And so to part 3 of my T2 (M150 Championship) predictions for 2022-2023, from Rajpracha to Uthai Thani.
Rajpracha FC was saved from relegation thanks to the disciplinary action taken to remove Muangkan United from T2 for financial irregularities.
Since the end of last season the club has severed its connection with BGPU and has also moved away from the BG stadium taking up residency at the NT Stadium (formerly the home of the TOT Sports Club) close to Don Muang airport.
Followers of T2 will recognise several familiar faces. Pathomtat Sudprasert, Atthawit Sukchuai and Panudech Maiwong all join from Phrae. There are also a number of players that will be familiar to BGPU and Chiang Mai FC supporters including Somyot Pongsuwan, Pinyo Inpinit and Somroeng Hanchiaw.
Veteran centre forward Ronnachai Rangsiyo has joined from Lamphun. His efforts really do deserve to be rewarded with more goals.
At the time of writing veteran Angello Machuca remains their one foreign player and is now in his eleventh year in Thailand.
The BGPU/Chiang Mai connection continues with the appointment of Supachai Komsilp as coach.
Rajpracha will need to improve upon last season’s average of one goal a game. They may need to invest to do so.
Rayong FC were relegated from T1 at the end of the 2020/2021 season and finished mid-table last season in T2 without ever looking likely to challenge for promotion or dabble with relegation.
The new manager, Songyot Klinsrisuk comes from T3 side Bankhai United and brings a number of players with him.
But new hires have been limited. Seiya Sugishita has joined from Chiang Mai FC – if he stays free of injury he will score goals alongside Gi-Seung Yeon who played last season at Ranong and Rajpracha (maybe he only plays for clubs that start with R).
The Japanese midfielder Anto Okamura joins from Athletic 220, the 2020/2021 Mongolian champions.
Overall Rayong is another side that lacks the firepower for anything other than the lower half of the table.
Samut Prakan City FC have released 24 players since relegation from T1. They are now managed by Chonburi FC, effectively becoming the feeder club to their T1 partner.
At the time of writing a handful of youthful loan replacements have arrived from Chonburi FC, together with experienced goalkeeper Thatpicha Auksornsri.
Jakkapant Punpee, also with strong links to Chonburi as a player and coach, has taken over as manager.
With a week left in the transfer window, two Brazilians and a Moldovan have joined the club. Paulo Enrique was originally moving to Uthai Thani from Persiraja Banda Aceh in the Indonesia Liga 2. Centre Back Renan Costa arrived in Thailand for the first time from Doce Mel FC in his homeland. And the tall and much traveled Moldovan center-forward, Petru Luca, has joined from Nagaworld FC in Cambodia.
The Thai players have an average age of around 22. It is a squad without T2 experience and that looks ill-equipped for a long physical season.
At best T2 survival appears to be the early season target. Without reinforcements, even that seems optimistic.
Suphanburi FC were also relegated from T1; they have released eighteen members of their squad but have been on a recruiting spree with 25 new players. It is a young squad anchored by a number of players with solid T2 experience. Jetjinn Sripach arrives from Phrae; Norraseth Lukthong, Rachanon Kanyathong and Panupong Rungsuree are from Muangkan.
Seiya Kojima will work hard in midfield as he did at Ayutthaya last season.
It is beginning to sound like a broken record, but it is unclear who in their squad can be a regular goalscorer at this level. Matheus Souza has joined from Loei and Douglas Tardin from Saraburi. Both may find T2 a step too far. Centre forward Kittipong Wongma has also joined from Nongbua, though he was not a regular in their T1 squad.
Suphanburi will be looking for an immediate return to T1 and have built a resilient, perhaps unspectacular, T2 squad.
Trat FC were top of T2 for 25 of the 34 gameweeks last season. Then a spell of four defeats in five games from mid-March saw them fall to third. They never fully recovered and rather wearily lost the two-legged play-off final to Lampang.
Big name departures include Conrado, Babo, Tossaporn Sri-reung and Zaw Min Tun.
A solid core of last season’s squad remains. Valdo will no doubt add to his goals for Trat. Alongside him will be Joao Paulo, who arrived from Phitsanulok FC, and Taua, a right winger from PT Prachuap.
Trat conceded a fraction less than a goal a game last season; the best ‘goals against’ in the League. While goalkeeper Tossapon has moved to Chiang Mai United the remainder of the defense, built around Hiromichi Katano, has stayed for the new season.
It is hard to see the new forwards having the same impact as Babo and Conrado. But it is equally hard to imagine that Trat will be anything less than competitive. Anything worse than a play-off place would be a surprise.
Udon Thani FC came through a summer of uncertainty with new owners and a new injection of funding.
Traditionally one of the better supported clubs, it is now under the leadership of the very colourful Wiriya Phong-Artharn.
The club has returned to the Thai National Sports University Udon Thani Campus Stadium; which just as an aside is bad news for away supporters as the away zone is one of the worst in T2, hidden on temporary seating behind a goal and running track, comparable in misery to Chiang Mai FC.
Experience has been added to the squad with Poonsak Masuk from Chiang Mai United, Kritsada Mewiphat from Khon Kaen United, Saranyu Intarach from PT Prachuap and in goal Korrakot Pipatnadda on loan from SCG Muangthong.
Overseas players include Greg Houla from Kasetsart who will be hoping to show the form of two seasons ago at nearby Nongbua. He will presumably partner Arnold Suew in attack. Flodyn Belocki is a German center back (born in Congo) who has arrived from German fourth tier club SV Atlas.
There is certainly reason for optimism. A season of financial and squad stability would be very welcome and the club will look to threaten for at least a play-off spot.
Uthai Thani FC spent a season in T3 before returning in style to T2 and have rebuilt their squad for the new season.
With no time for sentimentality, nineteen players have left and twenty-three have joined for the new season. They are managed by Somchai Makmool, who spent last season with Muangkan navigating through issues behind the scenes which eventually saw the club demoted to the Thai Amateur League.
Makmool has brought some of his players with him from Muangkan, including Kento Nagasaki, Samerpak Srinon and the centre backs, Jakkrit Khemnak and Suwat Yadee.
Carlos Damian, the Brazilian midfielder has joined from Khon Kaen FC.
Goals will be expected from Ricardo Santos after a successful T3 campaign. He will be supported by the Nigerian Gafar Durosinmi who joins from Navy FC and the young winger Muhammadnasay Kolaeh from Suphanburi.
Defensively, Uthai Thani should be solid, and they will no doubt be a hard-working team. But goals are likely to be an issue. The mid-season addition of a regular goalscorer may be required.
Finally – please do not take any predictions too seriously – so much can change over the next eight months. In the meantime do get out and support your local club wherever possible. Buy their shirt. Support the local vendors. Go for the atmosphere, the camaraderie, the occasional moments of brilliance or comedy. After two really difficult seasons, the clubs, players, and everyone associated with Thai football need our support.