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Ja Ja Black Sheep: Tom’s Transfer Talk

 

This season has been a record-breaking season for Port. Nothing to do with football of course, but when it comes to stacking up column inches Port have been nothing short of extraordinary. We would probably be contenders for the title if 3 points were awarded for outlandish transfer rumours rather than wins.

The name that just keeps popping up again and again in connection to Port is Jackson ‘Jaja’ Coelho. The Buriram man, on loan from Belgian top tier side Lokeren, is currently second top scorer in T1 with 28 strikes to his name thus far. Bloody hell. It’s to be expected that when a player racks up the goals like Jaja has, bigger clubs will come calling; what isn’t to be expected is that the club he has fired to the summit of the table doesn’t seem too bothered about keeping him, and the club that most people are talking about as his next destination is a mid-table outfit with a penchant for crap signings.

The only thing that makes this story even slightly plausible is the pre-season palaver that was Port’s last attempt to sign the Brazilian bulldozer. Without getting in to any details, Port were on the verge of signing Coelho, but the deal fell through at the last minute. The Sandpit’s sources say that the Jaja deal is definitely, unequivocally not happening, but the sheer number of rumours make it a story worth following at the very least. Muangthong, despite their plethora of striking options, are also reported to be in the frame.

 

 

In other news, the man who has been responsible for the majority of Port’s column inches this season – Zico – is rumoured to be getting out of dodge and resurfacing in Vietnam. After his stock fell considerably during his miserable spell with Port, Zico is sensibly looking to relocate to a place where his exploits with with Hoàng Ang Gia Lai have made him a household name, and his reputation is still intact. We wish Zico the best of luck in his future endeavours. It’s a shame things didn’t work out. He is expected to either rejoin Hoàng Ang Gia Lai for a third spell as manager, or most likely take over as Vietnam National Team boss.

 

They Called Him Zico

 

Did you notice a story in the papers a couple of weeks ago about the Beloved Leader turning on the power line and water supply for a village in Sa Kaeo? Once the guardian of peace and happiness  and his entourage had left, the power and water supply were all turned back off.
It made me laugh – but relating the story to Thais they seemed only slightly amused and less than surprised. They even have a phrase for it “phak chee roay na” which means something like the coriander leaf garnish on top of a dish. And such places are called Potemkin Villages (sorry if you know all this). I’d always thought it had something to do with Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin but it originates from Grigory Potemkin, an architect who made fake, portable village facades to impress (and deceive) Catherine the Great while she was on a tour of Crimea in 1787.
There is, you may not be surprised to hear, a lot of that kind of thing over here.
Once a year I endure a day of suffering at Chaeng Wattana – Immigration Division. Emerging from that scary maze is passing through a looking glass and re-entering Potemkinland.
It s almost everywhere you look: from roly-poly  monks selling snake oil at you local wat that doubles as a money laundry, to  an apoplectic  university lecturer  putting a student in a headlock for failing to prostrate himself before a statue in yet another pathetic, made-up ritual. You know the place -Potemkinland’s highest seat of learning, the one that struggles to come bottom of Asia’s academic league table.
But we Sandpit-Farangs are too smart to be taken in by such things…we knew he wasn’t really Zico (or even Steve McClaren). He was a guy who’d spent a year at Huddersfield and didn’t get a game, and whose national side would hammer Burma & co only to get hammered by Japan & co.
We had no evidence he knew how to set up a team – and he probably thought catenaccio was something shaken in a glass full of ice and topped with whipped cream.
He was, for a few months, the phak chee on our Portemkin FC. The perfect garnish  for our equally photogenic owner. The two of them could hold hands, smile and put reality on hold.
Of course, after only 10 games the jury’s still out – was he totally crap or just a bit crap?
Ah well, as the guy with the megaphone in zone B keeps telling us:
‘We are Tarua…we cheer Tarua’!

Sharks Circle Hapless Zico: Port FC vs. Chonburi FC, 20 September 2017

 

Well what a season this has been and it has led to me being disillusioned and disinterested in Thai football for the first time in six years since my first trip to the PAT. The constant stop-start bullshit to facilitate the national team is doing my head in. We don’t even have any players in the national team! The King’s Cup? Do me a favour! Milovan Rajevac, the national team coach, is even dismayed and said “It does not happen or would not happen in any other league in the world” His words not mine: we live in the same condominium.

As for our form, it is nothing short of shocking, although I predict a win on Wednesday, which will save Zico’s job if you listen to the media and the fan groups. One win in nine? Poor Frank De Boer would have been delighted with this display of patience. I didn’t get to the Police Tero game, but read a lot of opinion from my Sandpit colleagues and social media, and the general consensus was really negative even amongst the most optimistic Port fans I know.

Paddy Power, the well-known Irish bookmaker, has us at 6/5 to beat Chonburi, who by the standards set last year are not living up to expectations although they outclassed us on our last duel.

They have in their squad an old friend of ours, Thiago Cunha! Since he left us he has turned his attentions to starting street brawls that Belfast city centre would be proud of on a Saturday night, only he likes to have them on the pitch. Whilst playing for Mumbai United against Atletico Kolkata in the Indian Super League semi-final he kicked a player up the arse and proceeded to break the Indian half marathon record whilst getting chased around the pitch by Atletico players and officials. Click here, you won’t regret it. Then he returned to Thailand to his old club Chonburi and as they say about old leopards… again our friend got himself in an old altercation, although this time he got properly dealt with and ended up looking like a butcher’s apron, this time at the hands of a Ratchaburi steward.

Definitely not a game to miss for sure, and hopefully we can turn our recent form around and register a much-needed confidence-boosting victory.

 

Tom’s Players to Watch

 

Remember that little guy who turned Port’s defenders inside out when Sukhothai came to town a couple of weeks ago? Well, John Baggio hasn’t morphed from a Fire Bat in to a Shark, but a very similar player – 2 inches taller in fact, at an imposing 5”4 – Nurul Sriyankem (31) will likely be giving Port’s fullbacks another serious examination on Wednesday. The speedy little winger’s form – 15 goals and 8 assists in all competitions – has seen him called up to the National Team consistently under Rajevac. He’s quick, he’s tricky and Port will have to concentrate really, really hard on not kicking him in the penalty area. Or body-checking him. Please, Adisorn!

Step forward, SFS. Yes, Renan Marques (14) is Chonburi’s Scary Foreign Striker. With 24 goals in 27 matches in 2017, perhaps we should call him a VSFS. He’s big, strong and deadly in front of goal, although he makes up for it by matching teammate Thiago Cunha for attitude. The sultry Brazilian is as likely to channel Lindsey Lohan from Mean Girls as he is to score, which isn’t to say he’s unlikely to find the onion bag, rather that he’s extremely unlikely to make it through 90 minutes without either throwing or inspiring some kind of hissy fit. He found the back of the net from the spot against Port in the first half of the season, an outcome precisely no one would be surprised to see repeated on Wednesday.

 

Nurul Sriyakem and Renan Marques

 

32 year old Ivorian Fode Diakite (18) must really like Chonburi. He has joined The Sharks no fewer than 3 times, and even had a spell at Regional League team Phantong FC last year, who are based in… yep, you guessed it – Chonburi. Diakite is the main physical presence in the Chonburi rear guard, equally at home at the back or in defensive midfield. His job will be to match Josimar and Suarez for height and strength, although to be honest, even if he was 4 foot tall with a sponge for a head he would probably still be able to stop Port’s forward line doing any damage in the air.

Not all ‘Players to Watch’ have to be any good, right? Well, Chanin Sae-Ear (35) is a funny one. Thai football’s resident hipster enjoyed an impressive spell at Port, before making his way to Chonburi via Chainat, becoming Thailand’s third choice goalkeeper along the way. He’s so not-mainstream he wore the number 9 shirt whilst at Chainat. Dude, man… At his best, Chanin has lightning reflexes, and comes off his line in a flash to help sweep up behind his defenders. At his worst, he makes Neville Southall look nimble, and in true hipster fashion can often be found so far outside the box, he doesn’t even know what the box is. I can’t possibly say which Chanin is going to turn up at PAT Stadium on Wedneday, but he almost certainly won’t be boring to watch.

 

Fode Diakite and Chanin Sae-Ear

 

Tom’s Player Not to Watch

 

Why exactly did we send one of our best young players to Chonburi again? Oh yeah, that’s right, so he could make four appearances. On the bench. Zero minutes on the pitch. Whilst it won’t be ex-Port player Tatchanon Nakarawong (39) who comes back to PAT Stadium with a bang on Wednesday, this other fella just might…

 

Here’s hoping for a swing and a miss this time…

 

Shark’s Dale

 

Thanks to Dale Farrington from the Chonburi FC website for providing us with this week’s opposition perspective. Here are his thoughts on the big game…

I must admit, that the thought of driving up to Bangkok, straight from work, for a meaningless end of season midweek fixture, was somewhat less than appealing. However, the news that Zico has promised to resign if Port lose has added a much needed bit of spice to the occasion.

The ex-national team coach hasn’t enjoyed the best of starts during his return to club management, but surely after only a dozen or so games in charge, he deserves better than this. As I’m only looking in from the outside, I don’t know all the details, but such action surely hints at much deeper problems for the Klong Toey club, and further reinforces the fact that football has gone completely mad.

Kiatisuk – to give him his Sunday name – had a brief spell in charge of Chonburi back in 2009. During this time, when he was still learning his trade, he showed signs that he would go on to bigger and better things. Reports from the training sessions were positive and performances on the field yielded results. Unfortunately, the senior management – and, it has to be said, a section of the crowd – weren’t convinced, and he moved on after just one full season at the helm.

Personally, I felt he was unfairly treated and deserved more time to build on the foundations he had put in place. That year we won the Kor Royal Cup (his first competitve match in charge), finished second in the league (taking it right up to the penultimate weekend) and reached the last eight of the AFC Cup. Zico also ended the campaign with a 2.07 points per game average, which is still the best return of any of our coaches. Therefore, whatever happens after tomorrow night’s game, I wish him well. I’m certain that someone will come in for him and give the opportunity to prove himself.

As for the game itself, I’m not really expecting much, and suspect most of the entertainment will be provided by what happens off the field. From a Chonburi perspective, this season can’t end soon enough. It really has been a rotten 2017 and I can’t wait to see the back of it.

We have assembled the worst squad in sixteen years, set a number of unwanted records and seen home and away crowds plummet. The only real bright spots have been provided by the emergence of a couple of academy graduates – Panudech in particular being one to watch – and the return to form of Nurul. Other than that, it’s been one to forget. Roll on the 19th of November!

 

The match will be shown live on True4U at 17:45 on Wednesday 20 September, 2017. For those who can’t make it to the stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will be showing the match on a big screen with sound.

 

Around The PAT In 80 Days: Judging Zico So Far

 

Since Zico took over the top job at PAT Stadium from previous incumbent Jadet, things have not gone quite to plan. Whilst Port are sat comfortably in mid-table with very little chance that they will get sucked in to a relegation scrap, results have certainly taken a downward turn. Additionally, optimism generated by some promising performances has had to be checked, as Zico’s curious managerial decisions have undone some of the good work that has been done on the training pitch.

 

 

As I have cast myself in the role of Jose Mourinho in one of my previous articles, it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch that I now name myself Supreme Sandpit Justice, with absolutely no authority over all things Port. Under consideration today is the case of Zico’s tenure to date. It’s been 80 days. Well, US Presidents are arbitrarily judged after 100 days, so why can’t Port managers be judged after 80? Everything is smaller in Thailand. After some extended post-match drowning-of-sorrows on Sunday, I’m still only operating at about 80 percent, anyway. Not the full baht, that’s for sure. Three aspects shall be up for consideration in today’s trial: transfers, youth policy and tactics.

 

Transfers

Zico became Port manager with just a few days to turn around Port’s already shambolic transfer window. Under cover of the wall-to-wall media coverage of the appointment of Zico, the club then quietly announced the departure of fan favourite Maranhao, which not only cost Port one of their best players, but handicapped the new boss by ruling out any more changes of his foreign contingent.

Once the smoke cleared, transfer rumours about Zico’s former Natonal Team charges inevitably began to materialize. Stories about Kroekrit Thaweekarn and Mongkol Tossakrai were particularly widely reported. With both players known to be Zico favourites, there seemed to be reason to expect that deals would be done. Kroekrit has been rumoured to be on the way out of Chonburi for what seems like forever, and Mongkol was surplus to Muangthong requirements after the arrivals of Leandro Assumpcao and Siroch Chatthong. With time running out, Mongkol was reported to have finally made the switch – to audible sighs of relief from PAT Stadium – but at the last minute he changed his mind and chose Pattaya United. The deal for Kroekrit also never materialized, while late moves for Buriram striker Supachai Jaidet and Ratchaburi winger Rungrath Poomchantuek also fell through. Deadline day then saw Port let promising youngsters Tatchanon and Pinyo leave the club on loan. More about these youngsters to follow.

So, how should Zico be judged on the transfer window? He shouldn’t. He came in late on and did his best with some ambitious last-minute bids in trying circumstances. Those fell through, but blame for Port’s shambolic transfer failings can hardly lie with Zico, nor even his predecessor Jadet. Port’s managers have very little say when it comes to transfers, with the decisions being made ‘higher up.’ The High Ups, therefore, are where the blame should rightly be apportioned.

Verdict: Not Guilty

 

Youth Policy

After his successful spell in charge of the Thai National Team in which Zico was known for bringing through a young, exciting generation of players, Port fans could be forgiven for being hopeful that Zico would continue this policy at Port.

Those hopes were soon dashed, as youngsters continued to have their path to the first team cut off. As mentioned earlier, excellent youngster Tatchanon, who was criminally overlooked under previous manager Jadet, continued to be frozen out before being offloaded on deadline day. Not only was Tatchanon let go, he was loaned to Chonburi, where the chances of him actually getting any game time are extremely slim. Additionally, Pinyo – a former under 23 National Team player – was loaned out just as he finally returned to fitness, after a long spell on the sidelines.

Exciting new left back Yossawat, Port’s sole source for optimism in the transfer window, has looked the most likely to break through, but has ultimately managed just 90 minutes since his arrival. This has been partly due to a family tragedy that Yossawat suffered shortly after his arrival, but also partly due to an older, more experienced but much worse alternative Panpanpong being consistently preferred. In the one game Yossawat started, Port kept a clean sheet.

Meechok – who broke in to the first team as a teenager in 2015 – has not even been making it on to the bench with regularity in 2017. Taking his place on the bench has been Pakasit – a player so poor he looks out of his depth in friendlies against lower league sides. Meechok’s form may have dipped a little – largely as a result of vastly reduced game time – but he’s not that bad!

The question of who is at fault for the clear bias against younger players is an interesting one. Both Jadet and Zico have a history of developing younger players with some success, but during their tenures at Port, there has been no indication from their team selection and substitutions that young players have a path to the first team. In order to absolve Jadet and Zico of blame, therefore, one has to say that the manager does not have the final say on picking the team or making substitutions. With the aforementioned High Ups regularly sitting on bench, it’s not a wild stretch of the imagination that this could be the case. If I had to guess exactly what was going on, I would attribute certain out-of-place team selections to the High Ups, but say that Zico does most likely have full authority over substitutions.

So, what’s the verdict on Zico and youth policy? Well, it’s impossible to say with any certainty. If the decisions being made are all his, then the blame is also his. If not, then the High Ups are again doing their best to kneecap their own chances of success.

Verdict: Jury Still Deliberating, verdict expected by the start of next season.

 

Tactics

It must be said, the substitutions made on Sunday are the main reason I am writing this piece. They really were awful. Firstly, Siwapong was brought in for Suarez. Suarez was one of Port’s better players against Sukhothai, but was withdrawn with Port 3-1 up, and replaced by a journeyman midfielder who has played just 45 minutes for Port all season. They came in the 5-1 defeat against relegation candidates Honda. Siwapong once again showed that it’s possible for just about anyone to be a professional footballer, regardless of how utterly useless they are at football. The void in attacking midfield meant that Port’s ability to attack was blunted, and Port were facing one way traffic from then on. The game finished 3-3. At fault for the third goal were Zico’s other two substitutes. Jetjinn got skinned, then Adisorn gave away a penalty with a ridiculous body-check. I even saw Pakorn playing right back for a period in the second half. What’s that about?!

It wasn’t the first time Zico has made some bizarre substitutions, either. Suarez and Genki, two of Port’s best players against Chiang Rai, were replaced by habitually ineffective forwards Kaludjerovic and Tana, as Port again surrendered the initiative in a game they were dominating and snatched defeat from the jaws of a draw.

So, what is my verdict? Well, the team have been playing OK on the whole, but results have not yet materialized, and there must be a reason for that. Promising performances against Chiang Rai and Bangkok Glass in particular showed that Zico was starting to develop a decent system, but it doesn’t really count if you then undo that good work with silly substitutions. Jadet managed more with the same squad, and he was hardly a master tactician. Sorry, Zico.

Verdict: Guilty

Sentence: Suspended Sentence. Will be remanded in to Sandpit custody for a good talking to over a couple of bottles of Leo in the case of Wuttichai or Siwapong getting further game time.

 

I’m firmly in the camp of giving managers time to put their ideas and philosophy in to practice, particularly in a situation like this where there is so much redundant infrastructure built up around the manager that he has to dismantle to operate with any sort of autonomy. My judgment, then, is that Zico needs much more time, which will with any luck be spent creating a system through which he has control of as many aspects of team management as possible. If Zico is able to do that, then transfers and youth policy will surely take a turn in the right direction. Let’s hope the early indications on his tactics – particularly substitutions – are not as bad as they look. Once he has had the opportunity to bring in some of his own players, we will know more.

 

Port Linked with Vietnam International Striker

 

With the foreign player rule changing from 2018, and clubs having to recruit their +1 player from the AFF rather than the broader AFC, it’s inevitable that Thai clubs will start looking to countries like Vietnam for new talent.

And it seems like Port are getting in early, with the Vietnamese media and Thailand’s GangZaBaaBall linking the club with a move for talented 22-year old Vietnam national team striker Nguyen Cong Phuong. The Hoang Anh Gia Lai forward is also apparently interesting Buriram and Chonburi, and with his impressive national team scoring stats – 26 goals in 33 appearances at U23 level – he’s one of ASEAN’s hottest young properties. He may be Chanatip-sized but he’s a fast, skillful and hard-working player who clearly knows where the goal is, and thus a big upgrade on the likes of Wuttichai & Tana.

Zico of course knows the Vietnamese game – and Cong Phuong’s current club – well, having spent 4 very successful years at Hoang Anh Gia Lai as a player and another two as coach; and Vietnam football legend and current Ho Chi Minh City FC chairman Le Cong Vinh was recently spotted at Port’s game against Chiang Rai, suggesting the Port coach is strengthening his Vietnam ties in readiness for the rule change. His experience of handling Vietnamese players, and his familiarity with the language, might just put him in the lead in the race for the young player’s signature.

 

Pipo to Join Zico at PAT?

 

Thai national team star Siroch Chatthong, widely known as Pipo, has reportedly agreed to join Port on loan for the 2018 season.

Last season Pipo was arguably the hottest property in Thai football, but Ubon stuck to their guns and held on to their striker despite the advances of many of the top teams in the country. To everyone’s surprise, Pipo failed to find his scoring touch in T1, remarkably failing to find the net even once in the first half of the season. Ubon finally decided to cash in, selling the powerful striker to Muangthong who were desperate for more depth with their striking options. Along with Pipo they also brought in prolific Brazilian Leandro Assumpcao from Sisaket and former Ratchaburi striker Heberty Fernandes. They joined Thai talisman Teerasil Dangda and his national team understudy Adisak Kraisorn at the SCG, putting Pipo at fifth in the striking pecking order. Hardly ideal for a developing footballer.

There is a certain logic to Pipo being willing to join the manager who plucked him from relative T2 obscurity and thrust him in to the national limelight. When he was Thai national team manager Zico took a bold gamble on Pipo, and he shone with his robust physical performances in World Cup Qualifiers – most notably against Australia – then the Suzuki Cup, where he scored twice against Indonesia in the final to give Thailand victory.

 

Photo by ESPN FC

 

Then there are Port’s striking options. Josimar has scored 10 goals to date in 2017 – a pretty reasonably return – but besides him Port have little to offer up front. Kaludjerovic has scored three times, Tana twice and Wuttichai zero times. Yes, Siroch has also drawn a blank this season, but when he doesn’t score he still offers something important to the team. Pipo runs at – and often through – defenders, he wins physical duels, he keeps at least one if not two defenders occupied dealing with him, and he gives everything for the team. What do Tana or Wuttichai offer except the motivation to tear your own hair out? Pipo is far from the finished article, but both as an alternative to Josimar and an option on either wing he would add to Port’s firepower immensely.

So, is this at all likely to happen? Well, it’s not outside the realms of possibility. It would have been at the start of last season, but with Pipo’s dip in form and his move to a quality-packed Muangthong squad Port’s chances have improved markedly. That’s not to say that it’s very likely, though. There is a long time between now and 2018, during which Muangthong’s willingness to let Pipo go, and his willingness to join Port have plenty of scope to shift. We’ve seen more than our fair share of ‘done deals’ fall through at Port, that’s for sure.

Regardless, I’m holding out hope. Pipo has been a favourite of mine ever since I saw him play for Ubon for the first time. His all-white Ubon kit was caked in mud within about 15 minutes of kick-off, such was his commitment and his willingness to put his body on the line for his team. He may never be a  twenty goal a season striker, but he plays hard, he creates, he gives everything for the team and he entertains.

Come on Pipo, you know you don’t want to waste your time on that SCG bench!

 

Kiatisacked! Jadet Makes Way for Zico

 

When the Sandpit speculated a couple of weeks ago on the possible arrival of former Thailand coach Kiatisak “Zico” Senamuang as Port’s new coach, it was merely idle banter based on a picture of him hangin’ out with Madame Pang, and published mainly for cheap clicks.

3 weeks later, the club have formally announced that Zico has indeed replaced Jadet as Port’s head coach with immediate effect, and will we presume be taking charge of the team for Sunday’s game against Bangkok Utd.

Given the club’s shambolic handling of the June transfer window, it’s clear some changes had to be made, and at last night’s press conference, Jadet admitted he had no clue which players were going & which were staying. It’s a little harsh on Jadet – since he took over he’s guided Port to a League Cup semi, promotion from the second division, and a top half place in T1. A pretty good achievement given the club’s resources. And let’s face it, lasting almost a year as coach under Mme Pang is an achievement in itself.

But as we’ve said before, it’s been clear all season that if the club really want to aim higher, Jadet probably isn’t the man, which explains today’s move. Kiatisak brings a very high profile, having recently guided Thailand to the second round of AFC World Cup qualifying, and an excellent managerial record with a win rate of 49.45% over 11 years and 273 games. His career as Thailand manager suggests he’s one to favour younger players over old lags, which is exactly what Port need right now, and his status should help attract talented younger Thai players to the club. It’s just a shame the move wasn’t made at the start of the transfer window…but at least we got there before Muangthong or Buriram.

So firstly, The Sandpit would like to say a big thank you to Jadet for all he’s done as coach, and wish him well in his new role as Technical Director. And secondly, we’d like to give Zico a warm welcome to Port, and wish him every success in his new role!

Port FC eh? Never a dull moment…

 

 

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.