(Main entrance to Police Tero's homely stadium as seen on Google street view)
72 hours to kick off
So this will be our first look at one of the three teams promoted from T2 last season?
Yes, Police Tero finished the 2019 T2 season as runners-up but still some 13 points behind winners, BG Pathum.
And they've had a decent start to life in the top flight?
Everyone sat up and took notice when they beat the mighty Buriram 1-0 at home on the opening weekend and any notions it might be a fluke result were quickly dispelled in their second game as they eased to a comfortable 3-1 win away at Trat. They were brought down to earth a little last night with a 3-0 defeat at BG Pathum but two wins out of three represents a pretty decent start. (current TPL table)
Give us some club background
The club started life in 1992 as Sasana Witthaya School but I'm not going to bore you with all the name changes they've gone through over the years to eventually get to where we are today - Police Tero.
They entered the Thai Premier League in 1996 but it's important to remember this was also the year the TPL was established, so Tero Sasana (as they were known back then) didn't have to slog their way through lower divisions and win promotions.
What surprised me about this club when I researched things was just how well they've done in the Thai Premier. They won it twice in 2000 and 2001 and have been runners-up or third placed on at least nine occasions. This is a club that clearly belongs in the top tier and their relegation to the T2 in 2018 must have been a huge shock.
The club was taken over by the Police Group several years ago when it ran into financial difficulties.
What else interesting can I tell you? They've had a number of English managers over the years, including Jason Withe (son of Aston Villa star, Peter Withe) David Booth, who made over 350 appearances for Barnsley and Grimsby Town in the late 60's and early 70's (when it was grim up't north) and Peter Butler, who played over 450 times in the English league including 70 appearances for West Ham and 50 for West Bromwich Albion during the 90's (how come I've never heard of him?)
So this will be a new ground for you?
It will indeed. Police Tero play at the Boonyachinda Stadium, which is in the Lak Si district of Bangkok and has a capacity of just 3,500 (there were 3,400 there for the Buriram game).
Thanks to the ever-expanding sky-train network, it's now relatively easy to get to by public transport. If you take the BTS Sukhumwit line out to Kasertsat, it's then just a ten-minute taxi ride from there to the stadium. I'm hoping however that my wife fancies a Sunday evening out, in which case it's a 50-minute drive from Samut Prakan.
What foreign players have started games for them this season?
Two players who have played all 270 minutes so far are Isaac Honey, a Ghanaian defender / forward, who has been around the Thai league since 2013. This is in fact his second spell at the club. And Greg Houla, a French attacking midfielder, now in his second season in Thai football after spending donkey's years in the French lower leagues. Most of the squad who won Police Tero promotion last season are apparently still there so this is hardly a team of Thai household names. But that doesn't mean they should be underestimated.
48 hours to kick off
Apparently there will be a meeting of the Thai FA today to decide whether or not to postpone the Thai league season. If that happens I can just envisage us trying to squeeze as many games in as possible during the rainy season months. Won't that be fun!
Stop press - the Thai league season is to continue as scheduled (Bangkok Post) but the Thai FA have come up with three main points;
1) The home club must take appropriate measures to scan the body temperatures of those attending the match (I assume using one of those 'heat sensor guns' you see employed at airports)
2) Any matches played in high-risk areas will need to be played behind closed doors.
3) In a worst case scenario, the season would be postponed or cancelled.
Bangkok United have already asked supporters to arrive at the game early so they can be tested before entering the stadium.
24 hours to kick off
Samut Prakan have moved out of the bottom three without even playing thanks to Prachuap losing 2-3 at home to Sukhothai. Nice to see our old boy Ibson Melo finally get his name on the scoresheet.
It's Match Day!
Things got off to a bad start.....
On the drive over to the game, there came an official announcement from the Thai FA that ALL Thai league matches for the rest of March would have to be played behind closed doors to halt the spread of the corona virus. That meant our next three games against Rayong FC at home and the two away trips to Muangthong and Prachuap. The decision didn't come as a total surprise but it was still a crushing disappointment that today's game would be the last we'd see for a while.
We parked up at the Boonyachinda Stadium and had a wander around outside (not that there's much to see). The home supporters were not the friendliest or most welcome bunch I'd encountered on my travels (there was only one request for a photo) but it's a very tidy and well-maintained ground with even its own Police Tero coffee shop.
My wife voted it as the best TPL stadium she'd been to, but once more, what a crying shame the club sticks the away supporters in arguably the most miserable section of the ground and the furthest from the action. But hey! we're used to that by now.
Any surprises in the Samut Prakan starting line up?
The manager rang the changes for this one. In came striker Teerapol for Pedro Junior, who didn't even get a place on the bench. Nopphon, an old favourite from last season, got his first start along with Nattapol (deputising for the injured Aris Zarifovic). Japanese midfielder, Yuto Ono, was also benched.
There were only two clear cut chances that I recall in the first 45 minutes and both went Samut Prakan's way. Teerapol side-footed wide of the post when it would have been easier to score and strike partner, Chayawat, planted a tame header straight at the goalkeeper.
Police Tero offered nothing and looked a very ordinary side. The three points were there for the taking but disaster struck five minutes before the break when Jaroensak, our wizard of the wing, was taken off on a stretcher. Any creative spark that Samut Prakan had in attack probably got stretchered off with him.
Possibly the dullest 45 minutes of football I've ever witnessed with the solitary highlight (if you were a Police Tero supporter that is) coming on 53 minutes and the only goal of the game, Tero's Boojinda hitting a screamer from well outside the box that kept low and gave Patiwat no chance.
Samut Prakan had well over half an hour to claw their way back into the match but didn't fashion one decent opportunity. I couldn't wait for the final whistle. (match highlights)
We are now in the bottom three with one point to show from our opening four games. That's where we're at.
I said after the 1-1 draw against reigning champions, Chiang Rai and the narrow home defeat to table-topping Bangkok United, that our squad of players is just too good to be involved in any kind of relegation scrap. On today's evidence, I'm not quite so sure.
Collectively, I'm convinced that we are a better team than Police Tero but we still lost. Football is not complicated. They scored a goal and we didn't. At the moment, we aren't creating opportunities and don't look like scoring - and therin lies the problem.
I wouldn't like to be in the gaffer's shoes because he's the man who has to sort this out. He has to bring that confidence and swagger back. At the final whistle, when the management and players came over to thank the travelling fans, the coach cut a very dejected-looking figure indeed.
Saying a silent prayer? (photo credit: Go2 Photo Stock)
Who's up next?
Update 14th April - The Thai league has now been postponed until September and will run from September 2020 to April or May 2021. Whether the results from the first four games will be scrapped and the season re-started is anyone's guess at the moment.