing match reports in German, we’ve just run out of English words to describe the ineptitude of most of our players. The German word arbeitsverweigerung is translated by online dictionaries as ‘refusal to work’, but our resident Brummie Hun, Achim, offers a slightly more colourful translation: ‘lazy c*nts’. Quite.

 

Rochela was one of a few who put in a spirited performance

 

Port went for some slightly off-beat team selection, with Nitipong (34) playing out of position at left-back with Jetjinn (51) on the bench and Yossawat (28) not even in the squad. We once again started spectacularly, with a 9th minute Tana (99) freekick being toed past slow-reacting Kittipong (1) by a stretching Genki (18).

Port’s lead was to last all of 3 minutes though, as a cut-back from Mario (20) was clumsily diverted goalwards by Todsapol (6). Worawut (36) was wrong-footed and stood no chance as the ball rolled past him in to the bottom corner.

It wasn’t long before Boskovic (7) put the home side in the lead. Mario was once again the creator. His smart throughball found Jaycee John (22) in far too much space in front of goal. His simple square ball to Boskovic took Worawut out of the game, leaving the clinical Montenegrin with a tap-in. He could have walked it in the goal sipping a glass of champagne had he wished, so lax was Port’s defending.

Port never looked like keeping Bangkok’s advantage at just one goal, though, and it was sadly inevitable when Jaycee John got on the scoresheet. John is one of the finest forwards in Thai football, but remarkably is not even in The Angels’ T1 squad. I assumed he had already left Bangkok, but the Nigerian with a Bahraini passport has actually stuck around just to play in the cup. He looked suitably hungry for goals on this rare return to action, but once again he was helped by some less-than-enthusiastic defending. A cross to the far post by Mika (16) found John un-marked by a ball-watching Todsapol (6) who turned in a particularly wretched all-around display after his man of the match performance against Pattaya. Arbeitsverweigerung!

Port went in at half-time 2 goals down, but it could have been much more. Ten minutes after the restart, number four came courtesy of Thai-Welshman Mika (16), who had been putting it about quite a bit on the right hand side. Never one to shirk a tackle, he had irked the away support a couple of times with strong challenges, but the Port defence made no challenge on him at all as he headed home from a corner. It looked like Genki was supposed to be marking him, but was nowhere to be found as Mika powered home from 10 yards.

Bangkok really took their foot off the gas, content to maintain their healthy lead and save energy for their weekend clash with Muangthong. There was still time for Port to give away their obligatory penalty, though, and it was once again Dolah (4) who was the culprit. This has happened so many times now, it has to be addressed. Dolah is quite often beaten for pace, and decides the best thing to do is bring down whoever is going past him before he gets in to the area. Not a bad idea necessarily, but Dolah overestimates the ability of referees to adjudge that he is in fact fouling them outside the area. I can think of three occasions (against Muangthong on Teerasil, against Pattaya on Stojanovic and against Bangkok on Ede) where Dolah has deliberately fouled players right on the edge of the area, but they have fallen inside the area and the referee has pointed to the spot. Dolah has to re-evaluate his strategy, as it’s clearly not working. In an ideal world the referees would get it right every time, but in reality this is Thailand and they are rubbish. John did the honours from the spot in the 93rd minute to cap a fine man of the match display and condemn Port to a 14-2 aggregate loss over three games in 2017.

 

He’s outside the area, ref…

 

With these away trips to Thammasat stadium in far-away Rangsit the trip back can be a pain in arse after a heavy defeat. Well, not this time. Myself and a few others hitched a ride on the fan bus and let me tell you, this is something you absolutely have to experience! Even after a hopeless four goal defeat, music blared, fans sang raucous karaoke and Spiderming made sure everyone had enough beer to drown their sorrows. Forty baht per can from a massive cooler full of the stuff downstairs. Fantastic. A trip that would otherwise have been spent ranting about substitutions, penalties and rubbish defending was instead spent playing air guitar, bellowing out ‘Sing Jow Tha’ at full volume and having a whale of a time with fans literally dancing up and down the aisles. Imagine what it would have been like if we’d won!

 

All photos from the Bangkok United FC Facebook page.