Following their formation in in 2016, Chiangmai United have climbed the divisions at a rapid rate. They will be making their debut in the top flight this year, having won promotion from T2 at their second attempt.
Coming into a very competitive T1, Chiangmai United have recruited shrewdly and intelligently in order to stock key areas of their squad with top division experience. However, they have the potential to make a big impact in this league in the long run, as they position themselves as the principal club in Northern Thailand’s biggest city. They will also be moving back into the imposing 25,000 seater 700th Anniversary Stadium for the upcoming campaign, which has been under renovation since 2019.
With the setting and infrastructure in place to become a Thai Football force in the future, consistency and survival on a limited budget will be the immediate demands for Chiangmai United this season.
Head Coach – Surapong Kongthep
A familiar face in the Thai League, Chiangmai United will be Surapong Kongthep’s fourth top flight club. The 42-year-old came through the ranks as a youth coach at Muangthong United, before joining the first team staff of feeder clubs BEC Tero and Pattaya United respectively.
He was given the managers job at Pattaya in 2017, and guided the club to two very respectable 9th place finishes in consecutive seasons while club ownership was changing hands and moving out of his former employers’ orbit. The young coach moved with the side to Samut Prakan during their rebranding, but resigned halfway into the season despite the fact that the Sea Fang were in contention for a top four finish.
Last season, Surapong was unable to save Sukhothai FC from relegation into the second tier. After a strong start to the season, during which time the Fire Bats looked safe bets for a top-half finish, things began to unravel during the second leg culminating in a devastating final-day relegation at the hands of Suphanburi FC. The coach is now eager to prove that he can recover from that blip and revive the old form that won him so many plaudits in the past.
Key Player – Evson Patricio (CB, Brazil, age 31)
If the Northerners are to have any success this season, Evson Patricio will certainly play a key part in it. Perfectly well versed in the more conventional aspects of defending, Evson is also a capable ball carrier and pacey enough to defend on the front foot, which could contribute to the side going forward as well. The Brazilian is also a favorite of coach Surapong Kongthep, who attempted to sign him to Sukhothai FC last season after the pair worked together at cross-town rivals Chiangmai FC in 2019.
Key Player – Sirisak Faidong (CB, Thailand, age 28)
Club captain Sirisak Faidong joined the club in 2019, from the now-defunct Army United, when they were first promoted into T2. Formerly a reserve at Buriram United, he is yet to make a top flight appearance. Furthermore, the squad has been strengthened ahead of the club’s debut top flight campaign, so whether he is still the first name on the team sheet remains to be seen. However, he has been a key presence at the club over the past two years and played a crucial role in their promotion push last season.
Rising Star – Thana Isor (Winger, Thailand, age 20)
Former Thailand U19 international Thana Isor joined from school-affiliated Assumption United in T3 and their partner club Muangthong United. An exciting attacker comfortable with both feet and capable of playing anywhere across the front line, he adds a welcome injection of youthfulness and energy into an otherwise ageing side. He has represented the young War Elephants in both regional tournaments and continental qualifiers, and will be playing his first top flight campaign this year.
What’s to Like
Given the size of the city, stadium, and potential fanbase, any Chiangmai side is a ‘sleeping giant’ in Thai football. Given the struggles of Chiangmai FC, neutral observers are hoping that their neighbours in red will make the most of their chance in the top flight. With committed investors and a renovated 700th Anniversary Stadium, the sleeping giant could soon be awakened.