Teeraasil and Theerathon -- Terrific Thais

With the current influx of Thai players doing well in J.League - Chanathip at Consadole, of course, but also Teerasil at Sanfrecce and Theerathon at Vissel. All three of those players are on loan from Muangthong United, and we asked a Muangthong fan about how he feels seeing his team's best players shuffling off to the J.League!

Interviewer: Dale Farrington (DF) - www.clubwebsite.co.uk/chonburifc
Interviewee: Grant Aitken (GA) - Muangthong United fan

DF: Can you summarize what you see as the strengths and weaknesses of Teerasil and Theerathon:

GA: Teerasil has a good all-around game, which means he can score a variety of goals and contribute to the team in different ways. He's adept at holding up the ball and playing others in to the game. I've rarely seen him hurry a pass, making his ball retention skills very good. If I had to name a weakness I'd say he needs to be more selfish in front of goal, as he seems to be often looking to assist a team mate before shooting.

As for Theerathon, I'm sure anyone in Japan, who has followed him will know, he's a dead ball specialist. Additionally, when in the final third he instinctively makes himself an extra yard of space to allow him to deliver inviting crosses for attackers. At many times for Muangthong last year he was switched to a central midfield role due to his great vision and pinpoint passing. His defending will be thoroughly tested playing at a higher level, and although his anticipation skills are good, he has a tendency to rely on these rather than challenging his man. I have a feeling that playing for Vissel Kobe next season he will need to be more physical, particularly for aeriel duels.

DF: How do you think they will cope with the step up to the J.League?

GA: I'm not expecting Teerasil to see his name at the top of the scoring charts, but he'll do himself justice and bag a decent goal return. He's a very selfless forward who creates for others rather than fashioning chances for himself. Fans and coaches at Sanfrecce should take to him well but casual observers, who judge strikers purely on goals, might not appreciate him as much.  

(As a key contributor to the best TEAM in the J1 for the first half of 2018, fans of the Purple Archers certainly *DO* appreciate Teerasil's self-effacing yet tireless efforts to contribute to the team's success. -JSoccer-) 

At least primarily, I hope Theerathon will be deployed as a wing back rather than part of a flat back four. He will flourish if allowed to exhibit his attacking prowess, and not solely judged on his defending. I think he may need sometime to sharpen his defensive attributes before we see the best of him.

Teerasil signing a copy of JSoccer Magazine, which broke the story of his transfer to Kobe
Teerasil meets fans of Muangthong United, at the Toyota Mekong Club Championship

DF: What do you think their biggest challenges will be?

GA: For both players the big question is will they be able to raise their game for the J.League? Teerasil's stint in La Liga will ultimately be considered a failure, and his playing time was very limited. However, older and wiser from the experience, I'm sure he can learn from that time and will have gained valuable practical knowledge. The fact that he's willing to try his hand abroad again suggests that he's both positive and confident his time in Japan will be successful. Since his time with Almeria, he has married and has a young child. This could help provide the additional support that may have been lacking from his time in Spain. It should also be far less of a culture shock moving to an Asian city than trying to settle in Europe. 

Unlike Teerasil, this will be his first time playing abroad for Theerathon, so there will be some understandable concerns about his ability to adjust. It's never easy moving to another country, but Theerathon has a strong character and isn't easily intimidated. When we lost a game at Muangthong, he would stand right in front of the ultra fans, a few yards ahead of his teammates, in a way that suggested he was shouldering responsibility for the defeat. It's this kind of resilience that has me believing he will be a success, even if he has a slow start.

DF: Which of the two do you think will cope best and why?

GA: Teerasil carries a laid back demeanor, which I think will help him settle faster. Theerathon can be more volatile on the pitch so may need longer to adjust. I think Teerasil will prove himself to be just as talented as other league strikers, but if used correctly, Theerathon will steal the show. Teerasil will be praised for his strong and workmanlike displays, but fans will be pleasantly surprised by Theerathon's attacking prowess and how much impact he can have on the game from a defensive position.

DF: How do you think these transfers will benefit Thai football?

GA: The players should be sharper, more battle-hardened and tactically astute from their experiences in Japan. Hopefully this will be a benefit for the national side and help Thailand close the gap between themselves and the more dominant Asian countries. 

DF: And what negative effect will they have on Muangthong United?

GA: We're going to find it hard this year. Last year there was a considerable gap between Muangthong and Buriram United, who were crowned champions. We won the Thai League in 2016 and victory was made even sweeter by the fact that Thai players were key to our high quality performances. Now the best Muangthong players have been recruited by the J.League, we have little choice but to follow the competition and plough most of the wage budget into foreign players instead. I can see initial excitement for all the interest in our club turning into disillusionment if we're not title contenders. Attendances may suffer with younger Thai fans quite fickle and generally choosing to follow European leagues as opposed to the local game.

DF: What do you feel is the general feeling among Muangthong United fans about these transfers?

GA: Thai people are very positive in general, and this is also very true when supporting their football teams. The relationship between players and fans is very close compared to most leagues. Thai players are humble and approachable, so they're largely viewed as extended family by loyal supporters. It's that frame of mind that makes it easier to wish them luck in their new challenge. Patriotism is also a big part of being Thai, so the thought of homegrown players succeeding in foreign leagues has its appeal. For me personally, I'm English, so I'm from a culture where losing your best players can be tolerated but never celebrated. Even for Thai people I think there is a sense that it's too much, too soon. It's not a nice feeling to be standing shoulder to shoulder with Asia's finest one season, then the next year having your club stripped of its assets, with seemingly little power or support to stop it happening. There are a few Thai clubs who would pay far more for players of this calibre so the money received offers little comfort. 

DF: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

GA: Although the J.League and Thai FA will be quick to highlight the benefits of taking our star players, there will still be a gaping hole in our league with similar quality replacements not readily available. I'm expecting to see Japanese clubs take their new found responsibility to ASEAN football seriously, and I personally will not be content with a few of our promising youngsters joining big Japanese clubs' development squads and receiving, often limited, playing time in a lower league. For the partnership to be truly mutually beneficial we need to see coaches, owners and officials routinely visiting our shores to share best practices and ensure this wave of Thai talent is not the last to be coveted by other leagues.      

JSoccer Magazine and JSoccer.com thanks Dale for the interview and Grant for his time!


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