Last years’ T2 champions have drawn the attention of Thai League fans for a whole host of compelling reasons. Their new, purpose-built Pitchaya Stadium features 6,000 seats in one large, single tier stand and leaves plenty of room for future developments. They have also heavily invested in their academy, which competes among the best in the country at the lower age levels.
The club’s leadership are developing the infrastructure for a stable, top tier outfit in the long run. However, survival will likely be the aim for their first T1 campaign, and given how the league is shaping up this season, that will not be an easy task.
Head Coach – Thawatchai Damrong-Ontrakul
As previously mentioned, survival is the priority for Nongbua, so it makes perfect sense that they turn to a man with experience in that department. After four seasons at Prachuap, ‘Coach Wang’ has developed a reputation for safety-first football which helped his former side perform well in the division on a limited budget. Despite parting ways with the Killer Wasps, his 6th, 9th and 10th finishes in T1 and his League Cup triumph are remarkable achievements, so his stock rightly remains high in Thai football.
Key Player – Santhaporn Daengsee (LB/CB, Thailand, age 33)
After an excellent season with relegated Trat FC last season, Santhaporn Daengsee surprised everybody by not only making the Thailand squad for their World Cup qualifying campaign, but appearing for the War Elephants in their crucial game against the UAE. A left-back earlier in his career, Santhaporn has been effectively converted into a ball-playing centerback, and could slot in on the left of a back three for Nongbua this season. His experience in defense and assuredness in possession could give the promoted side a big boost for the upcoming campaign.
Key Player – Lidor Cohen (Winger, Israel, age 28)
A new signing from Hapoel Tel Aviv, Lidor Cohen will be playing club football outside his native Israel for the first time in his career. The 28-year-old attacker appears to be capable on the left or down the middle, and could potentially operate as an inside-forward. Given how both of the last two arrivals from the Israeli league – Miki Siroshtein and Gidi Kanuk – performed fairly well in Thailand, Cohen could be an exciting addition for the Gamecocks squad.
Rising Star – Warakorn Thongbai (ST, Thailand, age 19)
Joining Nongbua on loan from Chonburi this season, Warakorn Thongbai is best known for scoring the penalty that secured Khon Kaen United’s promotion to T1 during his spell there last season. The mobile striker is an established Thai U19 international and is highly regarded both by Chonburi and national youth team coaches, and will be looking to make his top flight debut this season.
Reason to follow
As mentioned earlier, Nongbua is clearly building something for the future. Their stadium and infrastructure suggest they are a well-run, forward-thinking club, planning for a stable future rather than aiming to make an instant disruption. Many would like to see the club’s novel approach pay dividends now that they have made it to the top flight.