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Reasons to Be Fearful? Tim’s 2020 Port FC Preview

 

From the outside, all must seem pretty rosy in the Port world. A first trophy – the 2019 FA Cup – for a decade in the bag, and a busy transfer window that has seen several famous new faces arrive. Port are quite clearly a club on the up. So why are so many of us farang fans unhappy? Are we just naturally miserable bastards who need to cheer up and enjoy ourselves, or, following a mostly disappointing preseason salvaged at the last minute by that Leo Cup win, is there genuine concern that Port’s 2020 may not be the title-winning year of glory so many pundits are predicting?

Here are my Five Reasons to Be Fearful…

 

The Transfer Window

The accepted wisdom seems to be that Port had a good transfer window, bringing in established T1 stars like Heberty, Chappuis and Adisak, and also adding promising youngsters in the likes of Kannarin and Nattiwut. The accepted wisdom is sadly wrong. Port had their usual random, scattergun transfer window, running around like a mad contestant on Supermarket Sweep, scooping up boxes of chocolates and bottles of champagne before getting home & realising they’d forgotten bread and milk. The end result is that we have approximately 27 midfielders, not one top quality goalkeeper (a continuing blind sport at Port), no 20+-goal striker, and several big egos fighting over the same positions. The fact that Chenrop stayed whilst Arthit left, and whilst Josimar looks likely to be loaned out, is all the evidence you need that, when it comes to building a cohesive squad, Port’s management simply don’t have a clue.

 

The Coach

Choke obviously got the plaudits last season when his new manager bounce arrested Jadet’s usual mid-season slump, but he blew a title race that was there for the taking and had considerable help from the referee in the FA Cup final. His team selections are frequently baffling – Tanaboon at CB? Josimar as a right-winger? Worawut ahead of Watchara or Rattanai? Like his predecessors, players are being picked on name/reputation rather than form/merit. His players frequently look confused about what they’re supposed to be doing, and as yet have failed to recreate the same swagger that Jadet’s teams frequently displayed. On the touchline he frequently looks as clueless as his predecessor and some of his decisions during the game against Cerezo Osaka even invoked the ire of the usually mild-mannered Nitipong. In short, he’s not the man to bring the title to Port, but given no foreign coach with any self-respect would take the job, he’s probably about as good as we’re going to get.

 

The Egos

The number of big names in the Port dressing room this season is going to take some serious managing. Heberty already looks surly and unhappy with playing on the right; Suarez clearly doesn’t enjoy playing as a striker; Pakorn sulked on the left wing against Chiang Rai; and Chappuis obviously hasn’t joined to sit on the bench or play for a reborn Port B. Keeping all these big names happy is going to take some genius level man management, and you wonder who’s going to provide it. And of course the biggest ego of them all will be picking the team…

 

The Defence

There were times during Port’s pre-season when the defence looked like a bunch of strangers who’d been randomly thrown together just before kickoff, rather than a tightly drilled unit who’ve been playing together for years. The Champions’ Cup game against Chiang Rai in particular was shambolic, and the Beetles should really have been out of sight by half time. Choke still doesn’t seem to know what his best CB pairing is (I’ll tell him – it’s Dolah and Todsapol), and remains convinced that Tanaboon can do a job there, whilst captain-leader-legend Rochela has had a poor pre-season by his lofty standards – as T1 footballers rapidly get bigger and quicker, he’s starting to look like a bit of an anachronism. And when it comes to goalkeeping, Port have three average keepers, and the best of those – Watchara – hasn’t had a sniff pre-season. Choke seems to prefer the hapless Worawut, who clearly hasn’t yet reached the ‘Catching the Ball’ chapter in his copy of Goalkeeping for Dummies.

 

The Attack

Port’s signing of Heberty brought to mind the previous signings of Boskovic and Nebihi, signed as centre forwards when they’re actually something quite different. Heberty has looked sullen out on the right during Port’s pre-season games when he would clearly be better suited to the no10 role generally occupied by Suarez who, as one of Port’s grandes quesos, isn’t going anywhere. Adisak isn’t the 20+-goal striker Port need and always fail to sign. Chenrop isn’t even a 1 goal a season striker. The best striker currently at the club, Josimar, looks likely to be loaned out. Yes, with the likes of Tanasith and Bodin on the wings, this team will get plenty of goals, but bringing in a Bonilla or a Doumbouya would’ve given Port one hand at least on the T1 trophy.

 

Bonus Reason: The Stadium

Spending lots of money to put in seats for what was only ever going to be a one-home-game ACL campaign? Reducing the stadium capacity when your club’s profile is at an all-time high? Absolutely ridiculous.

 

Reason to be Cheerful

The rest of the division. None of Port’s title rivals have had great transfer windows. Champs Chiang Rai have done very little, and neither have Bangkok Utd (who will be without Bonilla until mid-season), whilst Buriram’s new foreign signings are unknown quantities and they’ve lost their best player in Hosegai. The rest of T1 looks mediocre at best, and so Port will probably have just about enough talent on the pitch to beat most teams, whilst hoping Buriram’s new boys flop and Chiang Rai don’t match last season’s level of grinding consistency.

 

Tim’s First Choice XI

Admittedly this is pretty fanciful, as it relies on Josimar taking the last foreign slot over Rochela, and Pang pets like Tanaboon and Pakorn being benched, but we can dream…

 

The Rest

Champions: Buriram Utd

Second: Bangkok Utd

Third: Port FC

Relegated: Trat, Suphanburi, Rayong

 

 

Great Portents or Portending Badly : Dom’s 2020 Season Preview

In 2019 we won, yes we won the FA Cup. It was our first piece of silverware in 10 years and the crazy party was long overdue. The team that won weren’t newly promoted Port, or struggling against relegation Port. In the post Bosko-Kevin buying era Port are a team that splash out the cash and get slightly favourable refereeing decisions at home. We have to accept that even if the supporters of the club are based in Klong Toei the club is now in the top echelon of Thai football.  Along with this our expectations have changed. A loss against Ratchaburi in the FA Cup final last year would have been a massive disappointment, not a grand day out at the Cup Final.

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2020 Vision: Muangthong Utd

 

Ignoring the old saying about saving the best ’til last, we finish our series of 2020 season previews with our old friends Muangthong Utd. After a season in which they flirted with relegation and lost to Port three times, can Gama get the Kirins, who lost to Port three times last season, back on track? Or will they struggle – and lose to Port three times – again? They’ve already lost to Port once and the season hasn’t even started. We hear from not one but two MTU fans, Gian Chansrichawla and Kenneth Lim, on their hopes and fears for the new season.

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2020 Vision: Bangkok Utd

 

Once again, the much-fancied Angels flattered to deceive in 2019, coming up trophyless once more despite having arguably the strongest squad in T1. But with Mano Polking still in charge of a squad that has been together for a long time, could 2020 finally be their year? Here’s Svein Falk Lorentzen with his thoughts…

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2020 Vision: Buriram Utd

 

2019 was a barren year for Buriram, with not a single trophy being added to the Thunder Castle collection. Will 2020 see normal service resumed? Here’s Buriram fan Jamie Pinder with his thoughts…

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2020 Vision: BG Pathum Utd

 

After their shock relegation in 2018, BG Pathum Utd – aka Bangkok Glass – made an immediate return by winning T2 2019 at a canter. And after adding some real quality to their squad they’re expected to perform strongly this year. Here’s anonymous Thai football blogger and BG fan Tactics Times with his look at the Glass Rabbits’ chances…

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The Sandpit 2020 T1 Table Prediction Game

 

Time to buff your crystal balls, dive into the chicken entrails and probe Mystic Meg – it’s The Sandpit 2020 T1 Table Prediction Game! Simply complete the form below, picking which team you think will finish in which position as well as a ‘Thai’ breaker question (thanks Jim for the pun), and come the end of the season will tot up the points and the winner will get 2000BHT to spend chez our sponsors The Sportsman!

Entries close at 19:00 on Friday 14 February. Good luck!

 

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2020 Vision: Nakhon Ratchasima FC

 

In our latest 2020 season preview, we hear from stalwart Swatcat fan Russ John, the man behind one of Thai football’s longest-running English language sites, The Swatcat Blog. And this seems like a suitable moment to send our condolences to the families of those killed in Saturday’s awful mass shooting in Korat, and to wish the survivors a speedy recovery. A terrible event and not the kind of thing you expect to happen in Thailand.

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2020 Vision: Samut Prakan City

 

After taking over Pattaya Utd’s licence, newly-formed Samut Prakan City were the surprise package of 2019, challenging the top clubs before tailing off in the second half of the season. Will they build on the promise of last year, or will it be a case of Second Season Syndrome? here’s Sea Fang (nope, us neither) fan, and man behind popular Thailand teaching website Ajarn, Phil Williams with his thoughts…

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Just the Chapp? Charyl Joins Port

 

Apart from Choke getting fired in June following a mid-season slump, this is without doubt the least surprising story The Sandpit will publish all season – Swiss-Thai midfielder Charyl Chappuis has signed for Port, after leaving Muangthong at the end of last season. The move was rumoured last week, but then the Thai press announced that Charyl had accepted an offer from Ratchaburi instead, before being unveiled in the usual Port fashion – on Madame Pang’s Instagram feed – yesterday. The fact that Charyl started following us on Twitter last week and liking all our posts gave us an early heads-up that a move might be in the offing.

Chappuis was first linked – albeit tenuously – with Port back in May 2017. “It’s a move that would make sense given that Port are crying out for a calm head in midfield” we reported at the time, with Port’s midfield consisting almost entirely of headless chickens back then. But almost three years later, with a midfield containing the likes of Go, Siwakorn, Sansern, Nattawut and Kannarin, it seems like a pretty pointless signing, yet another big name – following Tanaboon and Heberty – signed for PR value with no thought given to how he will fit into the team. Port pick players on reputation rather than form or merit, as we saw with Tanaboon last year, and so Chappuis’ arrival is bad news for Port’s promising midfield youngsters who will almost certainly find themselves further down the pecking order, and could be as destabilising as Tanaboon’s arrival was last year or as Heberty’s threatens to be in 2020.

The reaction amongst Port fans has been somewhat less than ecstatic, with a Sandpit poll yesterday showing only 31% were in favour of the signing, and 69% against.

That said, Chappuis is still only 28 and if he can come close to the level that once made him one of Europe’s most promising youngsters (he won the U17 World Cup with Switzerland in 2009), and if he’s made to compete for his place rather than being handed a starting slot based on shirt sales, he could be a very shrewd signing. And Port fans of course have fond memories of Charyl’s sublime assist for Rolando Blackburn to score Port’s second in the 2-0 win at Muangthong in the FA Cup last season, so if he can provide more of those, we’ll be more than happy.

Anyway, whether you’re for or against, Charyl is now a Port player so I’m sure you’ll all join us in welcoming him to the PAT and wishing him a productive and successful season!