(A game against Chiang Mai FC always gives me the chance to meet up with these two hooligans. Only joking of course, great guys and Chiang Mai superfans, Rob and Simes. See you on Sunday, boys!)
Before we get to Sunday's game, here is a great video that captures the occasion on Friday when Samut Prakan won at Pattaya United. Well worth a watch.
Down memory lane - Samut Prakan v Chiang Mai FC
The two clubs have met on four occasions, with a victory apiece and a couple of draws. I'll always have a soft spot for The Lanna Tigers because when Samut Prakan City was launched as a football club, Chiang Mai FC were our very first opponents, way back in February 2019 in front of a sell-out crowd at the SAT Stadium. Now that really does feel like a lifetime ago!
Players to watch
This is a very useful looking Chiang Mai FC team on paper and it's no surprise they are one of the genuine promotion favourites.
An exciting four-man front line includes Brazilian Stenio Junior and Thai U-23 international Chitchanok Xaysensourinthone (who have both arrived from BG Pathum where not surprisingly first team opportunities were limited)
Korean Byung-soo Yoo scored a hat-trick on his Chiang Mai debut and prior to joing the club, made over 60 appearances for Chonburi. Finally, there's Akarawin Sawsdee. who played over a hundred games for Chiang Rai in a six-year spell at the club.
(A club with terrific potential, almost 3,000 turned up for their first home match against Kasetsart FC)
View from the opposition
After Chiang Mai's covincing 4-1 victory against Kasetsart in their opening game, confidence within the team must be sky high. What does Chiang Mai FC superfan (and very good friend) Rob Scott think about their promotion chances and of course, tonight's game against Samut Prakan? Over to you, Rob.
"CMFC has at last been freed from the yoke of Boon Rawd servitude. Sure Boon Rawd kept the club alive and through Chiang Rai United and BGPU even gave us a few players to briefly get excited about. But it was not a Chiang Mai club. It was an orphan and too often a rehabilitation centre.
At the end of last season, the club was sold to a young Chiang Mai businessman, Yosmaetha Jantaraviroj (Sam) who Is the nephew of former chairman Udonpan Jantaraviroj. In three months Sam has turned the club around investing heavily in a new squad; in team building, in training, and putting in place an infrastructure that could quickly fulfil his dream of a return to T1. For the first time in years the club owner met with fan groups to understand what they wanted from the club. It is a new world.
With Coach Fukuda away at a FIFA Pro-License course CMFC dismantled Kasetsart 4-1 last weekend. It could easily have been more. While the cat is away…..
Chiang Mai played with flair, style and adventure; and a bumper opening day crowd loved what they were watching – though replicating that each week against stronger and more organized teams will be challenging. There really is no reason to change this swash-buckling approach for our visit to Samut Prakan.
Expect to see Stenio wide left and Chitchanok flying down the right wing, back in form and fitness after a long injury. The central two will likely be Yoo Byung Soo and Akawarin Sawasdee. On his Chiang Mai debut Yoo netted a striker’s perfect hattrick: right foot, header, left foot.
There is pace, strength and creativity up front prompted by a three man midfield that was anchored in style by the Spaniard, David Cuerva, with Chappuis and Im ChangKyoon either side. The loan signing of Thai international, and national heart-throb, Charyl Chappuis, was completed on the last day of the transfer window; a real marquee signing and a significant statement of intent.
The defense remains much as last year – but without the mountainous Filipovic who is now at Chiang Rai. He has been replaced by Nukoolkit from PT Prachuap.
There is a lot to like about this squad and the way it wants to both play football and to connect to the Chiang Mai community. It is of course ridiculously early in the season but we can, at last, create our own successes and make, and learn from, our own mistakes without constantly expecting the worst from our old parent club.
One request – after last year’s nightmare can you please not hold parades, street parties, roadblocks, rallies or protests, around your stadium on Sunday!
Football is Life as a wise man said!"
If you are interested in all things Chiang Mai FC, Rob runs an excellent English languange fanzine on Facebook. Check it out.
(The Samut Prakan players getting in some pre-match training. Photo credit: Official Samut Prakan Facebook page)
There is a good pre-match buzz around this game?
There is. A number of foreign football fans (neutrals) have contacted me to ask for information about buying tickets, getting to the stadium, etc. Some of them have never been to a Thai league match before and they just fancy this one. It's most encouraging. Hopefully many of our missing Samut Prakan fans might return as well. Dare we dream of a four-figure attendance because I'm sure the Chiang Mai FC supporters will be there in considerable numbers.
I think we are playing the potential champions here and while my heart might say something different, my head says a 3-1 away win (the same score as the last time the clubs met) Interestingly, Rob Scott also goes for a 3-1, or was it 4-1? My main hope is that win, lose or draw, Samut Prakan give Chiang Mai a good competitive game and come the final whistle, The Lanna Tigers feel that they've been in a contest.
An encouraging crowd of 847 turned out for this one on what weather-wise, would turn into something of a wretched evening. Season ticket and shirt sales looked to be going well on the main forecourt and it was great to see so many familiar faces. Simes, Rob and his lovely partner Tai, arrived about an hour before kick off and because of them, we got a chance to meet the new Chiang Mai FC owner. The friendly atmosphere, with rival fans just enjoying each other's company, was such a welcome contrast to last week in Pattaya. Just before kick off, we were joined at the back of W2 stand by football writer Gian (not that he's writing as much these days) and it was great to see him also.
To the match itself
Chiang Mai FC predictably named an unchanged side to the one that dismantled Kasetsart on the opening weekend, while Samut Prakan rung the changes. In came the two Brazilian lads, Neto and Fernando, for their full debuts. along with midfielder Kritsada, whose praises I had been singing all week.
The first quarter of an hour was a forgettable and niggly affair, with both sets of medical staff kept busy. Fernando went close to opening the scoring for Samut Prakan but saw his long range free kick sail wide of the post. Supawit Romphopak also tried his luck from range but the ex-Kasetsart man was way off target. At the other end, Samut Prakan keeper Jirunpong was almost beaten by a deft chip from Chitchanok and needed to be on full alert just minutes later to keep out a shot from Nookulkit. Perhaps one goal might just be enough to nick this contest?
Half-time: Samut Prakan 0 Chiang Mai FC 0
(Rob captured last night's weather conditions beautifully with this photo. Credit: Rob Scott on Facebook)
The rain had started falling heavily shortly before the break, with fans all over the stadium scurrying from the uncovered stands to somewhere more sheltered, or fishing into backpacks for waterproofs and toughing it out. Fortunately, we seemed to get the worst of the deluge during the 15-minute interval and as the players re-emerged for the second period, it had eased considerably. The Samut Prakan pitch soaks up water and drains well but the slick playing surface seemed to suit the home side more than the visitors.
Captain Ronnachai will feel he should have done better with a shot straight at the Chiang Mai keeper; shortly after, a shot from distance cannons off the post as Samut Prakan warm up the home crowd with some terrific attacking football. Fernando has a chance to add to his goal at Pattaya last weekend but after rounding the keeper, can't quite compose himself enough for either a shot or an assist.
Football is all about grabbing opportunities and Chiang Mai take the lead on 63 minutes with almost their only chance of the half, a fast counter-attack that ends with Akarawin Sawasdee calmly slotting the ball home. It's a bitter blow for Samut Prakan; surely not even the most partisan Chiang Mai fan would begrudge them something from the evening's contest.
As the clock ticks down, Samut Prakan have several more half chances, but it's definitely that kind of night. The proceedings come to an end and an extremely damp crowd is left to make its way home through the dark, muddy streets and reflect on what might have been. The scoreline was not one they wanted but there was much to be optimistic about.
After the match, Khun Big the Samut Prakan owner, came over to say hello. His cheerful expression reflected my thoughts entirely - a disappointing end result but so many positives to be taken from that second half showing. There were a number of commendable performances but I'll single out Panudech Maiwong, the Luka Modric of Samut Prakan City. The boy was everywhere! And when he took the captain's armband from Ronnadech with some 25 minutes remaining, he seemed to thrive on that extra responsibility.
All in all it was a decent evening. We are getting closer to a four-figure home attendance, the stadium looked great, having undergone weeks of refurbishment (including a brand new roof on the popular side) and we look to have a squad of players to genuinely get excited about. I can't wait for the next match. After a couple of difficult seasons, Samut Prakan genuinely feels like a club on the up again.
(The view from the away zone. Credit: Rob Scott on Facebook)
Who's up next?
We make the long journey to Nakhon Si Thammarat in southern Thailand (a one-hour flight or an 11-hour drive) to play Nakhonsi United on Sunday 27th August.
Yes. It's a shame though that we were only there six months ago at the tail end of last season. On the travel front, we're a bit concerned that we won't find enough new attractions to fill the time, but we'll still make a four-day break of it.