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Suarez, Nebihi & the Maranhao Scale

 

A few weeks ago I came up with the concept of the Maranhao Scale – a measure by which all future Port transfer fuck-ups will be judged, with the 2017 Maranhao/Kaludjerovic debacle earning a maximum fuck-up factor of 10, and other transfer shenanigans rated as follows:

Signing lots of new players for Gary Stevens then firing him before he can use them: 9

Serginho arriving at Port, running over & killing a pedestrian (allegedly), & buggering off back to Brazil pretty damn sharpish: 8

Signing Mathias Jadue on an 18-month deal and never registering him: 7

Manucharyan running away from Ratchaburi on the eve of the 2016 season, turning up at Port, then disappearing: 7

Loaning out Tatchanon for half a season when we don’t have any decent DMs: 6

…and so on.

This time round, Port’s transfer business has been decidedly efficient, timely and, it has to be said, spectacular – the Maranhao Scale has barely been mentioned in recent weeks as Port have signed up some of T1’s top players and built a side that many feel can mount a genuine title challenge.

But in the last week or so the needle has begun twitching, as Sergio Suarez and Bajram Nebihi square off over the last foreigner slot. One source told us that Port signed Nebihi believing he was a striker, and were somewhat surprised when, after putting pen to paper, he told them what everybody in Thailand – apart from, it seems, Port’s management team – has known for a long time: that he’s actually a midfielder. Another source told us that Nebihi arrived at Port believing he was filling the final foreigner slot, only to get a shock when informed that he’d be expected to compete for his job with the incumbent Sergio Suarez, last season’s second-highest scorer.

On the one hand you can see this as Port merely hedging their bets and making sure they start the season with a good foreign AM: on the other, you have the club legally bound to lose one quality player before the season starts; you have Suarez, who might reasonably think he’d done enough to guarantee his place for 2018, pissed off at the club signing a potential repacement; and you have Nebihi, thinking he’d joined Port as one its big swinging foreign dicks, finding out he has to sing for his supper. Right now it’s only a 1 or 2 on the Maranhao Scale but the potential is there for the needle to go into the red.

So who is going to get the nod? It’s a tough one. I’m not Suarez’ biggest fan – it took him half a season to get used to playing at T1 level, he was very inconsistent, and he has a tendency to get distracted on the pitch by running battles with opponents and referees; but he was arguably Port’s best player in the second half of the season and his tally of 13 goals in all competitions was very impressive. Nebihi scored more T1 goals last season, is physically more imposing, and is more of an attacking threat; yet he spent a lot of the second half of the season on the bench and the Ubon fans we’ve spoken to weren’t exactly heartbroken to see him leave.

It all comes down to what Port really need. Nebihi is very much an attacking midfielder, and as such has plenty of competition for his place from the likes of Bodin, and also Pakorn & Nurul who can play in his position. Suarez, whilst he spent much of 2017 shoehorned into an AM role, is happiest in central midfield, where Port have yellow card collector Siwakorn and…not much else. On that basis, and on the basis that he’s a known quantity, Suarez should probably get the nod. But on the basis of Nebihi being a strapping 6’4″ brick shithouse who can more easily fill in for Boskovic as a backup striker if needed, his slightly superior T1 goal record last season, and the fact that Jadet’s sole tactic involves putting in crosses to a big striker (even when no big striker exists) my money is on Nebihi being given half a season to prove himself whilst Suarez either gets loaned out or sits on the bench giving the burly German that smouldering Latin glare that can tighten referee sphincters from 20 metres away.

But whoever gets picked, it’s a nice dilemma for the club to have, and there’s no doubt Port are going to be a lot of fun to watch next season, both on and off the hallowed PAT turf.

 

 

The Sandpit’s Port FC Player of the Year 2017 is….David Rochela!

 

Last week we once again opened the polls for the Player of the Year competition, and voting was very lively with over 600 Port fans clicking on their favourite player. The last couple of days’ voting saw some rather suspicious voting patterns, with 36% of our site traffic coming from SPAIN, which possibly explains why it turned into a two-horse race between Port’s two Spaniards, with the rest of the candidates trailing in their wake.

Voting is now closed, and we can reveal the top 3…

 

1. David Rochela 38%

For the second year in a row, Port’s popular Spanish captain wins the award, though not with the landslide we saw in 2016. David has had another solid season at the PAT, leading by example, playing the game with honesty and respect, and even banging in 7 goals. The naysayers may point to Port’s poor defensive record this season, but it has to be said that without David, our Goals Against column would undoubtedly look even worse. As yet, we have no word as to whether the captain will lead Port in 2018 but our gut feeling says he will. Congratulations David, and hope you’re around to go for the hat-trick in November 2018!

 

 

2. Sergio Suarez 36%

You’d have got pretty long odds on this back in June, when many Port fans – myself included – were calling for Maranhao to take Suarez’ foreign player slot at Port, after the Spaniard had an inconsistent first half of the season. But in the second leg, Sergio was a different player and, had the vote been based solely on the last 5 months, he’d almost certainly have won outright. He’s been a lot more focused, given the proverbial 110% in every game, and weighed in with 14 goals – almost unheard of for a Port midfielder. As with Rochela, we don’t know if he’ll still be around next season but given his late-season form, we suspect he might.

 

 

3. Pakorn 6%

Thanks to the Spanish mafia monopolising the vote, the rest of the candidates are a loooooong way back, with the chasing pack led deservedly by the Midfield Monk himself, Pakorn. This was the season in which the Port winger finally realised his potential and added workrate and discipline to his undoubted talent to become Port’s most productive player with 6 goals and a staggering 18 assists. Sadly we are hearing very strong rumours that he may be returning to his old club Police Tero for next season, which would be bad news for Port and surely a backward step for a player who should be looking to get a national team place before long.

 

 

Thanks, or should I say gracias, to all who voted, congratulations again to David, and watch out for more Sandpit fan polls coming soon!

 

Rampant Lions Pound Wet Pussies: Port FC 3-1 Nakhon Ratchasima FC

 

After yet another paws for international matches, the Lions & the Swatcats convened at the PAT for a T1 catfight. With both teams still facing, albeit distantly, the spectre of relegation, I had the feline it would be a tight game – would Korat go fur it, or park the puss? During a pre-match Twitter chat with Cap’n Rochela, he predicted that the wet, muddy conditions wouldn’t make for good football, so mewl be surprised to learn that, despite the far from purr-fect pitch, it was actually a very entertaining and eventful game. Here’s my re-paw-t.

 


 

Port started the game with the classic Jadet 4-5-1 lineup, with the only changes coming in defence where Rattanai (17) returned in place of Worawut, and Todsapol (6) came in for the suspended Dolah, two changes I’d like to see made permanent as both players give Port’s defence a much more solid look.

There was also a familiar face in the Korat lineup, with our old friend, the Comedy Keeper himself, Weera Duckworth returning to the PAT to delight the crowd with his slapstick antics.

The game began in lively fashion, with both teams doing their best to play good football despite the pitch resembling a litter tray. But it was Port who looked the most likely to score, with Suarez (5) shooting narrowly wide on 15 minutes, closely followed by Pakorn (9) curling a free-kick into the arms of Weera Duckworth a couple of minutes later, and Josimar (30) hitting a disappointingly tame shot into the former Rovers Return landlady’s grateful arms after being released by a lovely Siwakorn through-ball. Korat too had their chances, with Rattanai making a smart one-handed save from a rasping drive by Chanatphon (22).

The deadlock was finally broken in the 38th minute. A Panpanpong (19) cross from the left found Josi, but for reasons best known to himself the big Brazilian headed the ball down rather than into the net, allowing Duckworth to make a save. However, in the resulting melee, Suarez was deemed to have been barged over by a defender and, to much hissing and spitting from the Swatcats – which, having just seen it on video, was entirely justified – the ref pointed to the spot, and, as per usual, Rochela (22) buried it in the old bolso de cebolla for 1-0.

Korat were further aggrieved 4 minutes later when Suarez again, and Ekkachai (20) clashed in the box, with the latter going down rather spectacularly. Too spectacularly for the ref’s liking – he gave the Korat player a yellow for simulation which, given that he’d been booked earlier in the game, meant an early bath. It was a little harsh as it was no more or less a penalty than the one given to Port minutes earlier, but given the number of harsh penalties given against us this season we weren’t complaining.

There was another somewhat unsavoury incident just before the break. Rattanai dived for the ball at the feet of Brazilian striker and serial irritant Paulo Rangel (9) and as the latter jumped over him, he deliberately stamped on the young keeper’s leg. The referee and his assistant may not have seen it but all of us in Zone B did, and proceeded to inform Rangel of our displeasure at his ungentlemanly conduct.

The rain began to fall again at half-time making the pitch even more slippery, but it didn’t stop Port who were 2-0 up within a couple of minutes at the restart. I’d just succeeded in smuggling a can of Leo past the less than attentive Zone B stewards when I noticed Suarez bursting into the Korat box. His chipped cross to the far post was fumbled by Weera Duckworth right onto the feet of Josi, who hammered it home from 2 yards to double Port’s lead. And two minutes later it was nearly 3, when an absolute thunderbastard from Pakorn was tipped over the bar by the much-loved former Coronation Street star (RIP). Josi was next to come close on 55 minutes when his near-perfect header from a Panpanpong cross beat Duckworth but came back off the post.

On the hour mark, Jim & myself were busy discussing Rangel’s shortcomings as a human being when who should get on the end of a Korat free-kick to nod it past Rattanai, but Rangel himself. It was the kind of confused defending (Rangel being marked not by a central defender but by Josi & Panpanpong) that has let Port down on so many occasions this season, and with the Swatcats’ tails now up, it looked like Operation Fuckup was once again underway.

Rangel came close in the 70th minute, with his shot being turned wide by the excellent Rattanai, but 4 minutes later it was pretty much game over, when a superb inswinging corner from Pakorn was bundled in off Suarez’s shoulder, the Spaniard showing the kind of desire to get on the end of corners that has been absent from his – and the team’s – game most of the season.

There was time for some late drama, with Korat being reduced to 9 men in injury time after a shocking tackle from behind left Nitipong (34) in a crumpled heap, before the referee finally blew the whistle.

One of Port’s better performances this, with the team looking energetic and committed after the recent limp cup exits. More importantly, the 3 points guarantee Port’s T1 status next season and the team can now enjoy the rest of 2017 without pressure, starting with next Sunday when we have a chance to effectively end Muangthong’s title hopes. Come on boys, you know what to do.

 

Man of the Match – Sergio Suarez

What’s this? Tim giving Suarez MOTM? Well, it’s true. There were several good performances from Port, notably Rochela, Rattanai and Adisorn, but the Spaniard gets the nod this week. Clearly revelling in the muddy conditions, he was at the heart of everything Port did, winning the penalty for the first goal, setting up Josi for the second, and scoring the third. It was a skilful, hard-working performance which earned him a warm ovation when he was substituted. And as ever, it begs the question – when he can play like this, why the hell doesn’t he do it more often?

 

We Fought the Law (And the Law Lost): Port FC 2-1 Police Tero FC

 

Port FC stormed out of the tunnel with guns blazing in the second half to finish off Police Tero and record a comprehensive 2-1 win at the PAT. There was only one change from the squad that travelled to Sukhothai last weekend as Siwakorn (16) returned to the lineup after suspension to replace Genki (18).

The home team started the game attacking the famous B end and wearing their familiar blue and orange. The visitors, wearing battleship grey, looked more like cadets on a 5am run and the atmosphere at kickoff could have reflected that early start.  Sluggish was the word flying around the stand as Port set the tempo at a light jog in the early minutes.

 

 

The first chance of the game came to the visitors in the 3rd minute when Datsakorn (7) sent a long ball down the right wing that was quickly crossed to the six yard box and narrowly miss by the opposing striker.  Port quickly regrouped behind the midfield leadership of Siwakorn who played Tana (99) into the box but he lost the ball after one too many stepovers.  

Barely able to string two passes together, Port had their first real chance when a misdirected clearance landed at the feet of Pakorn (9).  He danced into the box from the right side only to boot the ball to the top of B stand with his attempt on goal.  Several minutes of sloppy play from both teams was interrupted at the 15 minute mark when Police Tero earned their first corner.  Datsakorn sent a curling ball to the back post that was brilliantly cleared by Josimar (30).  Siwakorn took the clearance and raced down the middle of the pitch, feeding Pakorn on the wing. Pakorn’s cross landed at the feet of Tana but his attempt on goal was blocked.  

The speed of the game really picked up when Sergio Suarez (5) charged down two consecutive throw outs from the keeper and possession and pressure was now in the opposition end.  Port were on the attack and the midfielders were dominating play.  In the 25th minute Suarez intercepted a pass at the halfway line and played Josimar through by dissecting the center of the Police defense.  Josimar took the ball on his left foot and ran at the keeper, calmy finishing to give Port well deserved lead.   

With the crowd now in full voice Port continued to dominate the midfield with creative passes and hustle from Suarez, Siwakorn and Adisorn (13).   Port had the momentum but couldn’t increase their lead as Dolah (4) failed to get on the end of a free kick from Pakorn at point blank range.  Police Tero then equalised completely against the run of play as Port goalkeeper Worawut (36) misjudged a laser by Wichan (4) from 35 yards out.  The first half finished much like it started with both teams playing out the final minutes and retreating to the locker room with the score level at 1-1.

 

 

Port manager Jadet must have said something special at halftime because the boys came out with a sense of urgency supporters have not seen for a long time.  Port’s midfield, that played so poorly against Bangkok Glass, was now the leading force behind a second half assault on the Police goal.  Wave after wave of attack down both wings excited the crowd but could not produce a second goal for Port.  

In the 51st minute Tana galloped down the left wing cutting into the box and was chopped down by the Police right-back but no penalty was given.  However, Port kept up the relentless pace and the pressure. Their hard work was finally rewarded when a Pakorn (9) cross was headed down by a defender and Siwakorn smashed the ball into the center of the goal from just behind the penalty spot.  More of the same followed as Port continued control the game until the final whistle. In the end they were deserved winners.  

 

Man of the Match: Sergio Suarez

Sergio’s hustle, nifty footwork, well timed tackling and crisp passing was the biggest difference on the day.  He had his best game of the season season complementing Siwakorn and spraying passes to Pakorn, Tana and Josimar on the attack. Let’s hope he can continue this good form.

 

Photos by Tim Russell

 

Sergio Suarez: Super Agent?

 

Sergio Suarez has been Port’s most impressive player so far in pre-season, but could he be having even more impact off the pitch than he has had on it?

The 29-year old Spaniard began his career in Las Palmas, where he progressed through the ranks alongside his twin brother Francisco. The two were loaned out to Castillo to gain experience in 2005-06, and impressed so much that there was apparently interest from Barcelona. As you might have guessed, Suarez didn’t end up making the move to the Nou Camp. Not this Suarez, anyway. He stayed at Las Palmas for a further six seasons – scoring 15 goals in 125 games – before eventually falling out of favour. After being loaned out to CD Mirandes in 2012, Suarez returned to Las Palmas and was not even given a squad number.

That’s when he decided the time was right to move on. He joined Police United in the TPL, then the following season moved South to Songkhla in Division 1. His two seasons in Thai football have yielded an impressive 13 goals in 52 games, but Port have already benefited in a different and perhaps unexpected way from Suarez’ presence before a single competitive game has even been played.

Sergio and Francisco Suarez, 29

Whilst still at Songkhla, Suarez facilitated the transfer of his twin brother Francisco to The Southern Fighting Bulls, but Suarez’ agenting skills have since come back to haunt Songkhla and help Port. Since making the move to Khlong Toei, Suarez has been instrumental in convincing both Elias Dolah (a former Songkhla teammate) and Asdrubal (a former Las Palmas teammate) to join him at PAT Stadium. Port have struggled in the transfer market in recent seasons, so after deals for Frenchman Saer Sene and Argentine Bernardo Cuesta fell through, Port fans could be forgiven for fearing the worst. But now things are really starting to look up. Suarez has not only looked the real deal on the pitch, but has brought with him the fire-power that could prove crucial in T1 next season. And with two more foreign players to come in, should we be poring over lists of Suarez’ former teammates to figure out who will be arriving next?

Regardless, we’re certainly happy with what we’ve seen so far from Sergio Suarez. We hope he continues to prove his worth on the pitch, and bring us as many of his best former teammates as he can!

 

Dolah Swaps Krona For Baht

 

Just days after The Sandpit suggested that Elias Dolah should be considered for selection by Thai national team coach Zico, the Thai-Swedish centre half has declared his intention to represent the War Elephants at international level.

Dolah started his career in Sweden, where he played for Lunds BK and then FC Rosengard. From there he made the switch to Thai Division 1, signing with Songkhla United where he played 23 times last season. Despite suffering an injury setback, the 6 foot 5 colossus impressed enough to attract the attentions of some of Thailand’s biggest clubs, including Buriram United and Bangkok Glass. Dolah was reportedly even offered trials by clubs in Japan, but the youngster chose Port FC, citing the atmosphere around the club and the fans as key factors in his decision.

Elias Dolah, 23

“I came to practice with the team, and they gave me a very warm welcome. My friend [Sergio Suarez] also recently moved to the club. We both work well together.”

“I was impressed by Port FC last season when we played at PAT Stadium. The fans were full of passion. If I compared them to a team in Sweden, it would be AIK. The atmosphere is similar.”

Turning his attention to his hopes for the future, Dolah said recently in an interview with Skånesport that he has set his sights on playing for the country of his father’s birth.

Of course, the Thailand national team is the best team in Southeast Asia. They recently drew with Australia in their World Cup qualifier. I hope that I will get to that point, but I have to play in the top league first. And now I am here.”

So, what of Dolah’s chances? At 1.96 meters Dolah offers something unique to the national team: height. Thailand have struggled defensively with long balls and set pieces for as long as I’ve been watching them. Playing in the recent Suzuki Cup with other South East Asian nations this was rarely an issue, but in the World Cup Qualifiers when Thailand have faced more physical teams like Iraq and UAE, their weakness has been brutally exposed. Surely a player of Dolah’s stature would help the team in a way that current starting central defenders Adisorn Promrak and Prathum Chuthong, who both stand at 1.75 meters, just can’t.

The switch to 3 centre halves that Zico first trialled with great success in the draw against Australia also opens up room in the squad for another defender. Pravinwat Boonyong from Bangkok Glass came in to the recent Suzuki Cup squad, but was distinctly unimpressive the few times he played, meaning Zico is likely to be looking elsewhere when he picks his next squad in March.

If Dolah makes a good start to the season, striking up a strong partnership with captain David Rochela and getting on the end of Pakorn’s ever-threatening deliveries, then Zico would be well advised to take a very close look at Dolah. He took a risk on young, inexperienced but physically dominant Ubon forward Siroch Chatthong last year, and ended up unearthing a gem.

Port fans will be hoping first and foremost that Dolah’s performances for his new club merit this kind of recognition, as a strong central defensive pairing will be crucial in next season’s push for a top 10 finish.

 

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Tom’s Transfer Talk – 4 Dec 2016

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

Sergio Suarez, 29

Sergio Suarez, 29

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

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

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