Match Previews

15/5/19 JL Chiang Mai Utd v Chonburi (League Cup – R2)

Chiang Mai based football fan, Mark Varney gives us the lowdown on Wednesday night’s League Cup opponents.

Q – Please can you give us a bit of background information on JL Chiang Mai Utd?

JL Chiang Mai Utd are a relatively new club. They were set up in 2015 as ‘Chang Puak United’ (hence their nickname ‘The White Elephants’) and in 2016 won the T5 Amateur championship in northern Thailand. They then entered T4 and changed the club name to ‘JL Chiang Mai Utd’. In their first professional season they won T4 North and made it to the FA Cup semi-final. Last year they were T3 North and national champions and were promoted to T2.

Q – How have they started the season?

It has been a very stop/start season so far, literally, as home games were postponed due to poor air quality in Chiang Mai. The season has been a frustrating mixture of poor displays and promising performances (including a 6-0 win over Khon Kaen FC and this weekend’s 2-1 win over Police Tero). As a result they find themselves just above the relegation zone with a game in hand.

Q – What do you think they can achieve this year?

After the great success of the last two seasons, this should be a year of consolidation. The main objective should be survival, but they could still achieve a mid table position.

Q – And what about long term?

Despite the club having a small fan base and being a new set up, the club ownership is highly ambitious. They are aiming towards T1, and I can see that as a possibility during the next few years.

Q – What is the general consensus on how the club is run?

Again, it’s a small and new club, so some things are lacking – especially publicity and social media. However, the owners are very hands on in terms of getting in players and coaching staff. There isn’t interference from a big sponsor/company owner as in the case with some clubs; JL is a Chiang Mai club run by Chiang Mai people.

Q – What size crowds are they getting and how does the management promote the club in the city?

Attendance has been about 500/600 this season. The management does not promote the club well. In fact JL had crowd sizes over 1,000 towards the end of the 2017 season in T4, but this was when they were playing at the Municipal Stadium/Muang Chiang Mai Stadium/Tessaban in town. They would get bigger crowds if they played there.

Q – What kind of rivalry/relationship do they have with Chiang Mai?

There has been a close relationship, especially last season, when the JL President became President of Chiang Mai FC (and his associates ran JL) and CMFC got promotion. He has now resigned from CMFC as a result of disagreement with Boon Rawd, and has been reinstated as JL President. There are a few CMFC players on loan at JL, but nothing like the situation between CMFC and Chiang Rai Utd/BG Pathum Thani.

There are quite a few fans, and a number of supporter groups such as ‘Chiang Mai Ultras’, who support both teams.

Q – What has been the local reaction to the League Cup draw?

This game and all games are not promoted well and so it’s difficult to see much reaction about the draw. I’m sure there will be more interest in this game though. There are quite a number of local Chonburi fans in Chiang Mai who have been supporters since the ‘early days’. I noticed them at the cup game between CMFC and Chonburi in 2017. They actually sat with local CMFC fans in the main stand, but were clearly cheering Chonburi.

Q – What are you expecting from Wednesday’s match?

If Soares, Erivelto and Machuca click for JL, then they could pose a threat and we could be in for a high scoring and competitive game. If they don’t, then Chonburi should take it comfortably. Soares is on loan from Chiang Mai FC where he was top goal scorer last year, and Erivelto scored 14 for Army last season. Both of them are capable of quality goals (as is Machuca).

Q – What have been your impressions of Chonburi this season?

Based on the Chiang Mai FC game and results/scores in general, it sounds like you can score goals for fun, and let them in for fun too. Perhaps the most exciting team to watch in T1?

Q – Which Chonburi players do you expect to have an impact?

It’s a bit of an obvious answer, but Lukian could continue off with JL Chiang Mai where he left off with Chiang Mai FC.

Q – After our recent defeat against Thai Honda, many of us are fearing the worst. Would a home win really be considered as a giant killing?

Not a ‘giant killing’ but a bit of an upset. JL have some good players, and their present position in T2 is below what they are capable of.

Q – Would you care to make a score prediction?

2-2 at full time, and then 4-2 to Chonburi after extra time.

You can follow Mark on Twitter:‘Chiang Mai Football’ (@chiangmaiball) – Football in and around Chiang Mai

With thanks to Mark

11/5/19 Chonburi v Trat (T1)

Just over a week has passed since that debacle at Thai Honda. Let’s hope we’ve spent the time wisely. Reflecting on our FA Cup exit, working on all those little things that we are constantly getting wrong, studying videos of our next opponents and rebuilding team spirit. It’s a vain hope, I know, but without the hope, what have we got?

I still can’t believe we were dumped out by a bunch of lower league cloggers. And if that sounds like sour grapes, arrogance, or disrespectful, I make no apologies, because that’s what they are. But it’s still no excuse for our own poor performance. And we were woeful. There was no urgency, no desire and for long stretches it looked like we didn’t care. Totally unacceptable, especially from a top flight team against inferior opposition in a competition in which we had a real chance of doing well.

I’d like to think that the players (and management) are still hurting as much as I am after our ignominious defeat. But I doubt it. Watching them line up to be serenaded after the final whistle at the 72nd Anniversary Stadium, you got the impression they’d won the trophy not fallen at the first hurdle. Still, I said my piece on the night and they were left in no uncertain terms how I felt.

Anyway, on to tomorrow. What can we expect: Goals? Probably. Commitment? Possibly. A win? Hopefully. A flat atmosphere? Certainly. Given the choice, I’d take the third of those options. Victory is crucial against Trat and I don’t care how we get it. As much as we’ve all enjoyed the goals flying in, and revelled in the 7-5, the result is everything this weekend. Everything!

Back to back losses and another tricky cup tie to follow on Wednesday, mean that a confidence boosting win is essential. This time a streaky 1-0 will be enough. And wouldn’t it be nice to keep a clean sheet at home in the league. The last time we achieved this was on June 23rd last year, when we stopped Suphanburi from scoring – 11 matches ago.

It’s clear for all to see where our problems are – at the back. However, there really are no signs that the coaching staff know what to do in order to fix things and that is worrying. We can only keep our fingers crossed that Lukian is fit (and stays fit!) so that we at least have a chance to out score our opponents. It’s hardly a well thought out grand plan, but currently, it looks like all we’ve got…

1/5/19 Thai Honda v Chonburi (FA Cup – R1)

Now I realise this is the kind of statement that could easily come back and bite me on the bottom, but I’m going to say it anyway – I think we could do well in the cups this season. The way the team plays – with gay abandon – and the way we are set up, are ideally suited to the format. Our two wins in April – 4-2 at Bangkok Utd and 7 (Seven) – 5 (Five) against Chiang Mai – were more like blood and thunder cup ties than run of the mill league matches and that gives me the confidence to be so bold (Cocky?). A lot will depend on the draws, of course, but if they are kind, I really don’t see why we can’t go all the way in at least one of the knockout competitions.

The management too seem to have finally cottoned on to the fact that these tournaments are our only genuine chance of success these days and appear to be taking them seriously. We fielded full strength sides in every round of the FA Cup and League Cup last year, when we reached the last eight in both. Therefore, I fully expect to see the same level of commitment this time around and this should pay off, especially when we come up against the awful modern phenomena of “weakened teams”.

Our first tie of 2019 offers the perfect opportunity to progress and show we mean business. The phrases “potential banana skin” and “tricky little task” don’t really apply to this fixture and I fully expect us to go through. Providing he’s fit, Lukian should have a field day against Honda’s defence and Patrick Cruz (if selected) will have no better chance of opening his account. I can easily see us scoring three or four this evening.

At the other end, I’m not too concerned about our back line (for once!), as I believe the home side’s attack won’t really pose any threat. And even if they do, I am certain that we will out score them. However, it will be worth keeping an eye on Noppanon and his chums to see if there has been any improvement in this area. It was reported that Jukkapant wasn’t best pleased with them on Sunday and had them in on Monday morning to “work on a few things”. Hmm, we shall see if this has done any good. But at least the penny’s dropped.

So, overall, I’m fairly relaxed about tonight and am looking forward to reacquainting myself with the 72nd Anniversary Stadium, a ground I’ve visited many times over the years. I just hope that I’m not the only one there!

28/4/19 Nakhon Ratchasima v Chonburi (T1)

Match Preview

Here are a few things to look out for today:

Lukian

The league’s leading scorer is on fire and currently looks unstoppable. He’s already being described in some quarters as the “signing of the season”, and who am I to disagree? But how will the Swatcats’ defence deal with him today? Well, if they’ve any sense, they’ll try to nobble him early and put him out of the game. Otherwise, they could be in for a torrid ninety minutes.

Patrick Cruz

Amazingly, the young Brazilian is still to register his first goal for the club. However, he has done a lot of the heavy lifting to allow his more feted compratriot to rocket to the top of the scoring charts. If tonight’s opponents pay too much attention to Lukian, then it could just be the opportunity PC has been waiting for. Ignore him at your peril!

Si Thu Aung

Six appearances and all six of them off the bench. The 22 year old has made an impact coming on for the last twenty minutes of games and has impressed with his ability to run at defences and his crossing. He knows where the net is too. His finish in last Sunday’s twelve goal thriller was sublime and – SPOILER ALERT – is in the running for April’s Goal of the Month. Keep your eyes open for the board going up with 70 minutes on the clock.

Our Defence

Shambolic, chaotic, schoolboyish, Keystone Kopsish, take your pick. I’ve given up hope that it will improve – I’m more certain than ever that they don’t even work on even the basic things in training – but as long as we score one (or two) more than the opposition, I don’t really care. At the rate we’re going, we could be breaking records at both ends this year. That’s entertainment!

The Attendance

Nakhon Ratchasima have been pulling ’em in this season. And although I’m slightly sceptical of the “official” attendance figures, there’s no doubt they are getting decent crowds. As Roger says below, the attractiveness of the opposition plays its part in determining how many will turn up at the 80th Birthday Stadium so we’ll get some idea later of how big a draw our little team is these days. But if the Korat public can’t be bothered to drag themselves along to watch the most entertaining side in the league (37 goals in 8 matches), then there really is no hope.

The Away Fans

Family commitments mean I’m unable to travel today – which is a huge shame, because I love Korat, even though the Sweetheart Disco and Party House are long gone – but I’m expecting a reasonable turnout from my fellow Sharks. This is without doubt one of the best trips of the season and last weekend’s result will hopefully have persuaded a few more Blues to travel to the north east – a journey that is now a lot easier than it was twenty years ago. Just don’t get me started on the destruction of Khao Yai…

NAKHON RATCHASIMA v CHONBURI: True Visions Channel 357 – KO 6:00pm

Interview With An Oppostion Fan

Swatcat fan, Roger Kendall shares his thoughts ahead of Sunday’s league clash.

Q – Please can you introduce yourself

I’m Roger Kendall, 71, from Cornwall, UK and I’m retired.

Q – How long have you been supporting Nakhon Ratchasima?

Nine years.

Q – What first got you into supporting the club?

After leaving Torquay United behind, I needed to watch more football!

Q – What have been the highlights of your time supporting the club so far?

The promotion from the lower leagues.

Q – And any low points?

Turning up at Buriram to watch the game, on the wrong day!

Q – What are your thoughts on how you performed last season?

Mediocre.

Q – How do you feel you have started the season?

We’ve already fallen back after some good results.

Q – So what are your expectations for the rest of this year?

Now reduced from optimism to mediocre.

Q – What are your thoughts on the way your club is run?

I felt the Club had let the interest slip but the crowds have been good again this season.

Q – Your crowds have been impressive this season. Other than winning matches, what do you think the club needs to do to keep people coming to watch? 

Smarten up the match day experience and introduce some pre match entertainment.

Q – Sometimes you will get crowds of 15,000+ and other times struggle to get 3,000. Why do you think this is?

Timing of games – early kick offs are difficult to get to. It can also depend on the attractiveness of the opposition.

Q – What do you think the attendance will be on Sunday?

12,000.

Q – You seem to have everything in place to succeed so how do you think the club will develop from here?

Not sure it will develop – but I do hope to see us improve.

Q – How important is it for cities and clubs the size of Nakorn Ratchasima to be involved in the TPL to help its development?

It is essential, of course.

Q – If you could give your owner/chairman one piece of advice, what would it be?

I’d ask him to repair the bloody clock and thank him for the commitment.

Q – What are your thoughts on your coach?

I’m not a fan of his.

Q – If you could give him one piece of advice, what would it be?  

Work on the team’s confidence and cut the stupid tackles out . . .

Q – He seems to be under a bit of pressure at the moment. What do you expect will happen with him?

He’ll trundle on.

Q – What are your thoughts on your squad?

It has improved this year.

Q – Which of your players do we need to keep an eye out for?

I’m not telling!

Q – What do you know about Chonburi FC? 

Not a lot, but please don’t score 7 again!

Q – Which of our players are you most wary of? 

Don’t know any – sorry.

Q – What are you expecting from the match on Sunday?

A 5-0 win for Nakhon Ratchasima.

With thanks to Roger

21/4/19 Chonburi v Chiang Mai (T1)

Our second opposition fan interview ahead of Sunday’s clash, is with Robert Scott.

Q – Please can you introduce yourself

Robert Scott; born in the UK – left there in 1988 for Canada, then Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, the UAE and back to Thailand. Ex Reuters (though not a journalist); still do some consulting work – mainly financial, corporate, m&a.

Q – How long have you been supporting Chiang Mai FC?

We moved back from Dubai to Chiang Mai in late 2017 so 2018 was my first season watching Chiang Mai and our promotion run.

Q – What first got you into supporting the club?

It is a long way to go to watch Watford!  I used to play reasonably seriously so finding a team that I could connect with has been a great part of living back In Thailand. It is also a fun way to explore the country. Why else would anyone go to Suphanburi – and the folks there were very welcoming!

Q – What have been the highlights of your time supporting the club so far?

The away win at Lampang last season –  in an overcrowded, makeshift stand that had been set aside for away fans and which would fail health and safety inspections anywhere else in the world. A crazy 6-5 win at Angthong – which was the Hiziel Soares show. The game of the season. Promotion after a nail-biting 2-2 draw at Khon Kaen.

Q – Have there been any low points?

Last week’s loss to Chiang Rai Utd was bad – for lots of reasons which had little to do with how the team actually played.

Q – What are your thoughts on how you performed last season?

I don’t think anyone really knew what to expect with a new coach and mostly a new squad. Promotion became a real possibility around mid-season. These were heady times. Chiang Mai had never played in the Thai first division. We even had the team parading around the moat to celebrate promotion. It was a team that worked really hard for each other. And that made them fun to watch.

Q – What are your thoughts on how you’ve started the season?

Back to back wins at home to Ratchaburi (in appalling pollution – that game should have been postponed) and away at Suphanburi showed that we can hold our own against some teams in this league. There are a couple of teams that look strong – Port and of course Buriram Utd. It is hard to separate the remainder all of whom appear capable of beating each other on their day. We lost to Chiang Rai Utd last Friday night but they looked a very average side.

Q – What are your expectations for the rest of this year?

Anything other than relegation would be a successful season. Sorry to sound pessimistic but that is the reality. Sadly the owners appear unconcerned by an immediate return to the Championship.

Q – How do you think the postponements have affected your start to the campaign?

I don’t think there is a choice here. It is nonsense to be playing football or any other sport when the air quality is hazardous. The day after the Ratchaburi game K Thossapol (my favourite defender) posted a picture on social media after he had been awake all night with his young son in hospital. The boy had breathing problems because of the air. Forget football, tv rights etc. The health of players, officials and supporters has to be the priority.

Q – Would you be happy to see fixtures switched so you can keep playing rather than missing games?

There have only been two postponements so far. And the postponed Chiang Rai Utd game has already been played. I doubt there will be more postponements. But I think as soon as the AQI is forecast at 150 or worse then the league and the clubs need to be flexible. Switching fixtures makes sense to me.

Q – What can you tell us about the recent resignation of the chairman and the effect it might have on the remainder of the season?

I don’t know enough of the details. And by kick-off he may even be back at the club. I think it will be tough for him to walk away from Chiang Mai in its first year in the top division.

What did happen is that two days before Friday’s home game against Chiang Rai Utd, the away team, also owned by Boon Rawd, told Chiang Mai that most of their loan players at Chiang Mai (there are nine in total at last count) could not play in the game. Of course it makes little sense to have so many loan players from one club. The Thai FA allows this chaos by permitting  one owner to own a number of clubs. The problem comes when one club is clearly seen as senior to the other. Effectively Chiang Rai Utd (or the club owners) picked our team for us. The Chairman quit.

How destabilizing this is I really do not know. It feels rather like a Thai soap opera. And I never understand those.

Perhaps what is most frustrating about this is that the fans want, and are paying, to see the best players and want to see a competitive match.

Q – So with all this in mind, what are your overall thoughts on the way your club is run?

We were at SCG Muangthong Utd a few weeks ago. It felt like professionals versus amateurs. Muangthong Utd have everything from a real football stadium, to an academy, to vip and corporate hospitality, to an up to date website. It feels like a football club that is connected to it supporters and its sponsors.

By comparison we are amateurs without any of the infrastructure on which the growth of the club can be built. We were poor country cousins on a day out in the big city. Buriram Utd will no doubt be much the same on an even bigger scale.

Just as an example the official Chiang Mai website shows last season’s squad and fixtures. This is the sort of thing that is so easy to fix and requires little investment; just commitment.

Q – What would you like to see introduced to improve things?

Where to start…An official web site that works, is current and is informative – in Thai and English and ideally given the number of tourists in Chiang Mai with fixture and access information in Chinese as well. This applies across all social media.

Pre-match announcements of both teams starting line ups – in Thai and English – and posted on the score board. How hard can that be?

A club store that is in one of Chiang Mai’s main malls rather than out in a distant moo baan.

Removing all the tattered 2018 club banners that are around the city pronouncing “Great on Red” – last season’s rather strange tag line. This year’s tag line is the equally strange “Rise for the City” which makes us sound more like a bakery.

Employ pr/marketing talent to help promote the club in every community in Chiang Mai.

Invite Happy FM – our local English language radio station – to provide an English language match commentary.

Build up an effective football academy and a scouting network that looks for talent across the North.

In my ideal world we would also knock down the 700th anniversary stadium and build a modern football stadium. No running tracks. No jumping pits and fans a few yards rather than binocular distance from the pitch.

At a very minimum invest in renovating the stadium which simply looks tired. Put seats in the three stands with concrete benches. Little things like repairing the perspex and removing the bird crap off the home dugout shelter would suggest that someone actually cares about first impressions!

Q – How do you expect the club develop from here?

It probably won’t. Not while it is part of the Boon Rawd group of clubs. There is no new investment. There is an over –reliance on loan players. The best hope for the club is a change of ownership with new ideas and real investment. However, I do not see a queue forming.

Q – How important is it for clubs from big cities like Chiang Mai to be involved in the TPL to help its development?

The rise of JL Chiang Mai United – and a number of other clubs around the city suggest that there is plenty of enthusiasm for the sport in the city. There is also plenty of precedence for smaller cities (basically anyone outside of Bangkok)  in Thailand to produce very competitive football clubs – Buriram, Chiang Rai and Chainat are good examples.

Q – If you could give your owners one piece of advice, what would it be?

Embrace and connect with your supporters. Social media that talks to the fans and is timely and informative. Better transport connections on match days – run buses from the city’s main malls to the stadium. Chiang Mai is a tourist town; make watching a match a part of that holiday experience. The Chinese, for instance, love their football. But have probably no idea when CMFC has a home match. Make them welcome.

Q – What are your thoughts on your coach?

I like Carlos Parreira a lot. Genuinely decent guy. Has time for the fans. Respectful but committed. And is making what he can out of limited resources. I was happy he stayed on for the 2019 season. I doubt he will be here next year. He will be at a bigger club.  

Q – If you could give him one piece of advice, what would it be?

Bring back Soares. Play three up front with Eviason as the central striker; Soares playing off him as a number 10; and Azadzoy free to go to either wing.

Q – What are your thoughts on your squad?

Sound. Committed. Fit. A bit short on pace. But plenty of heart.

I have no idea why Soares is out on loan at JL Chiang Mai. For many of us he was our player of the season in 2018. Real pace. A goal scorer. And gave 100% plus every game. David Bala was brought in as a replacement and has already left and is not missed.

As for the current team :

Brave young goalkeeper in K. Nont

Solid at the back. Usually a back three of Evson, Thossapol and Suwannaphat.

Expect five across the middle – including the veteran Pichitphong (his fitness is remarkable), the young U-23 international Ekanit (who I don’t think has quite found his form this season) and Gionata.  Chotipat and Surawich are the likely wing backs. There are not enough goals or goal attempts coming from midfield.

Leaving Eviason and Azadozoy up front. Both scored at Suphanburi.

Q – What do you know about Chonburi FC?

You are by the sea – after two months of Chiang Mai pollution that makes me happy.

This is a strange league – you lost badly at Suphanburi and then go and win at Bangkok United. Lukian is clearly the man to stop and that should be a good all Brazilian scrap with Evson.

You are leaking goals at 2 a game this season – worse than any team in the league.

Your crowds are lower than I expected – though no doubt away supporters will as usual be relegated to some distant corner of the stadium.

Q – What are you expecting from the match on Sunday?

It does look like there will be goals. I would take a point.

Q – Would you care to make a score prediction?

2-2. Because I want that point and there should be goals.

Q – How many Chiang Mai fans can we expect to see in “some distant corner of the stadium”?

It is a weekend by the sea – so we may have 200+

Q – Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks for asking me. I fear I have done a disservice to others who know far more about Chiang Mai FC than I do, or ever will. I hope they forgive me!

With thanks to Robert

Chiang Mai fan, Clive Nagington, shares his thoughts on Sunday’s fixture.

Q – Please can you introduce yourself

Hello. I am Clive, 38 years old, originally from the shire of Leicester, home of Premier League Champions 2015/2016. I am now an exiled fan of the Lanna Tigers, working as a training manager for a 4* Hotel in Bangkok.

Q – How long have you been supporting Chiang Mai FC?

For around 10 years now, since the localized 3rd Division North days.

Q – What have been the highlights of your time supporting the club?

Without doubt the 2-2 away draw that secured promotion to the top flight. Many people doubted Carlos’s ability after a poor start, but he came through.

Q – Have there been any low points?

Countless restarts and changing ownership! Prior to our promotion, the club felt rudderless. Hopefully those days are long gone! Relegation in 2011 set the club back a bit too.

Q – What are your expectations for this year?

I actually think mid table is achievable. Although everyone will settle for 4th bottom

Q – What are your thoughts on how you’ve started the season?

As I live in Bangkok now, I have not seen all matches. However, I felt we matched Muangthong United away. The win at Supanburi and our first home win against an established first division side, Ratchaburi both bode well. The only thing that will separate us in terms of mixing it with the big boys will be fitness. You can see we fade in the last twenty minutes.

Q – How do you think the postponements have impacted your start to the season?

To be honest they will keep us fresh. Playing in this pollution isn’t good for anyone and could affect the team in future matches so it was the right decision to postpone the fixtures.

Q – Would you be happy to see fixtures switched so you can keep playing rather than missing games?

Any other league around the world, with any credibility, would not switch a fixture. It simply would be postponed.

Q – What are your thoughts on the way your club is run?

When compared to some clubs, in seems the owners allow the manager to actually manage and not join him on the sidelines.

Q – What can you tell us about the recent resignation of the chairman and the effect it might have on the season?

I can’t see the change in owner having an effect on results just yet. Carlos still has some credit in the bank.The whole fiasco appears to be down to the nine loan players we have at the club from Chiang Rai Utd (last Friday’s opponents). Most loan agreements around Europe never allow players to play against their parent club. It would seem that Chiangrai FC insisted on this in the week leading up to the game. This caused the chairman to throw his toys out the pram and resign due to the lack of sportsmanship. Midfielder, Mustapha was one of several told he was ineligible and the keeper, on load from Bangkok Glass was also told he couldn’t play, due to the owner also having shares in Chiang Rai Utd.

This all smacks of 3rd party and even 4th party ownership having an effect on the integrity of the league and needs looking at. Nine players on loan is also a daft amount to have for a top flight club in any league around the world. In the end four of the nine players did play.

Q – How important is it for clubs from cities the size of Chiang Mai to be involved in the TPL to help its development?

Massively! You saw the massive crowd of 18k + at Korat the weekend before last. I feel very sorry for Pattaya Utd, another big city club, having their football team ripped away from beneath their feet and hope a phoenix club is set up for them to return.

Q – How do you think the club will develop from here?

Well, it took around five or six years in the old Div 2 to get to this point. Consolidation in this league has to be the main aim for the next two or three years. A cup run would be great, mind you!

Q – If you could give your senior management one piece of advice, what would it be?

Stay in the stands, do not join the manager on the sidelines.

Q – What are your thoughts on your coach?

Carlos has been great. Not too many foreign coaches succeed in Thai football. Mano Polking of Bangkok United is an exception to this rule. You simply have to adapt to how a Thai club is run. The likes of Sven and Robbie Fowler lasted five minutes, as the owners have far more control than in Europe. Thankfully, our owners have left Carlos to run the show so far. He made a tricky call to tell David Bala to sling his hook. You need to make tough calls at this level to succeed.

Q – If you could give him one piece of advice, what would it be?

Keep doing what you’re doing. Just raise those fitness levels so we can cope with the big boys. Show no mercy to those who want to rock the boat.

Q – What are your thoughts on your squad?

Bala’s (rightful) departure could leave us a bit short up front. So there is a lot of pressure on Eliandro to score. Defensively I think we are a bit weak, but Nont, our Goalkeeper, has performed well so far. Mustafa is a lynchpin in our midfield and played well against Muangthong Utd. If he stays clear of injury this season we should be fine.

Q – What do you know about Chonburi FC?

Not a great deal, I’m afraid. Back in the day they were up there challenging, from what I remember. But now struggling. Your coach Jukkapant looked like he might have been off earlier in the season, and giving his best glum faced Mourniho impression after the Supanburi defeat, but winning away at Bangkok United and a home win against Prachuap, shows the board did the right thing not pulling the trigger.

Q – What are you expecting from the match on Sunday?

An away win.

Q – Would you care to make a score prediction?

2-1 to Chiangmai.

Q – What sort of away following can we expect?

Hmmm, with the match being on a Sunday, anything over 200 will be a good turnout. We might struggle to make three figures, to be honest.

Q – Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I am an avid follower of the Thailand national team and pray they reach the World Cup in my ltime here, as the hysteria will be something to truly drink in. Sadly due to the arrogance of the Thai FA, I feel Vietnam have overtaken us by adopting foreign coaching set ups and systems and have far more chance of becoming the first side from South East Asia to qualify for the World Cup, since Indonesia (As Dutch East Indies) in 1938.

With thanks to Clive

7/4/19 Sukhothai v Chonburi (T1)

Two wins in four days, seven goals scored and we’re out of the bottom three. I think it’s fair to say it’s been a good week. The question now is: can we keep it up? The simple answer is: I don’t know, but I hope so.

Whilst there have certainly been encouraging signs in the past seven days, I think it’s fair to say that some of the old problems still remain. Apart from looking like we lined up as an obvious 4-4-2 in the first half against Prachuap, there are times when it’s impossible to see exactly what our formation is. Players wander about all over the field and don’t really seem to know where they’re supposed to be or what they are doing. And this is a worry. We need to have a clear plan and one that suits the personnel.

Another concern is how we let teams come onto us. It was very nearly our undoing in the second half last Sunday and I don’t understand why we did it. We had a well deserved two goal lead and the momentum was with us. It was a strange decision to sit back and try to defend, especially with our back line.

I’ll concede that it worked – to some extent – against Bangkok Utd, and was possibly justified, but it was still a risky thing to do. I said in my match report that we didn’t leave anyone up when defending corners, and this was baffling. We need an “out” in these situations and we didn’t have one. This led to a situation where the ball was constantly coming back to us and putting pressure on our defence. This is something that needs addressing.

It is because of these flaws that I’m still far from convinced that Jukkanpant is the right man for the job. Watching him on the sidelines can be quite painful at times. He barely moves and hardly says a word. I don’t necessarily want him to be leaping around like a maniac, but a bit of movement would be nice to see.

It is noticeable that Pipob has become more animated in recent games and he is the one who will shout at the team from the technical area. Maybe it’s a good cop/bad cop thing they’ve agreed in their management meetings or maybe Mo has decided to take on the role himself. Either way, I’m glad we’re seeing some encouragement from the sidelines. With a decent coach, this squad could (could) be challenging near the top of the table. I haven’t really seen anything to be scared of this season and all the trophies are up for grabs. But we need to act quickly, if we are serious about winning something.

As for today, another win would be wonderful. Confidence must be sky high, there is a renewed optimism in the camp and the players have battled well over the previous 180 minutes. A repeat of the most recent performances, against an uninspiring looking Sukhothai side could see us making the long journey home with three points. I only hope that we can build on the foundations laid against Prachuap and Bangkok Utd and by 8:00pm I’m really regretting not having made the trip.

TV: True 4U & True Sport HD3 – KO 6:00pm

3/4/19 Bangkok Utd v Chonburi (T1)

Bangkok Utd fans, Matt and Svein share their thoughts on Wednesday’s match.

Why do you think you’ve made a relatively poor start to the season?

Matt: Two wins, two draws and one silly defeat to Buriram Utd , it’s fair to say we have started slowly, but I wouldn’t say poorly. The new system is taking some time to get used to, and players still need to gel. We haven’t created enough chances and we are almost unable to turn large amounts of possession into quality chances. Mika & Vander Luis are also two of the natural starters and both are out, on what look like long term injuries. Both are massive losses right now if we’re trying to get a settled eleven.

Svein: I will put the blame on the two tournaments the national team played from November to the end of January. We had several players away for most of pre-season because of this. Firstly, they missed a much needed break away from football and then they missed important time preparing for the new season with the rest of the squad at the club.

What do you think needs to be done to turn things around?

M: We need to be more creative out of midfield and from the wings. We have a proven striker who scores goals for fun, but he’s not quite getting the service he needs. We also have to stop making silly mistakes, where we are getting punished quickly. We are also devoid of leaders. There’s no one out there right now that’s a grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck, and driving us forward – unless it’s contesting a refereeing mistake, then we have about 8 candidates. Refereeing is another subject …

S: We need to start scoring goals. Defensively we have done well, conceding only 3 goals, so if the goals start coming, we will be getting points and be up there.

There have been murmurings in the press that Mano’s position is under threat. Is he still the right man for the job or has he taken you as far as he can?

M: For me, yes. It’s difficult to see from the sidelines, but I hope he is really getting stuck into some of the players for a lot of wasteful passes & simple mistakes. It’s embarrassing that anyone should even be mentioning his job position with only one loss in five, but that’s where football has gone. For me he’s mostly picking the right players. Some have really performed for him, some are still bedding in, and some need to do more.

S: Yes! He has done a fantastic job at the club so far, and I believe he will get the team to perform again. It`s only been five games, so no need to panic and make changes. With all the new players we`ve got, and having the best squad ever, I`m sure Mano will feel some pressure, but I`m also sure he can handle that. But having said that, as a coach you need results, and if this season doesn`t end the way we hope, the club might have a decision to make.

Which of your players have impressed you the most so far?

M: Falkesgaard has been incredible this season, best keeper in the league by a country mile. Thossawat has played well, as have Anon & Do. Pokklaw is starting to get back to some of his better football, and Everton still looks assured at the back. Bonilla has had minimal service, but scores when he gets it.

S: Falkesgaard has been great so far.

And which players haven’t performed to your expectations?

M: Dechmitr. For me he needs to be doing a lot more for the team and doing it a lot more simply.

S:  Those who are supposed to score the goals, or create goals for others.

What have been your impressions of Chonburi so far this season?

M: I’ll be honest, Dale, I haven’t seen much of Chonburi yet this season. Obviously with one win in five you haven’t had the best starts. That said, the 90th minute winner at the weekend will send you into Wednesday’s game with more confidence. You took a point off Buriram Utd and beat Prachuap so there are at least some positives.

S: I watched Chonburi away to Buriram Utd and thought they would be high up the table if they continued that way. After that I`ve only watched part of the games against Port and Prachuap, when Chonburi varied from great to poor in different parts. They have played some great attacking football while I`ve been watching, but also displayed some really poor defending. Hopefully they will get better and climb the table, but not until after Wednesday`s game!

Which of our players have impressed you?

M: Lukian.

S: I don’t know.

What are you expecting from Wednesday’s match?

M: With Bangkok Utd needing a win and Chonburi buoyed by the weekend, I’m expecting an open game. I think this could be our turning point though, so I’m going with 3-0 to us (Bonilla, Pokklaw and Everton).

S: I expect a win, but sadly not a repeat of the 7-2 win in 2017.

What are your expectations for the rest of Bangkok United’s season?

M: We have two games in four days at home, not season deciders just yet, but anything less than six points will be deemed disappointing. For me the absolute biggest bonus is that we are not getting beaten, and all the ingredients are there for a super team, and great squad depth. We just aren’t cooking it correctly now, but once the recipe is perfected, we’ll be a constant threat. A trophy needs to come this season. It’s more likely to be a cup, but I still feel the league is well within our grasp, if we get some better refereeing decisions.

S: If we get six points this week, which we really need in order to keep most fans believing that we can win something, then we are up and running this season. I still believe that we can win the league, but Buriram Utd might be too strong again. I don`t see any other contenders. If we win one of the cups and finish the season just behind Buriram Utd, then it will be a great season.

Your first two home games have attracted big crowds? Why do you think this is and can you keep it up for the rest of this season?

M: Two big crowds against the two biggest teams in the league. I think the signings we made have helped, and there’s a lot more going on pre game to entice people to the stadium. We have to keep the ethic of playing attractive entertaining football and I think the crowds will keep coming.

 S: We have played the big two already and the away fans were at least a third of the attendance, but there`s no doubt more fans than ever have been there to watch Bangkok United. We saw against Hanoi that more fans were interested this season, with more than 5,300 in the stands. The expectations have been high due to the new signings we`ve made, and fans are believing this might be the season we win something.

The games against Chonburi have also had higher attendances than most home games in previous seasons, so I expect 5,000+ on Wednesday. If we do well and are in a real fight for trophies, we might see 4,000+ for most games, but if we get further behind Buriram Utd, and maybe others, I expect the attendances to drop to what we`ve seen in previous seasons. Playing at Thammasat makes it easy for many to have an excuse not to attend if the team don`t perform.

With thanks to Matt and Svein

31/3/19 Chonburi v Prachuap (T1)

Interview with Prachuap fans, Martin and Alan.

Q – Please can you introduce yourselves

Martin: I’m Martin, age 43, from the UK. I moved to Thailand in the 1990s, now living in Bangsaphan.

Alan: I’m Alan. 70 years old. Retired. From Cornwall, UK. Now living in Prachuap Khiri Khan.

Q – How long have you been supporting Prachuap FC?

M: Since 2014.

A: Since 2015.

Q – What first got you into supporting the club?

M: A group of us went to Prachuap for a road trip and decided to take in a match. I loved the atmosphere and excitement of it and followed the team from then.

A: Pure coincidence. I decided to live in Prachuap. The supporting of the club was automatic. I love football, and the town I chose to live in Thailand, had a football team.

Q – What have been the highlights of your time supporting the club so far?

M: Moving up two divisions in such a short time and reaching the top of the league.

A: Gaining  promotion in 2017. Plus beating Muangthong 6-1 at home in the 2018 season.

Q – And have there been any low points?

M: There was some violence during a match with Hua Hin a couple of years ago, which was unpleasant for both sides.

A: There have been no low points to complain about.

Q – What are your thoughts on how you performed last season?

M: Impressed – to finish sixth in our first season in league one was a great achievement.

A: Great 2018 first season in the top league. Finished 6th in the table. Took many big scalps at home.

Q – And what are your expectations for this year?

M: Top five, hopefully.

A: The priority is to stay in the top league. Not to get relegated. I would also like to see a good cup run; FA Cup and League Cup

Q – What are your thoughts on how you’ve started the season?

M: Beating Buriram Utd would have made it four out of four, but we’re still top at the moment so can’t complain!

A: Awesome. Top of the league. Can we keep it going? Early days yet, but for now, we have made history! Above Buriram Utd.

Q – What do you need to do to maintain your current form and build on your start?

M: Keep going with the same formula – it seems to be working at the moment.

A: Avoid injuries to key players if we can, but that is something one cannot plan for. That is what can make or break results. We also need to improve our away form this season. Last season we were nearly unbeatable at home, but looked a different team on the road

Q – Do you think the rest of the league is taking your challenge seriously? And if not, should we be?

M: For sure. Prachuap were the rookies last season, but we’ve beaten the top teams (except Buriram Utd) and providing form remains, a repeat could see us challenge for the top, if Buriram Utd slip up.

A: I do not think we can be judged on just a few games. Although it is great being where we are at the moment, there is a long way to go. However, I do think that after last season, many clubs will know they are in for a tough encounter on our home turf.

Q – What are your thoughts on the way your club is run?

M: I’m not too familiar with what goes on in the background, but the results on the field matter and we seem to be getting those at the moment.

A: I have no problem except for the public toilets. Outdated and need big revamp. Have not been upgraded in years.

Q – Is there anything that the club doesn’t already do that you’d like to see introduced?

M: The club has a growing number of farang supporters so announcements and updates in English would be great for them. It may also grow the foreign fan base in high season.

A: Employ stewards. Ensuring people keep to their allocated seats and stop people sitting on and blocking the stairs.This to me is a health and safety problem. Apart from the guys at the entrance to the stadium, no one is inside the ground coordinating control.

Q – If you could give your owner/chairman one piece of advice, what would it be?

M: Get the men’s toilets in the stadium fixed!

A: Take the cup competitions more seriously this season. Last season we put out weaker teams in the first round of both FA Cup and League Cup and got knocked out. It is not just about league survival. Of course that status is important, but you have to aim higher than that.

Q – What are your thoughts on your coach?

M: He seems to be doing the right things at the moment.

A: I like him. He is always very approachable and friendly to me after each game. I also rate him highly professionally. He got us promotion, and we’re currently top of the league. At present, the recipe is good

Q – And your squad?

M: The squad changes every year and there are not many players from last season. From what I’ve seen so far, the defence has improved immensely and our two forwards link up well.

A: So far so good. I was disappointed at Jonatan Reis leaving, but the new Brazilian, Caion, is in the same mould. In general, with our other new signings both in defence and attack, I have no complaints. However, the season has only just started. I may differ my opinion a few months down the line

Q – If you could give your coach one piece of advice, what would it be?

M: Keep it up!

A: It’s not yet broken so no need to fix it. Keep up the good work, coach. Just be a wee bit more ambitious when we play the opposition on their turf.

Q – What do you know about Chonburi FC?

M: Not a great deal.

A: I was impressed with Chonburi FC at Buriram Utd this season. Getting a point there is normally a celebration. I felt Buriram Utd were lucky. Chonburi deserved to win. Since then however, I am surprised to see their performances slip away, and now find themselves in the drop zone.

Q – What are you expecting from Sunday’s match?

M: Our away performance has been good so far (again except Buriram Utd) so a win would be the target, in order to maintain our momentum at the top.

A: I am expecting Chonburi to give it their all to turn their recent bad form around. From PT Prachuap, I am expecting a positive approach on the road. Being top of the table should make them up their game

Q – Which of your players do we need to keep an eye out for?

M: No 7, Matheus Alves. He is a workhorse and playmaker, a lot of the opportunities we create come from him.

A: Alves and Caion are forming a good strike partnership up front. That is where the goals will come from. Our captain, Adul is a workaholic and will be all over the park. Adnan (22), at the back, is an unsung hero from last season. Strong defender, reads the game well. Our new signing, Achem (16), has started well in defence alongside Adnan.

Q – Which of our players are you most wary of and why?

M: I’m not too familiar with your squad, but your lead scorer, Worachit, could be dangerous, especially at home.

A: Lukian and Cruz I would imagine. If the Brazilian flair happens on the day, they could be the two to hurt us. I am not yet familiar with the whole squad.

Q – How many fans do you think you will bring?

M: I would estimate 100-150. The away support is a hardcore little group – they will make a lot of noise!

A: Not sure how many, but you will definitely see and hear them. In their bright orange, and with their drums banging.

Q – Would you care to make a score prediction?

M: 1-2 to Prachuap!

A: Chonburi 1-2 PT Prachuap

Q – Is there anything else you’d like to add?

M: Enjoy the game, good luck!

A: Thank you, Dale. It’s my pleasure.

With thanks to Martin and Alan

16/3/19 Suphanburi v Chonburi (T1)

It’s been a fairy tale start to the season for Chonburi – Grimm! And I fear it’s about to get worse. For even though we have a good record away at Suphanburi – unbeaten in eight visits – and they are yet to record a win this season – three draws from three matches – I feel they’ll be too strong for us today.

They have a decent looking attack that will cause problems for our shaky backline. Some of the defending against Port last week was comical, but none of us were laughing. We really need to tighten up in this area. Do they ever work on this during training? It certainly doesn’t look like it. The players don’t know where to go, when to come back, when to move out and no-one is telling them. It’s a shambles. But it’s not our only problem.

After a promising start at Buriram our campaign has already come off the rails and all the more of the old faults have resurfaced. The lack of cohesion, no discernable tactics, a coach who looks completely out of his depth and a shortage of players who are prepared to get stuck in. It’s all so familiar to those of us who’ve been watching for the past few years and we’re sick of it. The “cautious optimism” of pre season has well and truly evaporated and we are staring down the barrel of another seven months of despair.

There is one way to fix things – and we all know what that is – but as the senior management are unlikely to make changes in the dugout, and present incumbent seems unlikely to walk, it looks like we are stuck with what we’ve got. Which is shame. I do believe this current squad has potential, but it needs someone to get the best out of it. Sadly, Jukkapunt is not that person. Surely there must be someone out there who is available who can come in and turn things around. Now is the time to start looking, or I feel I’ll be rewriting this preview over and over and over again throughout the year.

TV: True Sport HD3 – Kick off 6:00pm

8/3/19 Chonburi v Port (T1)

Match preview by Sam Mosley

With the dust finally settling on last week’s game, my first home league match, I couldn’t help but be extremely frustrated.

We seemed to keep one up front all the game, with a defensive formation, even with the two Brazilians on the pitch.

I thought our substitution of Rittipan was a strange one, as his tricky feet had got us into some decent positions in the first half.

However, something that cannot be blamed on the coach is the lack of finishing and the final decision making in the opponent’s box.

All that said and done, I do think we were the superior team and that stands us in good stead for Friday’s game.

I am looking forward to going. In our previous game against Port I thought we were the better side, but got beaten easily in the end (there seems to be a pattern emerging) and we did play some great football.

We have the ability to open teams up with some one touch stuff, which is a joy to watch at times.

Port seems to have made a better start than we have, but it’s very early days. Not having conceded in either of their opening matches would suggest they will be hard to break down, but they have only scored one goal in two games and that is a good sign for us.

I was very happy to read that our South Korean general, Hyun- Beom is back. I truly believe he will make a massive difference for us and hopefully we can create some chances for Lukian and/or Cruz.

It would be nice to see Kroekrit showing some quality and another good performance from Rittipan should help us see off Port and get the first win registered.

See you all there Friday. COME ON, THE SHARKS!

With thanks to Sam

TV: True 4U, True Sport HD2 & True Sport 2 – Kick off 8:00pm

2/3/19 Chonburi v Samut Prakan City (T1)

This weeks’s match preview comes courtesy of Samut Prakan City fan, Phil Williams.

Q – Please can you introduce yourself

My name is Philip Williams and I’m an increasingly creaky 54 years of age. I hail from the wonderful city of Birmingham in England. I run the popular Ajarn.com website for teachers but I also spend a lot of time pottering around in the garden. I’m semi-retired you might say. 

Q – Why did you decide to start supporting Samut Prakarn City?

I started to develop a keen interest in Thai football just last season but didn’t really have a team to follow. I thought briefly about joining all the other expats at Port FC because it’s the closest ground to my home in Samut Prakarn – but it just didn’t feel right. 

Then the football gods shone down on me and along came Samut Prakarn City FC. A new club, a new era and I can be there right from the start of it. I’m sympathetic towards what happened to Pattaya United, of course I am – no one likes to lose their beloved football club – but none of what’s happened is my fault.  

Q – What would you say to others to encourage them to go along and support the new club?

Well, I was there on Saturday night for the first home game against Chiang Mai and the atmosphere was brilliant. Even my wife thoroughly enjoyed the occasion and she’s not really a great football fan. I think every genuine Samut Prakarn fan who was there on Saturday had a brilliant time. Let’s hope there are many more great times ahead but we will only do it if the genuine fans turn up and support us through thick and thin.    

Q – What were your first impressions of your new club?

It’s been a race against time to get ready for the new season and we’re still far from ready. The stadium management on Saturday was pretty awful. Season ticket holders didn’t know where to sit, many fans turned up early to buy tickets only to be told they had sold out. The players did us proud on the pitch but we were badly let down by the management. However, I hear this is a common occurrence in Thai football so I shouldn’t get too downhearted

Q – If you could give the club owners any advice, what would it be?

Hire a proper stadium manager. Someone who can organise things and who knows what they are doing. At the moment we clearly don’t have such a person. And please make the replica shirts available for purchase. I was watching Muang Thong’s game on Sunday night on TV and virtually everyone in the crowd was wearing a Muang Thong shirt. We want club shirts too!  

Q – What were your impressions of your new team?

Very impressed. I’ll admit we were a bit shaky in defence but going forward, we had at least four players with skill, strength and a good footballing brain. Perhaps this is a team with a ‘you score four and we’ll score five’ mentality? I was particularly impressed with the two Brazilians – Carlao and Ibsen Melo. These two guys can play football.   

Q – And the coach?

I don’t really have an opinion on this Dale because I don’t know a lot about him and haven’t done much research. He looked very animated and passionate during the win over Chiang Mai so I’ll take that as a positive for now. 

Q – What are your expectations for the team this season?

That’s a tough one. I’m buzzing after a great 3-2 home win but it’s only one game – and on paper, it was a victory against possibly the weakest side in the Thai Premier so I shouldn’t get too carried away. Before Saturday’s game I would have been delighted with a top half finish but now having seen the team play, I’m daring to dream and hoping for a top five spot. Even more so now I’ve seen how poorly some of last season’s top teams performed in their opening games. 

This is is going to be a tough and competitive league this year, especially now it’s down to just 16 teams.  

Q – What sort of match are you expecting on Saturday?

Well, I f***ing hope it’s better than the 90 minutes I witnessed last season between Chonburi and Suphanburi. It’s different when your own team is playing though isn’t it? I’m just hoping for an open, attacking match (with Samut Prakarn doing all the attacking) and for the mighty Sea Fang to silence ‘The Curve of Shark’. Or I’ll settle for a backs-to-the-wall, bodies-on-the-line battling away point.  

Q – Other than the two you’ve already mentioned, which of your other players should we look out for?

Peeradol, the club captain, seems to be a great favourite among the Thai fans and he got the man-of-the-match award on Saturday despite missing a penalty. But yes, he was often the man pulling the strings in midfield. I also liked Picha, an attacking midfielder with great hair, who scored with a sublime lob from the edge of the box against Chiang Mai, when most Thai attackers (certainly in matches I’ve watched in the past) would have hoofed it into the next post code. Lovely composure from a young man. 

And there’s the man from Slovenia – defender Aris Zarifovic. Hard as nails, he looks like a guy who eats a hearty breakfast of iron filings and then spends the rest of the day in sub-zero temperatures, pulling trucks with his teeth. Be afraid, Be very afraid. LOL He popped up to head the winner in our first game and he’s going to be a danger from set pieces. ♫♫♫ Aris is on fire ♫♫ your defence is terrified ♫♫  

Q – What do you know about Chonburi?

I know that you won the Thai Premier League when football boots were only available in black and goalkeepers were allowed to smoke pipes during the match. Only joking Dale, you won the league about ten years ago right? but since then Chonburi have lost their way a little. But they always consider themselves a top six club right? From what I’ve read online, it sounds like you’ve considerably strengthened the team for this season and there’s an air of cautious optimism about the place.       

Q – Are there any of our players that you are wary of?

Worachit Kanitsribampen. The very mention of his name strikes fear into the heart of opposing fans. Assuming he’ll play at the weekend, we’ll have to set Zarifovic on him – once we’ve taken his chains off. If you’ve never seen a rottweiler on a postman, then I’d strongly advise you to get down to Chonburi on Saturday.  

Q – I know you’ve visited Chonburi Stadium once before, as a neutral, what were your impressions then and what are you expecting as an away fan this time?

I don’t want to come off as the bloke who walks into your new house and immediately starts criticizing your curtains but I thought the Chonburi stadium looked in need of some serious TLC. It was all a bit rusty and frayed at the edges (We have had work done during the close season and it does look a bit tidier now – Ed). But hey! our stadium looks like its cobbled together from chicken wire and gecko spit so who am I to criticize? At least you’ve got a club shop that sells replica shirts and a seat numbering system that f***ing works! 

And if you cast your mind back to when I came Dale, there was a big World Cup game the same night so loads of fans stayed at home to watch it on TV. I remember the infamous ‘Curve of Shark’ being virtually empty. This weekend will be different though. It’s your first home game and you’re up against attractive opposition (snigger!) If I don’t get there at silly ‘o’ clock, I might not even get in.   

Q – Have the club laid on any transport for travelling fans and how have they been advertising the game?

Hahahahahaha. (Phil takes a swig of coffee from his favourite mug) hahahahahaha.  Not that I know of. 

Then again, there might be a dozen coachloads of old age pensioners who have never seen a football match in their lives. Those who have been following my unofficial Samut Prakarn blog will know what I mean. 

Q – So, how many visiting fans do you think we can expect?

Seriously though, it’s only an hour and a bit down the road. Wouldn’t it be absolutely brilliant – and I mean absolutely brilliant – if we could pack out that away end and sing our hearts out for the lads. A thousand supporters, all waving banners, beating drums, and at the same time wondering if team shirts are ever going to be made available. 

Q – And how much noise will they make?

Well I’ll be on the Samut Prakarn Facebook page this week teaching our Thai fans the words to ♫♫ this is a library, this is a library ♫♫ and also ♫♫ jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way, oh what fun is to see the Sea Fang win away ♫♫ 

And you don’t hear ♫♫ you’re supposed to be at home ♫♫ much these days either. It’s about time we brought that one back.  

Learn English with Phil’s working class football songs. It’s going to be big. I tell ya that now.  

Q – Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I might get some flak for this, but I genuinely care about and I’m buzzing more with excitement about Chonburi v Samut Prakarn than I was about Man United v Liverpool at Old Trafford yesterday. 

Some of my greatest memories are from watching football in England. Standing in the away end at Villa Park on a Wednesday night in The League Cup (I used to work Saturdays unfortunately) or catching trains and buses to far flung places like Middlesbrough and Brighton, usually to watch Man United lose. 

Having a season ticket for a local team is one thing but making plans to watch them away at the likes of Chonburi, Ratchaburi, Suphanburi, etc just feels magical. It feels like the old days are back. I feel young again. You know what I mean? I’ve almost completely given up on eating meals. 

See you on Saturday Dale. Even though we’ll be on opposite sides, it’s always a great pleasure to meet up with you.   

TV: True Sport HD3 – Kick off 6:00pm

Phil’s Samut Prakan City Blog 

With thanks to Phil 

23/2/19 Buriram Utd v Chonburi (T1)

There seems to be a wave of optimism sweeping through the club just now. Some promising new signings, a surge in season ticket sales, reduced price replica shirts and the goodwill generated by Pipob’s testimonial have all contributed to what can only be described as the feelgood factor. And it’s rather pleasant.

Even pundits and fans of other clubs have picked up on it and many are proclaiming that we will enjoy our best season since the “Nearly Double” of 2014. Exciting times indeed. However, I would advise that we exercise a certain amount of caution here and don’t get too carried away.

Other than the match against Sanfrecce Hiroshima, I feel our pre season preparation has been rather poor. Apart from the aforementioned JLeague Challenge match, the games I saw amounted to little more than glorified training sessions. The players weren’t really tested and only Lukian and Park Hyun-Beom looked like they were using the opportunity to ready themselves for the big kick off.

It was also difficult to form an impression of how we will line up in the forthcoming campaign. Even last weekend’s final warm up was extremely low key; so much so that I spent the best part of the ninety minutes discussing urban redevelopment, with the bloke sitting next to me. Yes, it was that bad!

Another thing that concerns me, as we head into the toughest opening fixture we could have been given, is that what I consider to be our strongest starting XI hasn’t yet played together and that is purely down to bad management. I only hope we aren’t regretting it at 9:00pm today.

As for our opponents, well, they’ve been going through something of a transition over the past couple of months. They were far from convincing during their recent Champions Cup win against Chiang Rai Utd and, even though their owner has been spouting his usual bluster, it does appear to be more from habit than with any real conviction.

They’ve also lost a couple of their best players and, by all accounts, their departures weren’t exactly amicable. Would it be uncharitable of me to hope that these defections point at some underlying problems at the Thunder Castle and that we can take confidence from that? No. Of course not. I hope the cracks are there and we can exploit them this evening. Would that be luvverly!

TV: True 4U & True Sport HD2 – Kick off 7:00pm