BouncebackabilitySinghtarua (Thai Port), BB-CU and TTM all meekly bowed out of the TPL last season. The three clubs would have taken note that none of the three sides relegated in 2011 from the TPL were able to regain their TPL status at the first attempt.
|Thai Port v TTM|
There weren't many tipping BB-CU to survive in the TPL last season and this was to be the case as they were demoted after only one season from the top flight. Again, there won't be many predicting an instant return to the TPL for BBCU yet the acquisition of the powerful duo of Bouba Abbo and Cheik Fofana suggest that they could be an outside bet to bounce back.
Last season's move to Chiang Mai was a disaster for TTM as they finished cut adrift at the bottom of the TPL. The vagabond club have upped sticks again and this time they'll be based in Lopburi. Reports have indicated that salaries still haven't been fully paid to staff for 2012 and as a consequence they've failed to attract the quality of player that will fire them back to the TPL. Although the loan signing of Jorrin John from Muangthong United will boost their attacking threat.
Moving On UpIn the last three seasons, four sides have risen from the regional leagues to the TPL in successive seasons. The four newly promoted sides of Ayutthaya, Trat, Rayong FC and Rayong United will be hoping to emulate Chiang Rai United, Buriram FC, Chainat and Ratchaburi who have taken the express route to the top tier from the lower levels.
Trat and Ayutthaya would be most likely from the quartet to complete this jump although they might have to settle for a season of consolidation just as Krabi and Nakhon Ratchasima had to do last year.
The pair of Rayong clubs don't appear to have the resources and survival will be a realistic goal. Rayong United have made a couple of interesting acquisitions with the flamboyant David le Bras joining from Korat while young Welshman Jonny Brown will improve striking options in Klaeng. The Wild Horses (Rayong FC) still have the core of their promotion side and hard work and good team spirit will be the key to survival for them.
Sentence ServedNakhon Pathom FC were unceremoniously booted out of the Thai football structure two years ago after violence marred the end of their TPL/Division 1 playoff against Sisaket FC in 2010. A club representative was seen brandishing a gun as fans and staff invaded the pitch. The referee was attacked while opposing fans had to flee for their lives as infuriated NP louts called for their blood.
Now that the two year sentence has been served, the club have returned to Division 1 under the slightly tinkered new name of Nakhon Pathom United. The team are basically starting from scratch again, and with a modest budget and a squad list that doesn't catch the eye, it's going to be a tough ask for the club to reestablish themselves again.
The Likely LadsLast season Suphanburi achieved promotion by splashing the cash. PTT Rayong, Bangkok FC, Phuket and debatably Nakhon Ratchasima all fit into that category with all four clubs boosting their sides with a glut of TPL experienced players.
PTT Rayong have been on the brink of making the breakthrough for the last two seasons without really coming close to boarding the TPL promotion train. This time around, the petroleum backed football club have added Kirati, who recently represented Thailand at the AFF Cup, while ex international, Pipat, and the unpredictable Christian Nade will also boost their fire power.
2012 began as a grim year for Phuket with owners threatening to close the club after they'd lost interest. The Islanders just managed to hold their heads above water both on and off the field as they saw out 2012 with their Division 1 status intact. With a fresh injection of funds, the horizon is far brighter in 2013. New recruits include the volatile duo of Dudu and Giorgi Tsimakuridze while Moudourou Moise and Geoffrey Doumeng have recently tasted AFC Cup football and will bring vital experience. The impish Juninho has also joined after a spell at BBCU last season.
Nakhon Ratchasima's hopes could rest upon how quickly their new Japanese trio of Satoshi Nagano, Shota Koide and Yusuke Kato bed into their new surroundings. Last season's poster boy Anon has returned back to the TPL with Esan Utd/Sisaket FC via parent club Muangthong, but the loan signing of midfield starlet Saruch, from the TPL champions, could provide the final piece in the promotion jigsaw. Also the Swatcats will be hoping that Prompong continues his rich vein of goal scoring from the second half of last season.
The InbetweenersSriracha, Krabi, Siam Navy, Saraburi, Khon Kaen, and Air Force United complete the first division picture for 2013. For me all of these sides don't appear strong enough to go up, yet they should have enough not to be dragged into affairs at the wrong end of the table.
|Air Force v Krabi|
Khon Kaen and Siam Navy were both demoted from the TPL in 2011 and never threatened to instantly return in 2012. I can't envisage anything different for this coming year.
Air Force have flirted with relegation in the past couple of seasons before eventually pulling away to mid-table finishes. Holding on to last season's top scorer Kaoassi Yao Hermann was vital and should keep the Airmen out of danger. They did however lose the ever reliable Devala Gorrick between the sticks while defender Scott Baginski has left for Saraburi. The Warlords finished 12th last term and a similar position appears on the cards.