Chonburi’s transition from consistent title challengers to Top Five finishers to mid-table also-rans has been a gradual story of decline punctuated by occasional glimpses of hope.
It is difficult to foresee how this year will go for Chonburi as a team stacked with experience tries to keep them in that mid-table safe zone.
Sintaweechai Hathairattanakool, Adul Lahso and Kazuto Kushida were all at the club during better times and have returned in their thirties as nostalgia grips. Teerathep Winothai and Dragan Boskovic have both seen better days but, at 34, Chonburi believe in them.
There are still several developing young talents like Kritsada Kaman and Worachit Kanitsribampen at the club and head coach Sasom Pobprasert must be hoping that the old hands assist in their continuing development. However, it’s hard to see anything other than a grind for Chonburi this year.
They might have enough to remain in comfortable mid-table but a relegation battle is a real possibility.
Last season: 7th
Player to watch: Kritsada Kaman
14. Trat FC
There may be memories of a solid first T1 season that trick the senses but Trat are pretty much starting again, shorn of last seasons T1 top scorer Lonsana Doumbouya as well as the core of the team. Muang Thong United loan players Nukoolkit Krutyai and Wongsakorn Chaikultewin were important members of the first team, as were Singapore centre-back Baihakki Khaizan and midfielder Tatchanon Nakarawong. All are gone, meaning another rebuild is required.
Strikers Kang Soo-Il and Ricardo Santos have T1 experience but have also struggled with fitness, while the relatively youthful Adefolarij Durosinmi, 29, will hope to repeat the form he showed in 2019 – surely his best ever season.
Singapore international Izwan Mahbud looks a fine acquisition in goal and he may have a key role to play in what seems likely to be a battle to beat the drop. Trat’s awkward geographical location will make it a ground that teams won’t relish visiting but the Trat squad may lack the quality to secure a third season in T1.
Last season: 10th
Player to watch Izwan Mahbud
The War Elephant’s survival in 2019 was purely down to the demise of PTT Rayong. This year they may not get so lucky.
The squad looked stronger going into the 2019 season, managed by Totchtawan Sripan. But after a solid start, it all went badly wrong.
The return of defensive leader Suphan Thongsong will be welcomed, after the Thailand international sat out most of last year. In terms of new signings, however, there isn’t much to get excited about.
Much will depend on Eliandro, who had an excellent season at Chiang Mai last year. However, he may be in a similar position as his club’s main hope of survival. The Brazilian striker could not keep Chiang Mai up, and he may experience another relegation with his new team.
Last season: 14th
Player to watch: Eliandro
16. Rayong FC
A very strong second-half of the 2019 season saw Rayong FC take the third promotion spot in T2. While this might give them positive momentum coming into their first T1 campaign, recruitment has not instilled the sense that they are in it for the long haul.
Midfielders Suppasek Kaikaew and Decha Sa-ardchom may have plenty T1 experience but they have been bit-part players at recent clubs.
Brazilian striker Thiago Chulapa will have to get the goals to give his side a fighting chance, supported by namesake Thiago Luis. Dutch winger Leandro Resida gets a second shot at T1, having seen last season’s spell at Chainat cut short due to injury.
While new arrivals in T1 can often surprise, at least one promoted side usually goes down. This year, Rayong FC look least prepared for the top tier.
Last season: 3rd (T2)
Player to watch: Thiago Chulapa