Playing in the top flight for the first time in their history, Khon Kaen United arrives in T1 on the back of three successive promotions. The side were banned for two seasons and relegated to the fourth tier after losing a legal case, but they have since restructured and climbed the divisions at a rapid rate.
The King Cobras had to do it the hard way last season, as they looked on course for automatic promotion before a poor run of form threatened to derail the campaign. Assistant coach Patipat Robroo was promoted as caretaker to steady the ship and ensure the side qualified for the playoffs. They eventually beat Nakhon Pathom United in an intense two-legged final to book the last ticket to T1 for this season.
Head Coach – Carlos Eduardo Parreira
Formerly an assistant to current Buriram United boss Alexandre Gama, Carlos began his managerial career when he was appointed as the head coach of T2 side Chiangmai FC. The then 36-year-old led the Lanna Tigers into the top flight of Thai football for the first time in their history. He left the club halfway through the following campaign as the side struggled to escape the drop zone, and was appointed by the club’s cross-town rivals Chiangmai United in their own promotion push the following season.
Despite setting the White Elephants on track for climbing into T1, Carlos traded Thailand’s north for its northeast, reuniting with Gama as his assistant at Buriram for the remainder of the 2020-21 season. Now back at the helm once again, the Brazilian is tasked with keeping Khon Kaen United alive in what is shaping up to be a very competitive top tier.
Key Player – Douglas Cobo (CB, Brazil, age 34)
Club captain Douglas Cobo first arrived in Thailand back in 2009 with Chonburi FC, and featured for four different Thai clubs over the next five years before returning to Brazil. He was called back into the fold in 2018 to join Khon Kaen in the fourth tier, and has been the bedrock of the side’s meteoric rise. Capable as both a central defender and defensive midfielder, he remains a formidable defensive presence at 34 years old.
Key Player – Ibson Melo (Winger/Striker, Brazil, age 31)
A familiar face in the Thai League, Ibson Melo will feature for his third Thai club in as many seasons after joining the King Cobras. He has netted 25 goals in 52 games across two campaigns with Samut Prakan City and Sukhothai FC respectively. He will undoubtedly be the club’s go-to goal-scorer this season, and could be a difference maker in their expected fight for survival.
Rising Star – Suwit Paipromrat (LB, Thailand, age 24)
An energetic, attacking fullback, Suwit is not exactly a ‘young player’ at the age of 24. However, he had his breakout campaign in T2 last season, and reportedly caught the eye of top T1 sides for his excellent performances. Suwit doesn’t need a second invitation to bombard down the flank, and has the pace needed to recover defensively as well.
Reason to follow
Similarly to fellow promoted club Chiangmai United, Khon Kaen United hails from a relatively large city longing for a top-tier football club. The side regularly drew impressive crowds prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will likely have even more pull now that they are in T1. The King Cobras appear to be betting on defensive solidity to keep them up in the top flight, and it will be interesting to see if their strategy pays off.