Season Preview

Pre Season

It’s been a strange pre season, as most of the matches we’ve had have been nothing more than glorified kickabouts. The only real test came against Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the JLeague Asia Challenge and we won that. However, it still doesn’t give us much of an idea as to how we’ll fare – or line up – in 2019. I’m slightly worried by this low key approach and I’m not convinced that we are ready for the big kick off on Saturday, especially as our first choice XI hasn’t played together at any point.

Expectations

There has been a bit of a buzz around the new signings and they certainly appear better than last year’s – which isn’t saying much. Lukian has enjoyed a good scoring run during the warm up games and latest recruit, Patrick Cruz, comes highly recommended. I’d like to think we’ll improve on 2018’s league finish and have another good cup run. The latter is realistically our only hope of a sniff at silverware. I notice one or two are predicting us to be the surprise package of the season, but unless some of the other clubs have gone backwards, the only real surprise will be if we finish higher than sixth.

Jukkapant Punpee

I’m not convinced at all. I don’t think he was the right man for the job when Goran walked early on last season, and I still don’t. He’s anonymous on the touchline and he appears to have absolutely no tactical nous whatsoever. In addition, for someone who was such a good defender himself, he has no idea on how to set up a defence. If we really want to be considered as a force again, we need to employ an experienced coach and leave him alone to get on with it…and the sooner the better.

Pipob On-Mo

This pre season was dominated by Pipob’s retirement and subsequent testimonial events. It was wonderful to see how the club responded to his announcement and the all star match was a genuinely moving occasion. The news that he’d been appointed as assistant coach came as no surprise to anyone and was greeted with great enthusiasm. I have it on good authority that he has what it takes to do the job and he certainly commands respect from the players. I really hope it works out for him…and us! There’s nothing more satisfying than when a club playing legend also becomes a club coaching legend. Over to you, Mo!

Players to watch

Midfielder, Park Hyun-Beom has really impressed me during pre season. He’s big, strong, reads the game well and is not afraid to let others know what he thinks. If he doesn’t lose patience with his team mates, he promises to be an important player for us this year. He could also prove to be one of the “finds” of the season. It is also time for Worachit to step up to the plate. You can only be a “promising youngster” for so long and now he needs to prove himself on a regular basis.

Buriram Utd

Arguably the toughest start we could have. Even though they seem to be going through a transitional period, it’s difficult to see them not challenging on all three domestic fronts and they’ll want to get off to a good start. There’ll be a big, partisan crowd too and that will certainly work in their favour. Our lack of preparation and expected tactical naivety worry me. If we’re not careful, we could get hammered, and I fear that would have a negative impact on our season overall. I’d settle for a draw.

Summary

There are signs that the club is slowly emerging from the slump. Off field, the marketing department has gone into overdrive and really impressed me with their ideas and efficiency. The massive reduction in ticket prices – no doubt intended to tap into the local Burmese ex-pat community – is a masterstroke and I hope that fans will take full advantage of it. The ground too has had a facelift and looks a whole lot better for it. There is reason for cautious optimism at the start of 2019, just as long as it’s coupled with a huge dose of realism.

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