Thursday, 5 August 2010
Muangthong United Vs Thai Port - preview and fan interview
The meeting between Mangthong United and Port Authority of Thailand this Sunday is likely to be very different from the reverse fixture.
Last time the two sides clashed, Port were still serving their three game home ground suspension. The match took place at the Supalachasalai Stadium less than twenty four hours after horrific clashes between red shirt protesters and the military. Muangthong won the game with relative ease.
Things have changed. Thailand is in a state of relative, if superficial, calm, Muangthong have taken a strong hold on the title race, Thai Port have witnessed a remarkable turnaround in fortunes that has seen them move up to fifth place in the table. Both sides have also defied the nay-sayers to progress to the last eight of the AFC Cup.
Your blogger will be taking up his position right next to the visiting fans on Sunday, but as usual I wanted to speak to some of them before the game to pick their brains. I conversed with Marco of the Thai Port blog and his fellow fan Jaranuwat. This is what they had to say.....
1) What's been the secret to the turnaround in form?
J - In the past, we had lots of new players and our manager Sasom Pobprasert tried to find the correct plan for the team. In all games our players have worked hard, but we have now tuned up the team to make superb form. We are unbeaten in last 7 TPL games.
There are two things that have helped our form improve. 1. We can play at home PAT Stadium after 3 match ban. It is welcome back home for us. 2. We have great supporters. They are ready to encourage our team home and away whether we win or lose.
M - I think there are few reasons really. There is no doubt that the AFC Cup was a big distraction earlier in the season, so maybe we took our eye off the TPL as a result. Once we got the AFC Cup group stage games out of the way, Sasom was able to be a lot more consistent with his team selections, which has given the side a lot more solidity. Since we last played Muangthong, we have kept 9 clean sheets in 14 TPL games, which shows how strong we have been defensively.
2) There seems to be some serious problems with funding going on at the club. What's the latest on that? How can the corporate owner of a club suddenly stop funding them? Wouldn't that entitle the club to change their name if they wish?
J - Now we get funding of around 50 million baht from sponsors Adidas and FB Battery. That has helped very much. If corporate owners of the club suddenly stop the funding, I think Mr Pichet Mankong CEO of Thai Port FC will try and find new sponsors or try to find corporate take over of Thai Port. I think the club will never change name. Thai Port FC forevermore...
M - I'm not entirely certain what is going on at the moment. The club was given some extra funds by the sponsors to avert the cash flow problems, but what will happen in the long term is unclear at the moment. Funding from Port Authority seems to have stopped, so that leaves us in a difficult situation if we want to remain a competitive TPL team in the future. Private investment could be the only solution to the problem. Would that mean them changing the name of the team? I hope not!
3) How can Thai Port grow and improve as a club?
J - Similar to the previous question, it is difficult for development if State Enterprises control Thai Port FC. We will find new sponsor or corporate company to help disconnect us from Port Authority of Thailand. They did not approve budget for improvement to Stadium which made the debt for Thai Port FC.
M - I think the key is to sort out the way the club is funded, be it through Port Authority or private sector investment. On the field, things are going very well at the moment. We have a good manager, good backroom staff and a very decent squad, so I think we have a solid foundation to build on if everything else gets sorted out.
4) Any transfer targets you would like the club to go for?
J - It's enough for this season when team signed Christian Ayew Egba from Osotspa M-150 Saraburi. He will be a big addition in our attack. In future, the team want a backup right back for Rangsan Iam-Virot because he has played a full season so far. We will also want some midfielder and striker.
M - Not really. We have 2 decent players in every position, so I'm quite happy with all our current players. If you were to twist my arm, I'd say we perhaps need a little bit more bite in midfield, so if we signed Issawa Singthong from Dong Thap FC (Vietnam) I wouldn't complain.
5) Both MTU and TP have done remarkably well in the AFC Cup, isn't that fantastic? What chance an all-Thai final? How would TP fans feel about that?
J - It is fantastic and very unexpected for for both teams to be in Quarter Finals, when both team have first time in AFC Cup. That would be a great match If both team face each other in the Final!
M - Yes, both teams have done very well to get this far. We were both underdogs in the Round of 16, but we produced great performances away from home to get in the Quarter Finals. I have no doubt that Port & MTU's future opponents will be very way of us. Having said all that, I don't like it when teams from the same country meet in continental competitions, so I don't want us to meet in the Final. I don't think my viewpoint would be shared by the majority of Port fans though!
6) What is the general opinion of Muangthong fans and Muangthong United FC amongst TP fans? Don't be shy, this is a free speech zone!
J - In Muangthong eyes, Thai Port fans look like dangerous ruffians and gangsters. Yes, we are hardcore supporters, but we are like you. We have daily life the same as Muangthong fan. We Study or we work, we provide for our families just like you do. In the Football match, we are only different in the color of our kit...I just do not like to see people talk down to us, like we are low down people.
M - I don't want to put words into people's mouths, but it's pretty clear that most Port fans do not like Muangthong United. I don't think that they dislike the MTU fans though. We obviously had problems at the Kor Royal Cup, but I'd like to think that lessons have been learnt since then. Hopefully Sunday's game can pass off without any unsavoury incidents, and both sets of fans can get along in a friendly manner.
7) How has the away support been this season? Can you guess how many fans will go to the Thunderdome?
J - I don't count lol. We have lots of supporter go with team all away and especially when we come to Thunderdome. More 2000 people and ticket not enough for us. Its possible that Thai Port fans around 1000 people will be locked outside Stadium in match day because don't have ticket!
M - I think our away support been quite good on the whole. I'm not sure how many tickets Thai Port have been given for Sunday's game? There seems to be conflicting reports of either 1,000 or 2,000. Whatever that figure is, the fans seem keen to snap the tickets up, so there should be quite a big contingent of Port fans in attendance.
8) Will Port have a special game plan coming into this match? Do you think there is a danger they will play dubiously as Pattaya did?
J - I think the team don't have special game plan. All player will show best play for entertain us (Thai Port Supporter) They don't get hurt easily and don't lay down on pitch for long amount of time. Whatever the result shows at final whistle, we will respect it.
M - I'm not sure about a special game plan, but I think Port will adopt a sensible approach. I imagine the players will be told to close down MTU players at every opportunity, deny them space and look to attack quickly when we have the ball. We've got nothing to lose, so I hope we try and win and not just settle for a draw.
9) Finally can you predict the score for us?
J - 11-0 Thai Port FC win...Just joking lol. It's difficult to predict, so I think draw game is enough for both teams : )
M - My predictions are the kiss of death, so I'll give you a quote instead: "You can't predict the result of a football match. If football was predictable, we wouldn't love it so much." (Frank Skinner 2010)
Many thanks to Marco and Jaranuwat for their insightful answers. We hope they both enjoy the game on Sunday, from wherever they are watching.