Weeping Angels: Port FC vs. Bangkok United Preview


I can’t very well start this preview without first addressing the tragic events that unfolded on Wednesday morning. A bus carrying a group of Port fans to the away cup fixture with Nongbua Pitchaya was involved in a deadly accident, killing 5 people and injuring 3 more. Among those in the Port bus were fans that will be familiar to any regular visitor to PAT Stadium. The tireless leader of Port’s fan club who we all know as Spiderming has passed away. Saman, who carries his Pakorn banners with him home and away week in week out is in critical condition. Doubtless other fans will have seen or had personal relationships with others in that bus, and their absence will touch each and every one of us. Every Port fan contributes in his or her own way to the community that all of us know and love, and after this terrible accident that community will never be the same.

Rest in peace to those who passed away. Condolences to their loved ones, and the Port community as a whole. Those still in hospital, we wish you a speedy recovery.

There will be a service before the game on Saturday to commemorate those who have passed, starting at 17:00. Port fans are asked to wear black as a sign of respect. There will be a collection to support the grieving families.



With all that said, what follows is obviously very trivial. It’s never felt more trivial. Nevertheless, we go on with our previews and our match reports because it doesn’t feel right that we should stop what we’re doing in response to this horrific event. Did Spiderming ever stop?



Port have come through a succession of tests so far this season, and in most we’ve passed with flying colours. The ill-disciplined fiasco at Sukhothai is the only real black mark against us; we’ve shown incredible fortitude in securing a late goal to nick the 3 points away at Chonburi, we’ve gone to the SCG and beaten our biggest rivals, we’ve recovered from a goal down with 15 minutes to play to overcome Suphanburi, and we’ve won comfortably on a wet Sunday night in Chainat. The draws against Chiang Rai and PTT Rayong are the only other games we haven’t won, and in both cases the opposition employed negative, roughhouse tactics to grind out a draw. It happens.

With that said, the latest test Port face is the biggest yet this season. Bangkok United may not be among the top dogs in the table just yet, but in the last two seasons they suffered from a slow start before surging up the table at around this point in the season. They’re also a team with a habit of doing well against Port (our last league win came in 2010), and in recent seasons have come up with some really outstanding performances in doing so. Whether its luck, coincidence, or coach Mano Polking having the edge on Jadet tactically, something needs to change if Port are going to defy the spell The Angels seem to have us under. Maybe it already has.


Bangkok United

Players To Watch


I’m getting stuck in to this preview with plenty of time to spare, so rather than pick out a few of Bangkok’s top talents, I’ll just go through the team I think Mano is going to pick.


The Goalie

He needs no introduction, having produced one of the best goalkeeping performances I’ve ever seen last season at PAT Stadium. Michael Falkesgaard (1) is the top stopper in T1. Just wait ‘til he gets a load of Pakorn’s corners, though!



The Back 3

This season Bangkok United have gone out and brought in the players they feel like they need to make a back 3 work. Interestingly though, none of those players are themselves part of that back 3. One of the outstanding defenders of 2018, Everton (3) is a key man for The Angels, and one of the best foreign defenders in the league. No problem there, then. His partner is no-nonsense Thai-German Manuel Bihr (4) who, similarly to his counterpart at Port Elias Dolah, adds that extra physical presence without violating the foreign player quota. Bihr is a little more prone to error than Everton, but he’s worked his way in to the Thai national team set-up with a couple of years of solid defending. The third man is where Bangkok have had to experiment to find the right fit. After losing first choice Mika Chunuonsee (16) to injury early in the season, Mano first tried Puttinan Wannasri (5) in that position, before temporarily switching back to a back 4. Most recently Wisarut Imura (37) has been dropped back from midfield to fill in, but the youngster isn’t a natural there, nor does he have a lot of experience under his belt. Whichever formula Mano goes with on Saturday, it’s not ideal. Maybe going with a back 4 and using the system that Bangkok have used to such devastating effect in previous seasons is the way to go. Over to you, Mano.


The Wing Backs

Two of the players that Mano did bring in to make his system work are right wing back Tristan Do (7) and left wing back Peerapat Notechaiya (31). Tristan Do is of course a national team stalwart, and on his day he’s probably the best wing back in the league, although he’s not very popular among the Port faithful. Expect him to get plenty of stick on Saturday. Fellow ex-Muangthong full back Peerapat similarly has plenty of national team experience, although I’ve made it no secret before that I think he’s one of the most overrated players in the league. Naturally he must be compared to Kevin. So far in 2019… Kevin (LB): 2 goals, 2 assists; Peerapat (LWB) – 0 goals, 0 assists. Is it too soon to say I told you so?



The Midfield

I’d be lying if I said I could reliably guess who Mano is going to pick in his midfield. Thai-American holding midfielder Anthony Ampaipitakwong (6) has been wearing the captain’s armband recently, so he’s a dead cert, but alongside him either Pokklaw Anan (10) or Sanrawat Dechmitr (29) could equally get the nod. Both are excellent players, but Port fans will more likely remember Sanrawat for some devastating performances he’s put in against us in the past. I’ve always thought that he’s not a big game player though, so don’t be surprised if he reacts to a tough game by curling up in to a ball and crying. He does it for the Thai national team all the time.


The Forwards

Another area where injury has deprived The Angels of a key man in Vander Luiz (8). Anon Amornlerdsak (27) has stepped up in the creative role with some promising performances to help ease the loss, but the youngster still only has a goal and an assist to his name. Not great. Then there’s star man Nelson Bonilla (9). The Salvadorian striker has been impervious to his teammates struggles this season, netting 8 times in 8 starts, and he also stuck more goals than I care to remember past Port for Sukhothai last season. Mano’s biggest dilemma has been who to put up top with Bonilla, or whether to go with an extra creative player. Big new signing Mike Havenaar (9) seems to be the perfect foil for the main man, but the two have not been used together much yet this season, with the big Dutch-Japanese forward struggling for fitness early in the season and scoring twice in 5 appearances since his return. Mano also has many more options at his disposal, like using Sanrawat Dechmitr in a more advanced role, or bringing in one of their wingers Jakkapan Pornsai (13) or Rungrath Poomchanturk (17). Supersub Teeratep Winothai (14) will likely be brought off the bench if Bangkok United are in need of a goal, too.



Predicted Lineup




It’s not been good enough so far. Bangkok haven’t won back-to-back since the third gameweek. Since then they’ve lost to Buriram, drew with Korat, lost to Chonburi, beat Suphanburi, lost to Chainat, beat Prachuap then drew with Chiang Mai. That’s 3 losses in 10 games, which is too much for a team with title ambitions. Bangkok have to find consistency, and a couple of injuries is not a good enough excuse. After all, Port have had to deal with the loss of their captain in week 1, and have missed several key men through injury and suspension for various games since. Our squad has coped, and so far Bangkok’s hasn’t.


Port FC

Trying To Keep It Together


Until Port reserves, who understandably may not have really had their heads in the game, slumped to a 2-3 defeat away at Nongbua Pitchaya in the League Cup, things were going rather well on the field. Jadet still has selection dilemmas to deal with, but his problems are the best kind of problems.

Newly minted national team member Watchara (1) will keep goal once again. He has kept clean sheets in 50% of his games since coming back in to the picture in the tail end of last season. Solid.

Rochela (22), despite nearing full fitness last week, has suffered a setback and will not be available, so Dolah (4) and Todsapol (6) will continue in the heart of defence. With both Kevin (97) and Panpanpong (19) unavailable, third choice Yossawat (32) seems to be in line for his first start of the season (he came off the bench against Chainat) unless Jadet opts to play Adisorn in the position he played a large chunk of Port’s last T2 campaign in. I’ve always been a fan of Yossawat; he’s got an absolutely wicked left foot, and I’ve always thought that he’s a better all-round player than Panpanpong. Here’s his chance to prove it. Nitipong (34) starts at right back. Duh.

Go (8) and Siwakorn (16), who is lucky to be available after narrowly avoiding his fourth yellow card last time out, will continue in the engine room, but ahead of them is where Thai League Manager of the Month Jadet will have to earn his money this week. Thai League Player of the Month Bodin (10) is a no-brainer on the left, but whether or not Jadet opts for Sumanya (11) or Nurul (31) on the right is the big question. Sumanya is a quality player, but he’s not a natural wide man, and this throws Port off balance, with the team so used to having Pakorn (7) hug the right touchline. Nurul, as he showed with his stunning chipped finish after being brought off the bench, is the man for the job on Saturday. Come on Jadet, let the penguin at ‘em!

Up front Boskovic (23) is well and truly in the groove now, and will fancy adding to his recent flurry of goals against his former team, while Suarez (5) will continue providing the ammunition. There’s not a player in Port’s team who isn’t worth their place right now.


Predicted Lineup




The match will be shown live on True4U And True Sports HD2 at 19:00 on Saturday 18 May, 2019. For those who can’t make it, 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.


Mano Polking: “Port & Buriram Are the Strongest Teams”


Port take on 2018 runners-up Bangkok Utd in an absolutely HUGE clash at the PAT this Saturday (19:00). We’re excited, you’re excited, and so is BU coach Mano Polking! We had a chat to Mano to get his thoughts on what is a crucial game for both teams’ title ambitions…

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This Charming Mano: The Sandpit Talks to Mano Polking


On Saturday 25 February, Port face their toughest test of the new season so far when they travel to Thammasat Stadium to face 2016 runners-up Bangkok Utd. BUFC are one of those rare Thai football clubs who value stability and steady development, and their progress over the last 3 years, from mid-table to top 3, has been most impressive – due in no small part to their affable and passionate coach, Mano Polking.

To set the scene for Saturday’s clash, we chatted to Mano about life as a coach at one of Thailand’s top clubs…


Begin by telling us how you came to work in Thailand…
I came to Thailand almost 5 years ago as the assistant coach of Winnie Schaefer with the Thailand national team. I was his assistant already before in UAE and Azerbaijan. He also supported me to be the head coach of Thai under 21s. It was then my first experience as a head coach.

What were your first impressions of Thai football? What are the biggest differences between Thai football and football in Germany, and what were the biggest culture shocks you encountered?
The first impression was positive because Thailand is a nice place to live and you can feel this also in the football pitch. People generally are easy going and that makes you have a good first impression. But at the same time of course it’s where the small problems starts, cause being so relax and playing competitive football are two completely different things. It’s definitely a culture issue. Players don’t like conflicts, don’t like to be exposed and still have a too relax attitude for this job. I must say that I’m trying hard to change this with my teams now. At least to make it clear that in this business the gap betweeen losing and winning must be huge and that we cannot take it too easy when we lose. We need a winning mentality at least for this 90 minutes, after I will be with them again and we can be sabai sabai! I could never be the same coach I am here in Germany. Impossible. Here we have to adapt, accept some different things, close our eyes and step by step move forward.


You’re in a fairly unique position for a Thai league coach, in that you have been working at a stable club for almost 3 years and appear to have a considerable amount of autonomy. How would you describe the Bangkok Utd approach to running a football club?
Bangkok United is the best club in this country because they realize that the football business must be different than the “normal” business or the political business. I found with Khun Kachorn a president that is a huge business man but a very straight and honest person. We take all the decisions together and we have a lot of respect for each other. I know that as a coach I always need results and in this almost three years we are having the results, what obviously makes the work together much easier. I think that the way the president is running the club is the key for this success cause he let me chose the players that I think will fit in the way I play, actually very simple. And he never interferes in my daily work or game decisions. When we want to buy a player I always give him 6, 7 options each position and we decide together. We still have a long way to go and a lot of things to improve as a club but we are definitely in the right way.
Do you think some Thai club owners (naming no names, *cough*) try to exert too much influence on footballing matters?
I don’t think, we all know that! But again, I respect all of them, the are the owners, they are paying the money, so as a coach it’s your choice to do or not to do! I just believe that the way we are doing it’s easier to get the results. At the same time we also know for example how Newin is running Buriram and he just won everything in this country! So, there are many ways to achieve success. I just can tell you that this would never happen in Europe! But we are here because we like to be here, so adapt yourself and try to do your best!
BUFC have made impressive progress since you took over, culminating in second place last season. Do you think you can win the title in 2017? Who will be your main rivals?
We had a fantastic season 2016 and it’s almost impossible to repeat an year losing just two games again. But what I can only hope is that this season no team will be so strong like Muangthong was last year and then we have a chance. I could almost bet with you that if after 31 games we would have again 75 points like last season we probably will be champion. The main rivals are almost the same ones. MTU with 80% of the national team is favourite number one but then I expect a much stronger Buriram this season. Those two clubs will always be strong, since the Thai league is a professional league are the only two champions here! Then we have in my opinion 6 teams that can be able to surprise them. We, the new rich Chiangrai, Bangkok Glass, Chonburi, Ratchaburi and Suphanburi.


What about your personal ambitions – if/when your time at BUFC comes to an end, where do you see yourself? Staying in Thailand or coaching elsewhere?
I like Thailand. For a young coach is actually a very good place to be now. I’m still learning a lot every year, adding a lot of experience. First I hope to stay till the end of my contract with BU, which finish December 2018. It’s difficult for a coach to make so much plans cause we have normally a short “life” at the clubs but I have a lot of ambitions and really love my job and the challenges of this job. The football here is growing very fast and I would love to win a title with BU. After that maybe a new challenge should be the right step.


Who is the best player you’ve managed during your time in Thailand? Who do you think are the best players in T1 right now?
With the U21s I coached all this new wonderful generation of Thailand with Messi Jay, Sarach, Pokkao, Adisak and its very difficult to say who is the best one. Also I had many foreigner players with great quality, difficult to chose one. But at the moment for me the best Thai players are Kawin, Teerasil and Theraton and I’m sure soon we will have some BU players in this list!
As a foreign coach, do you think Thailand’s strict 5 foreign player quota is an advantage or a disadvantage? Would you like to be able to sign more foreign players, and do you think they help Thai players improve or restrict their opportunities? What can Thai players learn from foreigners and what can foreigners learn from playing in Thailand?
I think it’s good how it is now. Thai players can learn how to be more professional and how to improve the winning mentality and foreigners players can learn that life should not be always stressful and we should not always put ourselves under pressure. Being a little bit more relaxed can help you sometimes to be a better player.
What’s the difference in managing Thai and foreign players?
Huge difference. Thais don’t like conflicts so you have to find another way to make them better. In Thailand you always have max 5 foreigner players and they normally can handle the pressure because they are earning more money than the others so you can be harder on them. And it always depends which nationality. South Americans are also different from Africans and Europeans for example.


You’re Brazilian-German. Which footballing philosophy do you most identify with – Brazilian flair or German efficiency and organisation? And how did you feel when Germany beat Brazil 7-1 in WC2014? 
I really like to mix both. It’s actually a perfect combination. German discipline and work attitude with Brazilian creativity. The 7-1 is still painful!
Bangkok Utd are a big club with very small crowds. Does this frustrate you? What can the club do to attract more fans?
I’m proud of the small crowd that we have but every coach or player wishes to see the stadium full. It’s a difficult theme to talk about as it involves a lot of things to improve this department and it needs time. But we are much more than three years ago and I hope we will continue to increase the number of the fans. We have clear plan to build a new stadium and training ground and that should be the next step.
Port visit BUFC on 25 February. How do you rate the current Port side and how do you think they will perform this season?
Port is always a dangerous and strong team especially at home, alone because of the fantastic atmosphere and fantastic fans. The president is also investing a lot of money and my friend Jadet is an experienced coach. The new foreigner players must first prove how good they are, they all have good CVs and that will be important to see how strong Port can be. The squad is good and played some very good games last season. I think they will play a very good role this year.



Big, big thanks to Mano for taking the time to answer our questions (and for allowing me to nick images off his Facebook page!), during what must’ve been a very busy first week of the 2017 season. The Sandpit would like to wish you and Bangkok Utd good luck for the season – apart from on Saturday 25 February of course!