Thailand 0 Jordan 0

It was no surprise – the Thai team has been firing blanks for a while, partly because of the injuries to strikers and more particularly because of a lack of guile or, under Bryan ‘Robbo’ Robson, any particularly convincing plan to score a goal. The Jordan team was not very good but well enough organised as the back and sufficiently likely to score a breakaway goal to prevent much pressure being built on their defence.

It also rained quite fiercely before the kick off- rain in European countries livens up the grass and provides a bit of an advantage for teams who can pass it well; rain in Thailand tends to turn the pitch into a muddy obstacle course that saps strength and accuracy and reduces the role of skill.

So, now it will be a case of having to get a result in Tehran in order to qualify for the 2011 Asian Cup and, if the Iranians (and their fierce crowd) perform to anywhere near their normal standard then there is not much chance of that. Presumably, Mr Robson will find his life about to become a little more uncomfortable.

The Permanent Revolution of Thai Football

It looks like another few weeks of crisis for Thai football and, as ever, the blame is on individuals rather than systems. After the defeat in the SEA Games (the men were knocked out by two late goals from Malaysia who went on to win the title while the women were defeated on penalties in the final by Vietnam), much misery has descended and manager Steve Darby has been ‘suspended’ by the Thai Football Association (FAT) – it is not clear what exactly this means and full team manager Bryan Robson still expects that Darby will continue in his role as Assistant.

All now hinges on the January 6th Asian Cup qualifier with Jordan – failure to win this game probably means the end of qualification hopes and probably the long-term end of Bryan Robson (about whose appointment I have expressed reservations elsewhere).

FAT leader Worawit came out to demand the players be fitter for the match (as indeed they should be – it is no coincidence that so many late goals have been conceded recently) but would be better employed trying to organise a competitive league that would require fitness. Players do not seem to be anything much these days so it is difficult to keep them on their toes since I doubt Robson is given the resources to keep monitoring all of them – and certain Thai players have the impression that they are slightly better than they really are and so can behave as they see fit.

The Big One – Kill or Be … well, disappointed

It’s the big match on Saturday evening – Singapore v Thailand in the first of two games as part of the qualifying group for the forthcoming Asian Championship (speaking of which, congratulations to the Pohang Steelers as club champions of Asia – do remind me to tell you my amusing Pohang Steel story one day).

It will be the first competitive game for manager Bryan ‘Robbo’ Robson – following the 1-1 draw at home to Syria in a friendly last week, which completely escaped me.

We can expect a reasonable number of Thai workers in the requisite Singaporean stadium on Saturday evening – I wonder how they decide their pricing policy for such an event – things tend not to happen at random in the Lion City. Well, good luck to the boys – let’s hope that either one or the other is dominant over the next two days so our region has some representation.

Robbo – stuff this up and things will turn unpleasant very quickly. There is a very (unpleasant) nationalist sentiment going around these days which will reject the legitimacy of any 0-1 defeats or worse.

Genuine Damage to Thailand’s Reputation: FAT

Oh dear, oh dear: just when it looked like Thai football was moving forwards into an era of respectability, it is plunged into disrepute once more. First, new Bryan Robson manager presided over a couple of matches at a four team tournament in Phuket: the Thai team included a mixture of youngsters, senior pros and anyone who was available and willing to fill in a few gaps in the squad. First came a victory against a Burmese club side and then a draw and win on penalties against a rather more formidable Vietnamese club side. The latter saw the Vietnamese race into a two goal lead and then try to demand it on a pitch that is described as a cross between a beach and no-man’s-land in a WWI Western Front battle. Robson is quoted as saying ‘oh my God’ when he first saw the pitch and then later spoke about the importance of fitness and never playing on that pitch or anything like it again. And now today, the big story that FAT is being sponsored by McDonald’s, which means free burgers and chips for all players. And the high fat milk shakes. And etc and so forth. According to The Guardian: “Thailand’s top footballers will receive free burgers as part of their new three-year, £545,000 sponsorship deal with the fast food giant McDonald’s. According to the Football Association of Thailand (FAT), McDonald’s will provide £450,000 in cash and the rest in products in exchange for shirt sponsorship for the next three years, starting this month.” So that will be £105,000 worth of products which is equal to some 5 million baht worth of Big Macs and supersized frozen and reconstituted potato powder fries. And this is from the country that wants to be known as the Kitchen of the World? If the Secret Hand were genuinely concerned about the reputation of the Kingdom, it would spend less time persecuting ‘rumour-mongers’ and more time speaking to leading officials of national institutions.

It’s Robson

Well, it seems to be official – the new manager of the Thai national football team will be Bryan Robson, once captain of Manchester United and England and a wonderful footballer in his own right. Robson has apparently signed a four-year deal and should be in charge for the Asian Cup, the Olympics and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil – his first test will be home and away qualifying matches against Singapore for the Asian Cup in November – that will be a tough assignment, readers might recall that Singapore beat Thailand recently (as also did Vietnam in the SE Asian Tiger Cup Championship, the name of which momentarily escapes me).

Expecting Robson to guide Thailand to the World Cup is excessively ambitious: “The 52-year-old Robson is expected to build a squad capable of reaching the 2014 World Cup finals.” Thailand is not particularly close to getting to the World Cup and seems unlikely to be much closer in the foreseeable future. I have been over the main reasons for this before – lack of fitness, weak domestic league, poor organization and so forth. Is Robson really the man to do something about this? His managerial reputation is mostly based on his tenure at Middlesboro, when he took them up to the top flight and kept them there for a while – even reaching cup finals which were lost. During this period, he relied on the extraordinary loyalty shown by owner Steve Gibson (currently benefiting Gareth Southgate) and the funds to sign marquee players such as Ravanelli and Juninho. Relegation eventually came in a season during which the club failed to turn up for a fixture at Blackburn, as I recall, owing apparently to an illness crisis which left the manager unable to field a team – and a three point penalty was subsequently enforced. Irrespective of the nature of the injury crisis, the whole matter was handled gauchely.

Robson’s other stints as manager were at Bradford, West Brom and Sheffield United, all of which seemed to be disappointing in terms of results and in terms of the unattractive brand of football served up on the various parks. He has been out of management for a while and linked with a range of jobs without securing any of them. He has no experience of Asia or Asian football, so far as I can tell. I would be surprised if he made it to the end of his four-year contract but good luck to him anyway.