Over the past few weeks, Thai League fans have been digesting the shocking news that Thai League champions BG Pathum United are set to replace head coach Dusit Chalermsan. Rumours circulated slowly at first, with many in disbelief that a title-winning, points-record-accumulating manager would be in such a situation. The pieces were set in motion earlier this week when former BG coach Aurelio Vidmar left his post at Singapore giants Lion City Sailors to “pursue new opportunities” after being heavily linked with a return to Pathum Thani.
As the inexplicable became the inevitable, Thai media began to question what Dusit’s next move might be. Some suggested moves to a host of other clubs T1, while others believed that he would remain within BG’s football ecosystem in some capacity, most likely with one of their partner clubs in the second tier. The latter camp proved to be right this morning when Dusit was unveiled as the new coach of Rajpracha, BG’s new ‘main’ feeder club in T2, clearing the way for one of the most bizarre managerial switches in recent memory.
The question on everyone’s minds is – why would BG pull such a move?
Unexpectedly, the crux of the issue comes down to coaching licenses. Dusit Chalermsan only has a B License as of early 2021, which is not enough to lead a team in the AFC Champions League. It’s an issue that Thai League clubs have previously sidestepped by ensuring that a member of staff has the relevant licenses and whose name can be registered in place of their true head coach. Alongkorn Thongaum covered for Chiangrai’s Emerson in last season’s Champions League, and Muangthong have Uthai Boonmoh on the books as Mario Gjurovski is yet complete his coaching qualifications.
However, BG’s hierarchy felt the need to bring in genuine ACL experience for the upcoming campaign, and have concocted the following arrangement. Aurelio Vidmar will take charge of the first team for at least the continental competition, and most likely beyond, while Dusit works through an AFC pro-license coaching course, rumoured to be fully funded by the club. He remains within the BG ecosystem by coaching Rajpracha, an outfit they ‘manage’ and are effectively obligated to do well with due to a deal made with the club’s existing owners.
So, was Dusit right to take such a deal?
Reasons to Leave
Regardless of how and to whom you apportion credit to for BG Pathum United’s title win last season, there is little doubt that Dusit Chalermsan is now one of the most sought after managers in the Thai League. Some may argue that the squad he was given was always likely to challenge for the title, and that he achieved his success at a club where the extent of ‘backroom influence’ has always been high. However, there is no denying the fact that being able to organise a raft of new players into a coherent system and win the title with an effective points record is an incredible personal achievement for Dusit. Hallmarks of BG’s game such as their defensive shape, strong press in midfield and relentless fitness are also clear signs of the coach’s influence.
With this in mind, there’s a strong case to be made that Dusit deserves better than the treatment that he has received from BG. There remain a couple of interesting vacant (or ‘semi-vacant’) T1 managerial jobs which could be interesting projects for the coach, and serve as a chance for him to prove himself once again to the fans and his would-be former employers.
Reasons to Stay
On the other hand, there are some benefits to taking the Rajpracha job. Firstly, Dusit gets to complete his Pro License with his financial and job security guaranteed, which is a luxury in football. Given that the club are intentionally investing in his professional development, Dusit can also reasonably expect that he will get offered the head coaching job again at some point in the near future. In the meantime, he can work to develop players which he could later take back to the parent club if he gets the chance.
Taking another job could mean that he has to put off completing his pro license for the foreseeable future, which could be a massive oversight since the Rabbits are already in the AFC Champions League group stage for 2022, which he could conceivably be called back for. Furthermore, the sheer volatility of the Thai League makes any form of job security a valuable commodity, and since Dusit already works for some of the most ambitious owners in Thai football, pretty much anywhere he goes next will be a downgrade.
However, there are some flaws in the plan. Since this move is effectively a contingency on BG’s part, there is no guarantee that Dusit will certainly get his job back, should Vidmar go on a run of sustained success. Secondly, it is rumoured that BG will be sending most of their young talent to Chiangmai FC, their other feeder club in the same division, leaving Dusit to work with a set of slightly older players who were on the fringes of BG’s first team. The usefulness of developing this particular group in the long run remains somewhat dubious.
This is surely not an exhaustive list of reasons, and the title-winning coach probably had far more factors to consider that we are not privy to. Whether or not he made the right choice by choosing to stay within instead of seeking success without, only time will tell.