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 By Paul Murphy

Thailand legend Kiatisuk Senamuang quits Port FC after one win in 10 games

Ex-Thailand boss Kiatisuk Senamuang is struggling since taking charge of Port FC.
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Kiatisuk "Zico" Senamuang has stunned Thai football again by quitting as head coach of Port FC after less than three months in charge.

After watching his side lose 3-1 at home to Chonburi in the Thai League (T1) on Wednesday night, Kiatisuk announced his resignation at the post-match media conference in the PAT Stadium.

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The Thailand legend had responded to criticism after the 2-1 defeat at BEC Tero Sasana on Saturday by vowing to step down if his side lost to the Sharks. And Zico kept his promise by confirming his departure, following his team's seventh game without a win.

It completes a stunning fall from grace for the Southeast Asian icon, who only nine months ago seemed set for a long stint in charge of the national team after overseeing a record fifth AFF Suzuki Cup title -- and his second consecutive triumph -- after defeating Indonesia in the Bangkok final.

Kiatisuk followed up his highly successful spell in charge of the national team with a dismal tenure at Port FC that saw his side win just once in 10 T1 games. By contrast, his predecessor Jadet Meelarp had won four of the previous 10.

When Kiatisuk joined the Bangkok club in June, hopes were high that he would build on the solid start to the season that Jadet had overseen. However, it was also a little baffling that the club owners had seen fit to make a change, with the newly promoted side sitting comfortably in mid-table.

Highlights of the first half of the season included impressive wins at Chiang Rai United and champions Muang Thong United, as well as a home draw with Buriram United. Seven points out of nine from the teams that were sitting in the top three positions at the time was no small achievement.

There had been humiliations at Thai Honda (5-1) and Bangkok United (6-2), but the team had recovered from these setbacks and come back stronger.

But the club nevertheless wanted to grab Kiatisuk while he was still available and former Chonburi boss Jadet was moved upstairs into the position as technical director.

Kiatisuk began his brief reign with a 3-0 defeat at home to Bangkok United, but this was against a side in rampant form and not altogether unexpected.

The first win followed a week later, though it was a slightly laboured 3-1 triumph against second-bottom Thai Honda. It would be the only T1 victory of his tenure in Bangkok.

Port FC coach Kiatisuk Senamuang
Kiatisuk Senamuang achieved only one win in 10 games in charge of Port FC.

There were then moments of promise, such as in the battling away performances at Buriram United and Bangkok Glass. But these were undone by insipid displays at home to Chiang Rai and Sukhothai. In the latter game, the vulnerability of the team was highlighted by the concession of two goals in the final 10 minutes to drop two points.

The 2-1 defeat at BEC Tero Sasana on Saturday was another tough one to take, and the disjointed display in the loss to Chonburi demonstrated many of the team's recent failings.

It should be noted that Kiatisuk's arrival at the Port Lions came too late to make any significant changes in the June transfer window. A late flurry of speculation saw several Thai internationals linked with a reunion with Kiatisuk. Winger Mongkol Tossakrai was widely expected to join on loan but opted for Pattaya United instead.

As a result, the squad has lacked depth, and most of the same players have been starting regularly, mainly due to limited options elsewhere.

Despite the best efforts of captain David Rochela in defence, the team has lacked consistency and coherence under Zico, and there has been little of the sustained intensity we saw in certain games in the first half of the year.

Coach Kiatisuk Senamuang celebrates Thailand 2016 AFF success
Kiatisuk Senamuang won three AFF championships as a player and two as a head coach.

After his resignation from the War Elephants in April, Kiatisuk was linked with multiple vacancies for clubs and national teams in Southeast Asia.

His record of leading Thailand to two AFF Suzuki Cup victories and to the final round of World Cup qualifying for only the second time in their history meant that Kiatisuk had plenty of credit when he quit the national team.

But it is difficult to see where Thailand's all-time record scorer goes from here. He was recently linked with the Vietnam vacancy, and his record with the War Elephants certainly marks him out as a strong candidate.

At club level, however, Kiatisuk has a patchy record, with a runners-up finish at Chonburi way back in 2009 his most memorable achievement to date. Ironically, the man he replaced at Chonburi was Jadet, the very same man he replaced at Port.

After Kiatisuk left Chonburi following one season in charge, it was Jadet who came back into the head coach position. It now seems possible that Jadet will step back into Zico's shoes once again, until the end of the season at least.

Bangkok-based Paul Murphy has lived in Asia for a decade, writing for ESPN FC since 2014. He is a former Daily Express sub-editor. @PaulMurphyBKK

 

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