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The Sandpit 2021/22 Big Guess Up – Muangthong United

 

The glory days appear to be well and truly over in Nonthaburi. As once again the closed season has seen talent drift away from the club. Yet much as I’d like to predict a season of hardship and a relegation battle, there remains enough quality in the squad, combined with the general drop in standard at the bottom of the division to keep them well clear.

The loss of Derley to Ratchaburi is very modern MTU. The Brazilian whilst some way below the calibre of striker seen at Legoland in years past, is a more than a decent player for Thailand. Yet with his contract up, his wage demands couldn’t be met by MTU and he was close to signing for newly promoted ChiangMai before Ratchaburi closed the deal. His replacement is Adisak Kraisorn who returns to the club having spent last season on loan at Port, where he amassed 11 goals in the league, just one less than the man he replaces, he did so however scoring a goal every 126 minutes of game time compared to 211 for Derley. This might not be quite the blessing it initially appears, as he completed 90 minutes on just 3 occasions. Is his body up to leading the attack week in and week out?

Also heading out the door are former club captain Wattana Plainum and Port loanee Chatmongkol Thongkiri which leaves them light in the midfielder who kicks people department. There’s just not anyone in there who screams battler. Maybe it’s some wonder kid I’m not aware of yet and if so, good luck to you young’un, Mr Ko will be pleased to meet you in round 5.

 

Head Coach – Mario Gjurovski

 

Mario not a fan of socks

When Gama left MTU in October 2020 the club decided to appoint from within, as former playing legend Mario, who had been appointed to coach some youth teams and undertake various PR duties, such as podcasting with Robbie Fowler (rewriting the history of the scouse goalscorers time at the club), took over at the helm. Overall it’s a smart move, Mario is loved by the faithful and buys a lot of goodwill, especially combined with the general reticence of Thai fans to criticise and things would have to get pretty bad before the fans turned on the manager.

And they’ve had little reason too so far in his tenure. Beating Buriram away in your second game would buy any manager plenty of goodwill. Added to a near total change in football style from his predecessor. Although it is worth pointing out that the Gama era at MTU lasted two games longer and produced two more wins than Mario’s so far, so the end product hasn’t improved even if the football has.  Muangthong now play some very fast moving and neat football going forward. It can be great to watch when it works.  The problem is it also leaves the defence exposed and when your defence is as flawed as this, that’s going to cause issues.  I like the full backs, Wattanakorn Sawatlakhon seems like that rarest of things a MTU prospect that might be more than OK, while the returning Jesse Curen always impresses me, a bit of a Kev light, with a bit more what the Aussie’s call “mongrel” in him. Infact I’d not be shocked if at some point we see him moved to try and plug the gaping “enforcer” shaped hole in their midfield.  Rather the issue is at centre back where you have Lucas Rocha partnered by Ballini or Chatchai Saengdao. Rocha’s just not that good. Make a list of all the foreign centre backs in the division, I don’t think there’s a worse one at a club with the slightest expectations of a top half finish. As for his partner, Ballini skill set doesn’t go much beyond being tall and Chatchai, is just there. The end result, the second most goals conceded by a top half finisher last season and a habit of giving away silly penalties. Most of which are blamed on some form of conspiracy. Which sees most defeats followed by the sending of a strongly worded letter of complaint to the FA or on field confrontation with the officials.

 

The attacking foreigners that remain are well suited to the style developed by Gjurovski. Way back in before COVID changed everything and the Leo Pre season cup, was able to be played, it was won by Port, over Muangthong, in case anyone had forgotten. Watching their games one thing that stood out, Willian Popp’s arrival in Thai football. The guy looked completely lost. In the early season, there was little improvement. However come October and the change of manager things have greatly improved and the Brazilian now looks a decent enough player and scores the odd screamer, including the league’s goal of the season. He’s is complimented by Weerathep Pomphan and Teeraphol Yoryoei who arrives having joined the exodus from Samut Prakan Dons, both suit the Mario brand of football and Teeraphol will get considerably more game time here than if he’d joined Port as was rumoured.

Key player – Sardor Mirzaev

However, the pick of the bunch is Sardor Mirzaev, who looks a very smart player,creates and scores goals aplenty and just looks a level above most in the league. Possible a little to far above the norm, as I sense they are stuck between a rock and a hard place with the Uzbeki. If he maintains the levels displayed last season and with MTU now a selling club, there’s a chance the offers come in. Conversely, you wonder how well they perform without him pulling the strings.

 

Sardor Mirzaev a very average pose for an above average player

 

Prediction – Schnook FC

At the end of Goodfella’s Ray Liotta’s character Henry Hill, laments the boredom of his new life, compared to his time as a wiseguy, “I’m an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.” You suspect this is how it must feel for modern Muangthong fans.  When the majority signed up the club competed for titles and played continental football, signed the cream of players in the division and generally behaved like Thailand’s topdog. Not any longer now it’s a humdrum existence of midtable mediocrity, punctuated by the odd decent game thanks to their commitment to open football and pinning the hopes that the annual batch of youth team graduates produce something more than average pros. There will be no change this season. This is the weakest Muangthong team in the time I’ve followed Thai football, however its also the weakest the top tier has been in that time. Mediocracy awaits.

An Underdog Story: Muangthong Utd vs. Port FC Preview

 

A rather quaint old feeling surrounds today’s trip to the SCG. With MTU currently on top form and Port in a slump, we almost feel like the underdogs we used to be in this tie. For once, the fact that Port fans will be forced to watch on the tele is not that annoying, as we probably wouldn’t be allowed in to Legoland regardless of the current situation.

Taking on the mentality of underdogs may be a bit tricky considering the supposed calibre of players at our disposal, but I’m going to take on the task of motivating the boys myself by giving them my absolutely honest assessment on tonight’s opposition. With this brutally frank dissection of the favourites, the lads are going to be scared straight, and put in the kind of performance that saw us deliver shock Slum vs. Scum defeats in… well, just about every match-up in recent memory.

 

 

Muangthong Utd

The Redvolution

 

Starting out with between the sticks, Port will be devastated that Dang Van Lam is no longer between the sticks, as future first choice Thai national team goalkeeper Somporn Yos (29) replaces him. This young man towers above opposition forwards, with his 1.78m (5ft 10) frame making him as imposing at claiming crosses as he is in one-on-one situations. The 5 times he has been sent out on loan by his parent clubs are yet further evidence of the high regard he has been held in by both BEC Tero and now Muangthong, who even went as far as turning down the chance to sign Kawin Thamsatchanan from Leuven, such was their faith in Somporn’s ability.

 

 

At the back there are an embarrassment of riches to choose from. Should I start with Wattanakorn Sawatlakhorn (30), whose ratio of assists per game is bettered only by his ratio of tattoos to… non tattoos? Future first choice Thai national team left back Wattanakorn seems to have modelled himself on Port star Charyl Chappuis, with the prominent tattoos and IG model girlfriend jut two of the many weapons at his disposal.

 

 

Speaking of weapons, we move straight on to another towering defensive unit. Future first choice Thai national team centre back Saringkan Promsupa (15) makes Nurul look small. At 1.75m (5ft 10) Saringkan assures that Port centre back Dolah (4) will have no chance of getting his head on any set-piece deliveries in to Muangthong’s impenetrable box.

In midfield, Muangthong also have more options than they know what to do with. Future first choice Thai national team ludisto Weerathep Pomphan (18) is arguably the main threat. Specializing in the key pass to the key pass, Weerathep plays the pass that leads to the pass which leads to an assist as well if not better than anyone in the league. Coach Oud would be well advised to stick two players, if not three, on Weerathep, just to be safe. It’s the respect the signing from Chamchuri United deserves.

 

 

Up top is where it really gets ugly. For Port. With 19 strikes to date (according to Wikipedia), Derley (87) has scored more goals for Muangthong than any other club in his illustrious career, and at 33 years old he probably still has time to get in to the twenties for the very first time. A classic centre forward, future first choice Brazil national team striker Derley excels at holding the ball up, bringing others in to play and let’s not forget: scoring goals. Derley has notched 11 to date this season, just 8 behind top scorer Barros Tardelli, while he has even scored almost as many as centre back Victor Cardozo.

 

 

In charge is a manager whose achievements really speak for themselves. Mario’s demure pitch-side demeanour, combined with an incredibly sharp eye for set-piece preparation, has led to a remarkable uptick in free kick goals. The future Thai national team boss has earned the respect of both his own players and the opposition too, with the calm exchange of views with Bonilla after the final whistle in the sides’ last encounter exemplifying just how far Mario is above the fray. Any manager who is so focused on his job that he forgets to get fully dressed is a man fully committed to learning his craft, that’s for sure.

 

 

Form

Theirs is better than ours. Obviously. Further details are not required.

 

Port FC

The Underdogs

 

Port boss Oud has had a good run in the hot-seat, but the wheels have fallen off in recent times. After an enforced break in T1 action, Port returned with a side that was barely recognizable from the one Oud had been so successful with. Players who had performed so well to put Port in a strong position in the league were left out, while bigger names who have proven less in a Port shirt were preferred. I could name names, but you’re probably all bored of me laying in to Tanaboon (71) and Chappuis (17) anyway.

With the decline in form clear to see, Port are reportedly already looking for a replacement, so it’s anyone’s guess who will be picking the team for today’s big game.

Here’s what I’d do.

Rattanai (18) keeps his place, after an outstanding performance last time out. Nitipong (34) gets a right telling off for repeatedly poor performances, but still gets to play because there’s no one better. Worawut (24) and Dolah (4) continue in central defence, and Jaturapat (21) gets a chance to impress on the left until Kevin is fit. He’s hungry, and whilst Steuble is a decent option, I like a natural leftie with Bordin usually cutting inside on to his right.

Kannarin (31) anchors the midfield, giving Go (8) a bit more freedom to get forward and score excellent volleys. Siwakorn misses out, as he needs to be reminded that he doesn’t start by default.

Nattawut (45) gets a well-deserved go on the right wing. His end product is far better than Nurul’s, and he’s more than deserving of a start in a position where we really don’t seem to have a better idea. The less said about Adisak on the right wing the better. Bordin (10) continues on the left, as does Suarez (5) through the middle. I trust both will return to form in due course.

Up top is a tough one, but I’m going to give Boli (94) an hour to bully the Muangthong defence, and bring Boni (99) on when they’re a bit tired.

 


 

We’re the underdogs, remember? It’s not about picking the best players, but keeping things fresh and having players on the pitch who are going to do whatever it takes to deliver us a massive derby win. Come on, boys!

 


 

The match will be shown live on NBT 2HD and the AIS Play app. Kick off is at 18:30.

 

Bizarre Love(less) Triangle – Port, Heberty and The Sandpit

 

It was a move that generated a lot of buzz in the pre-season, and I’m not going to lie: I was quite excited initially when Brazilian attacker Heberty was signed. That being said, my initial excitement then became “wait, how will we fit him in!?” to “oh, for goodness sake, he’s killing our attacking movement.” The early signs courtesy of the Leo Pre-season Cup weren’t too good, but despite us not looking all that convincing, we still managed to pick up a [completely pointless] piece of silverware. More silverware beckoned surely!?

What I saw during pre-season from Heberty wasn’t good. He looked moody, somewhat disinterested, and to me, he was disruptive to the team. The incessant shots from 40-yards that didn’t stand a chance of hitting the back of the net, his unwillingness to make a simple 5-yard pass to a teammate in favour of spraying a 40-yard pass that was intercepted or lacked direction: he frustrated me to no end. It’s been blatantly obvious for years that we’d needed a ‘scary foreign striker’ and let’s be honest: Heberty isn’t that. He’s an attacking midfielder, and we already had a brilliant attacking-midfielder in the form of one Sergio Suarez. Whilst it’s probably fair (to some) to say that Heberty is a better player, there’s something that Suarez is far better at: working with his teammates! Shock, horror, exactly the thing you’d expect from someone playing that position.

Don’t get me wrong, the statistics attached to Heberty’s time in Thailand are impressive prior to arriving in Klong Toei:

 

 

 

When you factor in the 29 assists that he’s credited with for the 2018 and 2019 seasons for Muangthong, it’s obvious that his [statistical] output was phenomenal.

During his two 2 spells in Thailand, he won a solitary Thai League Cup in 2017 with Muangthong, as well as the Mekong Club Championship in 2017: a moment that would surely be the pinnacle of any player’s career.

 

A surly celebration after scoring away at Trat. Presumably shhhhing some home fans.

 

It goes to show how statistics don’t show the whole truth. For all of his stat-padding, he’s never truly achieved any measure of success in his career, and the way he plays (for himself, not for his team) is the very reason that he’s stuck playing in Thailand, and not still playing in Japan or the Middle-East.

 

Heberty looking miserable playing for Ratchaburi

 

During his time at the club, Heberty scored 7 goals in 11 appearances, in his latest showing of blatant stat-padding. He was a part of our disastrous Asian Champions League campaign that ended before it was able to start, and he was also credited with 2 assists on Transfermarkt, so I’ll mention that too.

What I felt of his performances for the club was this:

The goals and assists may suggest he had a huge role for the team, but our attack was disjointed, and it was 100% because of him. His insistence that everything had to go through him meant we missed out on plenty of goal-scoring opportunities. That said, there was moments against Trat and Rayong where I thought he was quite fantastic, possibly even turning things around, before being disappointed by him the next time he stepped onto the pitch for us.

 

I thought he liked them? Seemingly forlorn at signing for Muangthong.

 

It’s no secret that we’ve looked a much better side without him in the line-up, with it appearing that we’re now much more balanced. Bordin is now giving every fullback in Thailand nightmares, and is certainly benefiting from receiving the ball a bit more often. Every member of the squad is pulling their weight during the game, nobody is shirking their defensive duties, and our performances can almost be described as ‘workmanlike’ at times under Coach Oink.

I don’t think for a single second that this would’ve been possible with Heberty still at the club. You know what they say, though: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. After departing Port, there was supposed interest from China (I’m calling bollocks on that one), before perennial under-achievers Bangkok United decided to sign him. Considering he looked miserable to be playing for a club with a stadium atmosphere that’s almost unrivaled in Thailand, at least there’ll be no fans at the Thammasat Stadium to be disappointed with his apparent lack of enthusiasm to be at their club.

Also, with the way that their players behave on matchday, he should fit right in, but in a completely different way, which I guess will make a nice change for neutral viewers that are searching for new reasons to not like Bangkok United. Just watch the way they attempt to intimidate the referee, scream bloody murder when they dive and don’t receive a penalty: you’ll be given plenty of reasons to not like them within the first 30-minutes.

 

This one I can understand. I’d have a bit of a strop on too, if I’d just had to take a big pay cut.

 

Shopping Boli

With the departure confirmed, a foreign spot has opened up, and the rumours say practically unanimously that it will be filled by Ivorian striker Yannick Boli. If Boli is to arrive it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Nelson Bonilla, who has looked incredible since his return from injury. If we’re to sign Boli, and keep Bonilla, I’m honestly excited by the goal-scoring options that we’d have on our books. Throw Adisak into the equation (sorry Tom) and there’s depth that is probably unrivaled league-wide.

Also departing the club, as mentioned in a previous article, is the incredibly likeable and all round good guy Josimar. I’ll never forget his goal last season against the Scum, as I was on an eight hour ferry ride back home. I’m surprised that I didn’t wake anyone with my celebrations of the goal, and I envy every person that was in Zone B for that special moment. I hope he’s picked up by a fellow T1 side, so that we can give him a proper send-off and express our gratitude.

 

Dolah In The Bank

In much brighter news: Elias has re-signed with the club! I was quite concerned that we were going to lose him, and I’m pleased that we’ve locked him in for the next two-and-a-half years. That goal-line save in the derby on Wednesday was a nice reminder of just how important he is to us and may be the catalyst for inspiring a big second-leg for him. If Nishino wants to win a few things with Thailand, he’d be wise to drop the ticking time-bomb Manuel Bihr and start Dolah ahead of him. Just my two cents!

With the mid-season window ahead of us, I’m sure there’s plenty of excitement [and possibly a cluster-youknowwhat] around the corner that will have us all scratching our heads. With the team looking fantastic at the moment, I’d like to see minimal changes, though I expect we may see a few of the fringe players depart on loan-deals at the very least.

With vendors allowed back at PAT for the recent FA Cup game, and performances on the pitch consistently good: there’s plenty of reasons to be excited.

 

Note From The Editor

We know plenty of you liked Heberty, so if you’d like to write a riposte with a different opinion on his time at Port, get in touch. If you like you can do it without your name appearing, as this author did.

 

see ya grumpy

 

The Good New Normal: Port FC 2-0 Muangthong

 

Derby Day – or ‘Slum vs. Scum’ as it is lovingly referred to by The Sandpit, needs no introduction. Port fans’ most anticipated fixture on the Thai football calendar has been kind to us in recent seasons, and this year was to prove no different! As with many things in the COVID era, this time around it had a strangely subdued feel leading up to kickoff and during the game itself, with a usually packed-to-the-rafters PAT Stadium and its famed fiery atmosphere quashed by the current 50% capacity restrictions. From the outset it was never going to match last year’s experience (shoutout to Josimar for that wonderful goal and the celebration that will be etched in the memory of every Port fan that was there) but this is still *the* game that means the most.

Despite the somewhat different circumstances the match report could essentially read as the standard Port-MTU game checklist of recent years: Plenty of kicking and fouling from both sets of players – tick. Plenty of abuse from the Port fans to the Muangthong players, especially heckling the goalkeeper Van Lam – tick. Port score (Adisak (9), 31st min) – tick. Port score again (Bonilla (99), 86th min) – tick. The team and Klongtoey Army jubilant – tick. Another win over the old enemy – tick. So instead of some wordy recap, when “WE WON!! 2-0!! AGAINST MUANGTHONG!!” is pretty much all that matters right now, here are some matchday photos instead…

 

Bangkok’s finest prematch

 

Suarez dishing out the pain on a night of hurt for Muangthong.

 

He’s one of our own

 

Bonilla with a piledriver and this year’s entry for The Josimar Award for best goal picture v Muangthong.

 

The finest marksman in the league.

 

That derby winning feeling.

 

And the classic we won the derby scoreboard pic

Pictures Allie Suwanrumpha(@endresultphoto) Captions The Sandpit.

Man of the Match

With a well-fought team performance across the park it is honestly difficult to pick out any individuals,  so I’ll opt for the entire defensive unit this time as they were all solid throughout (and how about that one-handed save near the end from Worawut!) Special mention to our central midfield generals Go and Siwakorn who both put in a shift and constantly pressed Muangthong high up the field which effectively stifled their play.

 

Back for the Biggie.

 

If you’re going to come out of hibernation, it might as well be for a good reason and they don’t come much bigger in Thai football than the slum v scum derby. Just shy of eight months after it was originally scheduled to take place (thanks in part to a further delay beyond COVID, due to the PAT floodlight issues back in October), it’s the big one.
Port go into the game having claimed a champions league place at the weekend and can tonight enhance their chances of going directly into the group stage and extinguish the last lingering hopes Muangthong have of involvement (they need to win all their remaining games and still get a little help with results in other matches).

The Good Guys

Port come into the game in fine form with six wins in a row, with clean sheets in their last three games. The defence seems to have tightened up in recent weeks, two of those clean sheets have come away at Bangkok United (finally breaking that jinx) and last time out against a decent Chonburi team. Whilst neither saw the sparkling football going forward of the home win v Suphanburi they sandwiched, maybe the new management has installed some defensive steel and tactical pragmatism so often lacking at Port. Add to the mix that Bonilla(99) looks like the striker with killer instinct we’ve waited for the entire Pang era and there much to be hopeful about. I doubt we’ll see a winning line up changed.

 

The Baddies

This season has been somewhat of a turning point for everyone’s least favorite team as the continued attempts to cut costs have really bitten and where once you had as close as the Thai league gets to glitz and glamour. The squad is now made up mainly of players rolling off their youth academy production line.
However, we were told that would be plenty as they started the season with Gama at the helm. Give the Brazilian tactician, the lads from your local moto taxi stand, enough Carlos kickaballs to fill the overseas quota and a mid table finish was assured, seemed to be the theory in Nonthaburi. However there was just one problem with this, Gama wasn’t happy babysitting the latest batch to come off the academy line, despite the protests of some that nobody could want to leave a club treading water and get back to competing for silverware. Gama was of to Isan at the first opportunity.
He was replaced by former playing legend and current sock dodger Mario Gjurosvki. Who previous management experience amounts to a bit of youth coaching for them, during the COVID break when there wasn’t much coaching done. If nothing else he gets hyped up for every game, so expect him to get involved in a bit of back and forth at some point tonight.

An insult to style and Messi in a pink Barca shirt

 

Form

This season the numbers back up what we already knew, watching Muangthong at home really is the last thing you should choose to do, as games at Legoland have seen the least goals of any stadium in the division. Away from home things are nearly twice as goal friendly (19 v 10) but given that 3 of those came away v Rayong, with some assistance from a home goalkeeping performance, right up there with a certain ex Coronation Street star’s efforts for/against Port a few years ago, even that is a little questionable. Their away record stands at 3-0-3, with the victories being against (kinda) Rayong, Police Tero, and in the battle of the has-beens, up at Buriram. While the defeats have come at BG, Sukhothai and Chiangrai, so basically anyone decent.
The form in the four games under Mario Gjurosvki is also mixed, they opened with a 3-1 win at Police Tero. A match that saw the visitors hyped up like this was a cup final, struggle to pull clear of Police, who the last couple of months looks destined for a relegation battle, until two late screamers. Next up was the aforementioned battle of the has-beens in Buriram, entertaining stuff as the two traded blows to remain relevant. Starting with some calamity defending as a miskick from little center back Promsupa (15) allowed Buriram’s Scepovic to open the scoring. Something the little fella has form for as it was his blunder that lead to Port’s late late winner in the Leo Cup final preseason. Before Muangthong pulled clear with three unanswered goals. There was still time for Van Lam (1) to get all flappy about a header than was a routine save and make it a tight finish. Before Mario started running around like a pound shop Jose in front of the away end.
After opening with two wins things haven’t gone so well. Firstly they headed up to Chiangrai, where the only running we saw post-game from Mario was to break out the crayons and write a strongly worded letter to the league about how unfair it is that the officials no longer give all the dodgy decisions to Muangthong. The match ended in a 2-1 defeat. Then last time out they managed a 1-1 draw with Korat. Now everyone in the Sandpit loves Korat, however, they’re down there battling relegation year on year for a simple reason, they never put together a decent team. You want to be a big team you should be beating them at home. So to see the once-mighty Muangthong needing all the misfortune they felt they suffered at Chiangrai reversed in the next match, as they got two penalties the game would be better without, didn’t exactly scream form team. That one was twice taken and twice missed by Derley(87) only made it all more comic. They did go one up thanks to Popp(19) showing some competence from the spot. However up stepped Van Lam to again allow a header a mere matter of inches from his starting position to beat him.
As it’s probably clear I’m far from a fan of Van Lam, he came into the league hyped as one of the best keepers in Asia. Whilst his highlights reel, even from just this season, will feature some great saves, he’s also terrible at far too many of the basic elements of his job and always prone to letting a howler in. He was dropped by Gama for a couple of games and replaced by Somporn (29) a keeper who won’t hit the same peaks but offers a far more consistent and reliable alternative. Let’s hope we see some classic flapping from the Vietnamese number one.
At right back they should have Jesse Curran, who impressed in preseason and could be in on a Phillipino passport except it seems they haven’t sorted that yet so he’s stuck at Udon Thani playing in the second tier (all very Porty).
Derley, at 6ft might not be as big and scary as some but he’s a decent T1 striker, he’s scored five times this season. It’s just that over the period I’ve watched football in Thailand the guy leading the line for Muangthong has tended to be right there in the conversation about the best striker in the league not called Diogo. Derley is a decent middle of the range Thai league striker but then Muangthong has become more of a middle of the range Thai league operation.
Willian Popp (19) arrived at the start of the year and spent preseason and the pre shut down period, looking like a long lost South American cousin of George Weah, or a social experiment to see if you really could take any physically fit Brazilian to a footballing backwater and they’d cut it in the local league. There was a lot of huff and puff but very little end product. He looked improved when the league returned but has really kicked on since the change of manager, scoring 4 goals, two absolute screamers, and two penalties.
I could go into the details of their Thai players but let’s face it they generally all fit the same mould, hyped products of their academy who all go on to get a few caps because that’s what you do when you play for them before drifting off to have reasonable careers elsewhere. They also have Chatmongkol (14) on loan from Port, any logical club would have it in the loan he can’t play against them. So we all know who’s scoring the injury time winner.

Prediction

This is in many ways a free shot at 3 points for Port. When the game in October was canceled, it appeared that we would again be fined and the game awarded to the visitors 2-0. Maybe it would be fairer if it had been.
Having watched their recent games l think they’d currently get wound up for a game against the local under 7’s, in a game they’ll come to slightly aggrieved that they have to play rather than having nicked 3 points after the floodlight failure, with the added factor that it’s a derby, maybe they’ll be overhyped.
I certainly suspect they could boil over if the stadium was packed and away fans allowed in, creating a heated atmosphere, sadly the two clubs continue to ban away fans from these matches. Throw in the post covid new normal of only 50% attendance and the ban on drums etc and l fear it could be generally a bit flatter than a normal derby in the ground.
However, you don’t conclude Port v Scum previews predicting anything other than a win, 3-0 Bonilla hattrick.
The game kicks off at 1800 this evening.If you can’t get along the match will shown on AISplay.

Lights Out: Port FC P – P Muangthong United

Our match reports are brought to you by The Sportsman.

 

I would normally begin an article with a pithy, light hearted observation that can frame the basis
of the narrative but after taking stock of yesterday’s farcical events, reviewing the news and
social media and casting an eye back over what has been a frankly ridiculous year for the club
all I can do is ask a question:

What the fuck is going on at Port?

 

 

Yesterday’s match postponement due to an electrical fire and subsequently no floodlights
means we have been unable to complete 2 of our 3 home matches since the restart of the
league. The official announcement yesterday was that the match is postponed for a later date
but The FAT has communicated the match has been “called off because the electricity outage
had halted the game for more than 60 minutes”, just like the Police Tero match. This means we
will have to report the incident to a disciplinary committee and might have to accept another 0-2
defeat and a fine.

From any perspective this is shocking. After the last outage one must presume all electrical
units were inspected, any faults repaired and then vigorously tested. I have zero electrical
knowledge (but I know smoke + fire = big problem) and I don’t want to speculate the reasons
why the fire happened because that could lead into tin foil hat time but I will add this:
What happened yesterday is totally unacceptable for a professional football club.

I’m sure there will be more official statements in the coming week but there is nothing positive to
take from this situation. From the photos circulating on social media and chat groups, to the
news that media pass holders were unable to leave their holding room during the incident, this
was a brutal day and will no doubt have a detrimental effect on our reputation.

Let’s quickly take stock of this year: we have cut our stadium capacity by 25% by adding
uncomfortable, dangerous seating for one AFC match (which we lost), fired a silverware winning
coach who had taken 10 out of 12 points in this league campaign, signed an injured player and
shamefully dropped our captain to accommodate him in the squad, fired another coach for 2
defeats (1 technically awarded due to power outage) and there are still many, many things I
could gripe about.

I know that in football, and from supporting this team for 4 years, gallows humour plays a big
role in defeats, relegation and all other forms of misfortune but yesterday’s event was just
disrespectful. The fans, some of the most passionate in Thailand, deserve a lot better and the
club is now damaging the reputation of the league and Thai football in general. Port needs to
accept responsibility and any punishment meted out, show some understanding and remorse
towards its coaching staff, players and fans, and finally conduct itself more professionally. It’s
not something we ask for, it’s something we expect.

 

Port to Maintain the New Normal? Port FC vs. Muangthong Utd Preview

 

No, this is not a Covid-19 reference, nor some pessimistic speculation on Port’s relatively indifferent form since the re-start continuing, but, rather, a welcome nod to the Lions’ satisfying habit of regularly beating their much-loathed rivals in recent seasons. Resounding home and away victories have brought unbridled joy to the Klongtoey faithful, and some eagerly taken dressing-room photographic opportunities for the players. This happy sequence has only been marred by a 3-2, 2018 home loss in a game notable for four goals in seven minutes of Toby time after the interval and a cruelly ruled out, ‘offside’ equalizer.

As with all games between Port and the Kirins, this one will be eagerly anticipated, but the absence of a rabid, baying Port crowd thirsting for blood (metaphorically of course, as away fans have not been admitted in recent years) definitely dampens the enthusiasm. Games between these teams have led to heated debates amongst the fans, to say the least, and this rivalry has given the games a certain edge, with success often measured in the emergency room as much as the goalmouth.

With football in the UK played against an uninspiring soundtrack of canned cheering and audible player cursing, we should really be grateful that at least we can get to see live football again and have a few beers with our mates. All that is missing are the Korean sex-dolls. I will bring some along next time.

 

 

To be truthful, the atmosphere has been rather sterile in the first two home matches with somewhat muted cheers greeting the goals and occasional moments of artistry. In fact, the loudest outburst of meaningful noise was when the floodlights failed, plus the raucous howls of derision when Tunez tried to pick a fight with Heberty. It just showed what sort of delicious malice might be generated by a real crowd. To be fair, it is hard to get excited sitting down and with the luxurious space afforded by Port’s social distance seating (we knew they would come in handy some time) plus the uninterrupted views, it does seem rather a waste of energy getting to your feet, except at Zone B corners and then it’s often just to stretch the legs.

Then there is the lengthy wait while, it seems, every goal, yes, every goal, is subject to VAR regardless of its obvious validity. I am waiting for someone to score direct from a rolled-back kick-off only for the referee to check if the player had put his shin-pads in correctly.

Port’s re-start has been riddled with a predictable mixture of farce and folly: the floodlight fiasco, yet another Jadet sacking and the Bonilla injury saga, not to mention Madame Pang’s ostentatious footwear. It has been commented by some Sand-Pitters that this is not a club you can fully love at the moment and the back room in The Sportsman on Saturday night was a Viper’s pit of vitriol, most of the venom directed at Heberty, who is clearly this season’s pantomime villain. I am certainly irritated by his selfishness and wayward shooting but he’s no Pol Pot.

So, I’m going to look on the bright side. While it has not been the re-start we might have craved, a quick look at the table today shows us just three points behind leaders Bangkok Glass, to whom we lost narrowly, with only one ‘actual’ defeat, the same as Bangkok Utd. Last week’s win was decidedly un-pretty and somewhat desperate, like a closing time carry-out from Thermae, but the pitch looked like a rice paddy and it was our 4th different starting eleven in four games.

We have been hit by injuries and suspensions as well as haunted by missed chances. We now have a run of 3 ‘winnable’ game, which should maintain our strong position. This, I believe, will be a season where the top six teams take points off each other and it is likely to be a much more competitive title race than in previous campaigns. It used to be that you had to beat Buriram twice to even stand a chance of winning the League, as they would invariably mop up everyone else. Buriram will no doubt re-enter the fray at some point, which will make for a fascinating season. We have a squad able to compete at this level; it just needs a bit of inspired direction. Rumour has it that Madame Pang is lining up more foreign coaches than the harbour-master at Calais so maybe, just maybe. I prefer my glass half-full.

Our opponents this week had a decent win against 5th place Ratchaburi in their last run-out, which, unfortunately, might give them some renewed confidence. They have a number of foreign players in their ranks with an interesting pedigree. Brazilian, Vanderley Dias Marinho (87), or Derley for short, once had a spell with Benfica, signed after a 16-goal breakthrough season with Maritimo in 2014. One of his earliest moments after joining was to score a goal against Valencia in the Emirates Cup that season. He was only to score once more in 15 appearances with The Eagles. He has 11 goals in 20 appearances for Muang Thong, so is likely be a threat.

 

 

Russian born, Vietnamese national goalkeeper, Dang Van Lam (1) was signed from Haiphong, Leandro’s former club. A giant of a keeper with an arm span of two metres, we will need to keep it low. His Russian name, Lev, is contributed to his mother’s (a former ballet dancer) passionate admiration for the legendary Soviet goalkeeper Lev Yashin.

Daisuke Caumanday Sato (66) has an exotic name to match the other two and is one of more than a dozen Filipino players to be playing in the Thai League at the moment, although many, like Sato, are of dual nationality. His one claim to fame is being the first Filipino footballer to play in Romania, for Politehnica against Dinamo Bucharest in 2016. Something to boast about in the watering holes on P. Burgos.

 

 

It has been three years since MTU last won a trophy and four since they won the League; long may that continue. It seems that their only recent, notable statistic is the number of players they have out on loan: 37 at the last count, most of them at Udon Thani and Bang Pa-In Ayuthaya.

With a victory under their belt, Port need a settled spell so, if everyone is fit, I wouldn’t activate many changes unless it would be to bring back Siwakorn to accompany Go and Heberty/Suarez in midfield.

 

Possible Team

 

 

Prediction

Port to win 3-1.

 


 

The match will be shown on True4U and True Sports HD1 at 18:00 on Sunday 4th September, 2020. For the many of you who won’t be able to get your hands on tickets, 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.

 

Tom’s Transfer Talk: Paking His Bags?

 

We’ve heard plenty of rumours linking Muangthong players with Port in recent weeks, but nothing in the opposite direction. Until today that is, when a massive Port name was rumoured to be heading to the SCG Stadium on loan. Yes, love him or hate him, rate him or slate him, Pakorn is a player who has made a massive impact since his arrival in 2016, and his magnificent but oh so inconsistent right boot could be pinging freekicks at the Yamaha Ultras next seen. It just seems wrong, and I’m struggling to come to terms with the possibility. He’s been the subject of rumours linking him with moves away in previous seasons and he’s stayed put, so perhaps there’s nothing to this, but it’s being very widely reported.

The rationale for the move is apparently that Heberty will be used wide on the right, from where he will cut inside and wreak havoc with his trusty left foot, while new loanee Adisak will lead the line, supported by Suarez in the No.10 role.

What we were originally expecting to see was Heberty and Suarez being used as a front two, although neither of them are natural strikers, but if Pakorn is indeed departing then Port are leaving themselves far too light on the wings to make that formation work. Bodin and Thanasit are the only T1 standard wingers on the books, with Pinyo and Chakrit surely inadequate cover should either pick up an injury. Kevin provides another option on the left, but there’s no one else on the right, unless Port dip back in to the transfer market, which begs the question: why let first Nurul and then Pakorn go in the first place?

Now, remember this is still just a rumour, and there may well to be no substance to it whatsoever. Muangthong have been spending the entire transfer window letting players go to slash their wage budget, and bringing in a high earner like Pakorn on loan would be a surprising move to say the least.

 


 

While the Pakorn rumours have been the ones making waves, there are also a couple of low key arrivals to make note of.

 

 

Port academy youngsters Watcharaphon Chumking and Partchya Katethip have been promoted to the first team, joining academy stopper Anipong Kijkam, former fox hunt duo Peemawat Cheewayapan and Chanchai Phonchamroen, and newly signed forward Patchara Chainarong, who are all also 20 years old or under. With Port once again not fielding a B team in 2020, these two have been selected to make the step up, although having watched all of the above besides Chanchai and Patchara, I doubt any of them will feature for the first team this season.

 

Tom’s Transfer Talk: Port to Splash Cash on Muangthong Fire Sale?

 

OK, OK, so that’s a very old squad photo back from when Muangthong were actually a decent side. Never mind. Anyone who has been following transfer new for the last few weeks will be aware that Muangthong are experiencing real financial problems. Main sponsors SCG have apparently dramatically reduced funding, meaning that Muangthong are facing the reality of selling all their best players just to balance the books. Heberty has already gone, and more will surely follow.

My original plan for this piece was to laugh heartily about the dilemma Muangthong find themselves in, before picking out the 5 players Port would be best advised to snap up. We’ve already brought in Heberty, of course, which is widely being seen as a massive coup for Port.

Then I had a look at their squad, and realized I’d bitten off more than I could chew. Maybe 3, then. Then I really thought about it, and realized that I genuinely don’t particularly want any of them.

It’s not that they don’t have any players of value of course – their performance in the second half of last season was vastly improved, and actually better than Port’s – rather that almost all of the players I’d really be interested in taking off their hands probably wouldn’t get in our starting XI anyway, and the last thing we need is more expensive placeholders.

Who am I thinking of specifically? Well, in the last few weeks I’ve seen rumours hinting at the exit of a host of players who clocked up regular minutes last season.

 


 

Sarach Yooyen is one, with Muangthong reportedly very optimistically offering him on loan to Japanese teams. Maybe a few years ago, fellas. The Sarach of today would lose a fight for a place in Port’s midfield, let alone a J League spot. Next.

 

 

Charyl Chappuis is another for sale, but unless Pang wants an extremely expensive mannequin to put our new shirt on, I am pretty sure he won’t be coming to Port. Pass.

Adisak Kraisorn has also been mentioned, and in fact has specifically been linked to Port. Now, I always give the caveat when discussing strikers that because the overall standard is so low, even poor strikers can still be one of the taller midgets in the circus. That’s probably true of Adisak, although I could never bring myself to recommend signing him. He’s no better than Arthit in my opinion, so I’m keeping Pele all day long. Next.

Teerasil Dangda. A tricky one. He’s a long way past his best, but as still arguably the tallest midget in the circus, signing him would probably make some sense. Yes, he’s probably on a big old salary, and no he probably wouldn’t start many games, but he would surely bag us some goals. He has a striker’s instincts and he already notched one for us in the derby last season. Sign him up. Maybe. Eurgh.

 

AL AIN, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – JANUARY 20: Teerasil Dangda of Thailand looks on prior to the AFC Asian Cup round of 16 match between Thailand and China at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium on January 20, 2019 in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images)

 

Theerathon Bunmathan is the best player available on this list, but the question is would it really benefit Port to sign him? The rumours say we’ve been in talks, but a move back to Japan, where Theeraton won the league last year, would seem to be much more likely. We’d certainly be moving Kevin on to make way for him, and do we really want to shift one of the best young full backs in the country for a player on a big wedge with nothing to prove? Sorry, not for me. If Kevin goes we’re having a different conversation, but for now it’s a no.

 

 

Sanukran Thinjom was the subject of a rumour yesterday, and you know things are getting desperate in Legoland when they’re flogging bog standard squad players. He’s probably OK, and apparently he’s versatile and useful to have around. That’s OK. We’ve got plenty of that at Port. Move along.

 


 

There are probably other players I’m missing that have been put up for sale, such is the extent of the crisis of funding at the SCG, but I’m not following their news that closely. They have one of the top academies, so they are always churning out promising talents, and these players will probably come to the fore next season, once the first team have been sold off. Gama will probably find a way to get the best out of them, and they might do OK. Maybe upper mid table, maybe top 6.  

As I rather provocatively predicted in last week’s podcast, they’ll finish below newly promoted BG Pathum Thani. There it is in print!


 

And just before publishing we’ve received some real, actual transfer news. How about that! It probably doesn’t effect any other prospective business, as the player in question is an 18 year old who is still in his last year of high school, but nevertheless it is being reported that we have signed striker Patchara Chainarong on a 4 year deal.

 

 

Patchara has just helped his school team Debsirin win the Jaturamitr Cup for the first time in 20 years, so Port have decided to swoop in and secure his signature. Here’s a little clip of a nice goal he scored in that tournament. With Port’s abundance of striking options, we doubt we’ll see him in the first team this year, but hopefully he’ll be one for the future. Welcome, Patchara!  

Port End 10 Years of Hurt, Turning the Sandpit in to a Moshpit

 

What a result!

Indulge me if you will as I attempt to see through the fog of beers and cheers and try to remember what was a truly enjoyable once upon a (life)-time experience.

If memory serves me correctly, an evenly balanced relatively non-eventful first half sparked into life around the 30 minute mark as Port began to exploit ‘Tongs weakness on the left-side of their midfield and defense. 4 clear cut chances came and went as Port peppered coaches’ favourite ‘danger area’ in and around the apex of the six yard box. (More of this later.)

As is always the case, first touch football tore ‘Tongs defence to shreds time and again only for Port to graciously fail to take advantage, the worst culprit being Josimar who came on as a replacement for Pakorn who got all carried away with the occasion and uncharacteristically tracked back, injuring himself in the process. Admittedly playing out of position on the right side of midfield, somehow the Brazilian striker contrived to scoop a ‘sitter’ over the bar when passing the ball into an empty net seemed the easier option. Cue hands in heads all round and seeds were sown in the back of Port minds that, ‘please god it’s not going to be one of those nights is it?” sprouted around the stadium as half-time arrived with Port in the ascendancy but profligate and still level.

 

 

All the half-time chat was whether Port could maintain their dominance or would ‘Tong, having surely been on the end of a rocket from their management team during the break, come out guns-a-blazing determined to make Port pay for their generosity.

Ten, or was it twelve, or fifteen beer-befuddled minutes into the second half and Port and Josimar finally made amends and sent the sell-out crowd into paroxysms of delirium as a flowing one-touch move (funny how that works eh?) down ‘Tongs right this time ended with an overlapping Suarez pulling the ball back into the perfect place at the apex of the near six-yard box for Sumanya to gleefully pass-smash the ball into the net at the keepers near post. Cue pandemonium in the stands and on the touchline as even the owner, un-missable in her fetching candy-striped pants, joined in the players’ celebration and relief.

 

 

Could they do it?

A brief period of Port ascendancy ensued as they sought the second killer goal, but soon they were visibly tiring, especially Sumanya who had also clearly decided that having scored he could now spend the rest of the game showboating and basking in the glory of his goal.

As Port retreated closer and closer to their own goal allowing ‘Tong to push on dominating possession and territory, supporters hearts crept closer and closer to their mouths. Would they hang on or would ‘Tong fashion a largely undeserved equalizer?

A couple of astute substitutions allowed Port to start threatening on the break and in turn the defence grew in stature, confidence and self-belief as time and again different Port players stepped up to the plate and snuffed out ‘Tongs attacks before they could develop into truly heart-stopping chances.

As the 90th minute approached Port swept forward on the counter-attack and just when it looked like a fast-flowing one-touch move (yet again) had ended with Port losing the ball, the impressively hard-working Josimar nipped in at the perfect time at the edge of the penalty area to calmly curl the ball past an unsighted keeper into the inside of the same near post as the first goal and round off of a truly splendid copy-book counter-attack.

 

 

Krakatoa couldn’t have competed with the eruption from the stands as older fans suffered pulled groins and tweaked hamstrings celebrating the second sweet goal of the game which guaranteed a thoroughly deserved victory and meant the 3 minutes of added time were simply 3 minutes of singing and basking in the glory of a first home win against the hated ‘Tong in 10 years as well as becoming a prelude to several hours of post-match moshing, quaffing and even talking pleasantly to plain-clothesed farang ‘Tong fans who’d had the balls to brave the potentially hostile Port terraces only to witness their team handed a comprehensive footballing lesson and a thoroughly comprehensive defeat.

Yes friends this was one of ‘those’ games, one of those ‘you should have been there’ nights. One that will live long in the memories of those 8,000 or so fortunate fans who went mental from minute one to minute 90 and beyond. Well, for those that can remember it of course.  I think I was there, wasn’t I?

Until the next time.

Now, bring on Bangkok United!

 

Podcast

The Portcast #20: Famed but Flawed with Gian Chansrichawla

 

Gian Chansrichawla joins The Portcast to give some us some more insight in to the crisis at Muangthong. We talk about SMM’s legal disputes with the Thai FA, SCG’s reported sponsorship cut-back and why Muangthong’s famous academy is not all it’s cracked up to be. there’s plenty we didn’t know about that Gian spells out in rapid-fire detail.

Read more