Welcome to volume two of my blog paying homage to the football clubs I've visited all over the world and the wonderful people responsible for keeping them going and looking after the stadiums, and in some cases basic grounds.

Since I was a little lad I've been fascinated in football and more so where games are played. With my love of travel and curiosity of the game I wanted to visit as many grounds and see games wherever possible. I was lucky that my Dad also loved the game and spent so much of his spare time taking me to matches. As I got older the boundaries widened owing to my location and increased wages to Europe and indeed the world. The sight of a stand or a floodlight pylon in the distance immediately hightens my senses and eagerness for a closer look.

I hope this site gives you the chance to share in my pleasure and experiences and maybe one day set you on the road to adventure. If you get half as much out of the hobby as I've done I can guarantee some great memories, good friends and stories to pass on to future generations.

Give your local club a go today. They'll be pleased to see you!

Everlasting thanks primarily to my late and very much missed and dearly loved parents; my Dad Bob Bernard and my Mum; Ann, who put up with endless years of football chat and my brothers Nick and Paul who gave me the chance and encouragement to do what I have. Thanks to all my friends who offer encouragement and Sally and Stan who inspire and give me great pride. Young Stan is showing a keen interest in my hobby!

Please feel free to post any comments (please use sensible language - I want everyone to be able to enjoy reading) or ask any questions relating to visiting grounds or events. If you want to see any ground reviewed please let me know. It will take quite some time for everywhere to appear, but make sure you keep having a look as the site is continually updated.

If you click on a lot of the pictures you will get a larger version on your screen.

I have also added links to video clips on youtube where appropriate for those of you who are bored of reading or are filling in time at work. I haven't always gone for the most obvious choices, but items that will be in some cases unusual but always historically interesting.

Click to see volume one of HAOTW.

Rob Bernard


September 2015

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Nakhon Ratchasima (Thailand)

Nakhon Ratchasima FC is a professional football club that was formed in 1999, who are based in the Thai city of the same name, which is located in the north eastern region of Isaan.

The team began life as a club in the third tier Provincial League playing at Nakhon Ratchasima Municipal Stadium, where they finished in tenth position for the first two seasons. The league was split into two groups in 2002, with ‘The Swat Cats’ finishing fourth in Group A.

The club gets its nickname in tribute to the small domestic cat of Korat, which is another name for the city. Mid table finishes were achieved in 2003, 2004 and 2005 before a tenth place slot in the sixteen team league of 2006.

Swatcat moved to the nearby town of Pak Chong to play in their Municipal Stadium in 2007 while their regular home was being refurbished as the club gained a place in the second level Thai Division 1 League.

The team was relegated to Group A of the Division 2 league under head coach Man Chantanam, where the team finished in fourth position as the club returned to their home city.

The league was extended for the 2009 season as NRMFC became members of Regional League North Eastern Region as Wichan Chaonsri took over team affairs and the club moved to the new 80th Birthday Stadium on the edge of the city.

The move seemed to be a success as Korat finished as runners-up as well as reaching the quarter final of the FA Cup after a fine run before finally going out to 3-1 away to Thai Port. 2010 saw the side finish the league in fourth place before improving by one place in 2011 with Tewesh Kamolsin in charge of the team.

This was enough to secure a place in the Champions League promotion play-offs in which Nakhon Ratchasima finished top of Group B to secure promotion to Division 1 League as a new head coach Arjhan Srong-ngamsub was appointed.

Promphong Kransumrong topped the scoring charts in 2012 as the team finished eighth in the league and then going on to a fifth place in 2013 thanks to the goals of Japanese star Yusuke Kato.

The crowds began to flock to the 80th Birthday Stadium in 2014 as Japanese coach Sugao Kambe led Swatcat to the league title after taking over from Ruither Moraira, under the captaincy of Kraikiat Beadtaku as Ivan Bošković banged in the goals.

NRMFC finished eighth in the Thai Premier League of 2015 with German striker Björn Lindemann topping the charts before the Serbian Miloš Joksić arrived as head coach for the 2016 campaign.

Marco Tagbajumi’s goals secured an eleventh place finish before Swatcat ended the 2017 season in twelfth position as the top flight was retitled. Brazilian forward Paulo Rangel became the locals new favourite before the signing of compatriot Leandro Assumpção replaced him in 2018.

Nakhon Ratchasima FC will play in Thai League 1 in the 2018 season.

My visit

Nakhon Ratchasima 0 Police Tero 0 (Friday 22nd June 2018) Thai League 1 (att: 2,630)

My twelve day break was in its penultimate day. It had gone far too quickly as I’d had an absolute ball. It was difficult to remember feeling as content for as long a period. The people of Isaan and the outskirts of Bangkok had been absolutely superb.

The Thai League had played their part with the fixture scheduling, especially with what was my sixth and final game of the tour, moving it for live TV to Friday night. Korat’s opponents were also the perfect choice.

My friends from Scarborough, Sean and Tracy Newby were living in Bangkok and had adopted BEC Tero Sasana as their team when they played near their home in Minburi. The couple had stuck with the club when it merged to become Police Tero.

Both were regulars at home games and several matches on the road. Tracy was busy during the week, but Sean was thankfully making the trip north. It was through their help and the kindness of the visiting fans that made attending the match so stress free.

Sean travelled in a mini bus with some fans, who were to kindly give me a ride back to Minburi after the game. This saved me some real logistical headaches as I was to fly back home the following evening.

I’d arrived in Nakhon Ratchasima the previous teatime by bus from Khon Kaen. It reminded a little of Chiang Mai, albeit on a smaller scale with its moat protecting the old town and its remaining walls and gates.

My hotel Sakol Khorat just contained the bare essentials but was fair enough for the price. Absolutely no English was spoken by anyone at the basic reception. I had wanted to see if I could pay a surcharge to keep the room until 4pm the following day as I’d only booked one night.

I reckoned that would make sense, allowing me to sightsee on Friday morning before having a siesta and shower before heading to the game. The communications were never going to work, so instead I booked for the extra night.

Nakhon Ratchasima seemed a pretty place. I was only a couple of minutes walk from the moat and the ‘Gateway to Isaan’, Suranaree Monument along with lots of other historical reminders in Suan Rak Park.

I took a wander at dusk trying to get my bearings before heading to the George and Dragon Pub, where I enjoyed some excellent comfort food and beers while watching the Australia v Denmark World Cup game.

The pub was tidy if lacking frills, but there was something about it I liked. There was a lack of pretense and the young Thai ladies were friendly and pretty without being over the top. I felt comfortable. I decided to try another place a ten minutes walk away with good online reviews.

I noted the following for the Monkey Bar at the time on my Facebook page after my visit;

Chilled music vibes and nice bar. Unlikely to show the second game. Unfortunately, a bit too cool for school with youngish Americans at the bar vying for membership to the Tall Story Club. “Wow, I had 10 beers & couldn’t remember the next day” They’d better not come to the cricket at North Marine Road!

And that was about right on reflection. I had one beer and headed back, stopping at the excellent Drink UP, which was Thai chic with great background music, a fridge with an excellent selection of bottled beer, a large screen for the football and a live band.

It was here that I got taking to a Finnish fella who asked me for advice on the city. I suggested the George and Dragon next door. After a couple of beers, I joined him as the France v Peru game was in progress.

He was good company and rather keen to get through a bottle of whisky he’d bought and then paid a corkage fee for while buying the bars mixers. He seemed rather keen on Udon Thani before he was due to head to Hua Hin to work on a wildlife project washing elephants, would you believe?

I turned in at midnight, despite the temptation to look for places still open. The next morning, I returned to the pub. Sometimes a proper fry up is very tempting when offered in exotic climes. It certainly worked for me.

A good walk saw me finding many oriental buildings, which were very photogenic. The large Klang Plaza air conditioned mall was a life saver in the sweltering conditions. The massage chairs offered me a brilliant service as I sat there relaxing and watching the world go by.

I reflected on what an amazing trip I’d experienced in several new locations. There was little doubt that I’d be trying to revisit some of them. Maybe as a resident in a place I really loved and felt happy in?

After a siesta I made it a hat trick of appearances at the George and Dragon after checking out of the hotel. Khao Tom Moo was an excellent pre-match meal before one of the lovely staff flagged down a tuk tuk to take me to the stadium.

It was a fair old hike to the 80th Birthday Stadium of at least fifteen minutes. The stadium is the centre piece of a sports complex built for the 2007 Southeast Asian Games. It coincided with the birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, which is where it got its name.

The complex also had a huge lake; where water skiing was taking place, an aquatic centre, warm up track, indoor hall, a velodrome for cycling, a gym and several tennis courts. It was very impressive with parkland and lots of parking facilities.

It’s only fault was that it was location, which undoubtedly had an affect on attendances, particularly when Swatcat were having a poor run. I knew that the club was well supported as I was impressed with their following at an away game at Krabi way down south.

I was early so had a walk to try and work out where the away fans section would be. Typically, I went to the wrong end! I made my way back round to where some Police Tero fans had already arrived.

They seemed a friendly bunch and I got talking to one gent who seemed intrigued why the big ferang was sat outside the away turnstiles. I explained that I was waiting for a friend. The club had brought their mobile club shop, which is allowed in Thailand.

More and more fans were arriving. I only expected a handful to make the journey. In the end there must have been pushing around 200. A mini bus arrived and parked down the steps from me. Sean got out and introduced me to his new friends.

They were all friendly, but that was no surprise. It was a rarity to find anyone who didn’t smile on the trip. I assisted in helping carry their drums and banners up the steps. Admission was 200 Baht; more than the home fans paid, which was the norm in Thailand.

Sean explained that many Tero fans had travelled from Myanmar to cheer on their favourite player, Aung Thu, who wore the number 10 shirt while on loan from Yadanarbon. My mate was wearing an old original Police shirt that I’d bought several years previously but seriously had overestimated my chances of ever fitting into it!

I dumped my rucksack in the van and bought a Tero mug from the shop. I did laugh when I saw the name on the drum. It’s fair to say I’m not a huge fan of them at games, so the irony wasn’t lost on me.

A plump lady steward enjoyed a laugh as she searched us going in. Our view was behind the goal. The seats were well raked, but the athletics track surrounding the pitch meant we were quite a way back.

The stadium, like the city, reminded me of Chiang Mai with its continuous rake of seating and a Main Stand with curved roof covering the VIP areas. The Korat vocal support was divided between behind the goal and down the far side.

Both teams were at the wrong end of the table going into the game, with Tero especially needing points in their relegation scrap. Five teams were to go down at the end of the season, unless of course the authorities changed their minds!

Nakhon Ratchasima started the better of the sides, but I’d yet to see a home win in my previous five matches. I confidently predicted Tero would leave with at least a point despite having seen the hosts class in their 3-0 League Cup win at Sisaket nine days earlier.

The visitors keeper Nont Muangngam also made a fine save at the near post to keep out Jakkit Niyomsuk. Aung Thu was certainly a class act for ‘The Silver Shields Dragons’ as he pulled the strings in midfield.

He fizzed over a low free kick that Niran Hansson only just failed to get a decisive touch on, as his own Burmese fan club sang out his name. Muangngam kept out a weak Niyomsuk effort as the game ebbed and flowed.

An Aung Thu corner saw a volleyed effort from French skipper Michaël N'dri strike the outside foot of the post. A long range shot from Tero’s Santipharp Chan-ngom deflected off home defender Pralong Sawandee and soar before landing just under the bar, forcing Samuel Cunningham to tip over.

A fine Korat move progressed for Ekkachai Rittiphan to set up Leandro Assumpção who took a touch without the ball touching the deck and then volleying against the inside of the post and away.

The whistle blew for half time as I told Sean I was nipping out for a beer. He was most adamant that I wasn’t. He’d arranged for me to go onto the pitch for the traditional half time presentation between the fans.

I was most nervous as I joined the procession round the track. Sean thought it was hilarious. We got some comments from the stand before we lined up and an exchange of gifts was made as we all posed for photos with sponsors and the mascots.

The Tero match highlights package captured my moment out in front of the fans and can be viewed here from 8:45 for a couple of seconds.

I eventually did get my beer, even though it was a far longer walk than I anticipated. The stall was behind the home fans on the far side. The decent sized away following had caught Korat out who didn’t bother opening anything by our gate.

Leandro missed an absolute sitter when heading wide unmarked on the six yard line soon after the restart. Shortly after a shot was blocked and found its way to Rittiphan whose effort at the back post was kept out by the body of Muangngam.

At the other end a fine move almost sent in Police Tero’s Marcos Vinícius who was putting in a tireless shift. Leandro continued to look the most likely to score for Korat as the game became stretched on the beautiful playing surface.

He then set up Nebojša Marinković with a clever cushioned pass, but the Tero stopper was equal to it once again. Leandro had a header go just over the bar after taking a deflection off a defender.

The visitors had moments of their own going forward, most notably when Nikola Petković controlled well and crossed for N'dri who saw his fierce effort superbly kept out by Cunningham.

The Frenchman set up Aung Thu with a beautiful cushioned pass. The diminutive midfielder smashed the ball home, only to be denied by the linesman’s flag. The game ended blank, but I thought it had been decent entertainment.

The Tero fans were certainly happy, as the players came to offer their thanks while standing to attention listening to a rendition of the club song to the tune of ‘I am Sailing’. I really liked the Tero support but they somehow managed to make Rod Stewart sound good; no mean achievement with that song.

We collected the banners up and folded everything away, taking the drum stands and instruments down to the bus before heading away. I nodded off before being woken at the services, where a large chicken portion was just what the doctor ordered.

The journey back seemed smooth enough from the bits that I saw before coming around on a Don Muang Tollway. I recognised the road by the skytrain construction. We then went to Police Tero's Boonyachinda Stadium to drop off the gear and most of our party.

Fortunately, our driver lived in Minburi, so he dropped us off at the bottom of Soi Sam Wa, where a taxi came timely along to take us the rest of the way. It was about 2am when I crashed out at Steve and Fah’s.

It had been a long day to round off a marvellous adventure. I couldn’t have done it in better company, for which I owe Sean and the welcoming Tero fans a favour if ever they are stuck getting to a game over in the UK!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Sisaket (Thailand)

Sisaket F.C. is a professional football club from the town of the same name in Thailand’s north eastern region of Isaan, that was formed in 1999.

The club was formed by the Sports Authority of Thailand to play in the Provincial League, which was the third tier of football at the time. SSKFC went on to become the inaugural champions.

By 2007 ‘The Dangerous Koupreys’; a kouprey being a wild bovine animal of the region, found themselves competing in the second tier Thai Division 1 League, from where they were relegated to the Regional League.

Head coach Chartkla Subsongpol had been appointed the previous year. The club kept faith with him as he led the side to runners-up place in Group B and promotion back to the second level.

Success continued for the fans at Sri Nakhon Lamduan Stadium as Sisaket finished the 2009 season in third place and were promoted to the Thai Premier League with Piroj Anantanarong finishing as top scorer.

Somchart Yimsiri took over as team boss in what was to prove to be a rather turbulent season. SSKFC finished in the relegation play-off spots, with Freddy Marinho, Kim Kyung-Ju and Wisoot Wichaya all coming and going as head coach.

The team came top of their relegation play-off to remain in the top flight thanks in part to the goals of Piyawat Thongman. Englishman Dave Booth was appointed to lead the side for the 2011 season, but he was replaced a few weeks in by the Brazilian, Royter Moreira.

The club was known on records as Sisaket Muangthai FC as they finished safely in twelfth spot with Wuttichai Tathong and Victor Amaro finishing as joint top scorers.

In 2012 the local Sisaket government decided to back newly formed club Sisaket United FC in the third tier Regional League North Eastern Region. Sisaket FC decamped to Ubon Ratchathani and changed their name to Esan United FC.

Moreira was replaced by Phayong Khunnaen and then Paniphon Kerdyam during the season, as the team finished in sixth place with Tana Chanabut banging in the goals after being signed from Police United. However, the joy at a such a credible finish was to be short lived.

It was found that fake documents had been used to legitimise the move to Ubon Ratchathani along with the name change. The club was suspended for the season and returned to Sisaket and their former title while retaining their Premier League place for the 2014 campaign.

Former Thai international midfielder Chalermwoot Sa-ngapol took charge of the team on their return home. International forward Sarayuth Chaikamdee scored the goals as SSKFC finished in twelfth place.

Ekkapan Jandakorn skippered the team in 2015, in a season which saw Adefolarin Durosinmi lead the scoring charts as the Sisaket finished in thirteenth spot. However, a fine run in the League Cup almost ended in glory.

Pattaya United and Police United were among the sides disposed of as Sisaket reached the final, where they were up against Isaan neighbours Buriram United. SSKFC went down to a solitary goal at Bangkok’s Suphachalasai Stadium.

The 2016 final league position mirrored that of the previous season. Božidar Bandović had started the campaign as head coach before he was replaced by Masahiro Wada with Anton Zemlianukhin finishing as top scorer.

Former Thai international defender Dusit Chalermsan took control of the team for the commencement of the 2017 campaign in the rebranded Thai League 1, before being replaced by Velizar Popov by March. The Bulgarian’s reign was also short lived as he had resigned by August.

Former English Premier League forward Leroy Lita spend the season at the club without really producing the goods. Mariano Berriex was leading scorer with Chalermwoot Sa-ngapol in charge of the team as they were relegated to League 2.

Robert Jose da Silva was charged with the task of trying to regain Sisaket’s top tier status, but he was soon replaced by Somchai Chuayboonchum.

Sisaket FC will play in Thai League 2 in the 2018 season.

My visit

Sisaket 0 Nakhon Ratchasima 3 (Wednesday 13th June 2018) League Cup Round One (att: 651)

My twelve day holiday to Thailand had been in the planning stage for a while when I arrived at work for early shift a couple of weeks before departure. I was like a little lad on Christmas morning as the draw for the Thai League Cup was about to be made.

I’d attended the 2017 final the previous November with Steve Walker, but this was to be different as I would be travelling up country alone to a town I’d never been to before. Dale down in Chonburi had been a help as ever in the build up.

He started sending me the translated draw through as it was made live on Facebook. I kept trying to grab a look, but I hadn’t a clue what was going on. Some cynics would say that I had plenty in common with those conducting proceedings.

My plans were to take in cities in Isaan for part of the trip, so I was overjoyed when the draw pitted together two sides from that region. The capacity of the stadium meant that tickets wouldn’t be an issue. It was time to start booking rooms and transport.

Forward to Wednesday 13th. I’d arrived in Bangkok the previous morning in adventurous mood and spent the day sleeping, at the local snooker hall, eating and even having a game of bingo before a few beers in Minburi with Steve.

There was something about the Sudtong Club where we settled on the main drag. It didn’t have an extensive range of beers or luxurious facilities, but to me it was proper Thailand. Cheap prices, reasonable snacks, live music, friendly folk and set by a duel carriageway. I loved the place.

In fact I loved it a bit too much, staying on after my pal and then awaking a bit the worse for wear at 5.30am. My flight wasn’t until 9am but traffic could be terrible during the Bangkok morning peak, so I was better to be safe than sorry.

The hold ups could be worse than ever at the time as in many places a lane of traffic had disappeared while the sky train extension was in progress. It was some herculean job, but it would surely eventually ease the congestion a little?

I began to perk up after some comfort food. My flight was on time and I was very excited. As I noted at the time, I could be visiting places where little English was spoken, or indeed written. This merely added to the thrill.

My flight was to Ubon Ratchathani from where I decided on taking a taxi to the railway station. It was a choice between train or bus but being a railway worker meant that there could only one real option.

The fare to Sisaket, or Sisa - Ket as it was also listed, was about 30p in sterling. I had around an hour to wait, so I bought a bottle of water and watched the world go by on the platform. I was attracting some attention.

The transport police came over for a chat. One of their colleagues photographed us from across the tracks. They were most friendly and asked what I was doing and heading. When I said Sisaket, they said “why?”.

I explained I was going to the football which surprised them. They seemed to have trouble getting their heads round it. I don’t suppose that they’d come across many overweight backpacking fifty plus year old Yorkshiremen going to watch Sisaket play?

As it turns out I noticed signs on the route and then between Sisaket and Surin the following day warning of people trafficking. Perhaps the police though that was my game? The nearest I got to that was organising mini buses to watch Scarborough.

I’d also infamously helped form and lead the Beer Battered Seadogs Cricket Club on three brief tours of Bangkok, Pattaya and Hua Hin, for which I was still receiving counselling, but people trafficking? No thanks?

The welcome from everyone had taken me back. A young lady had been most helpful in the ticket hall. In fact, my one slight disappointment was that I was all geared up to use some very basic Thai when everyone spoke decent English.

The station at Ubon Ratchathani was in itself uplifting, at least to someone involved in the industry back home, where saving money comes above customer service. Here there was a ticket office, first class lounge, toilets, reasonably priced stalls, lots of staff and police.

I’d been told that my train was cheap as it was a local service, but I’d have smiled if they put me in an open truck. There’s something about Thailand that does that to me. Not everyone speaks English, but they smile. It’s only natural to reciprocate. How are we getting it so wrong in the UK?

Anyway, I digress. People packed all manners of items on board. Vendors went up and down the train. I opted for a bottle of water and a piece of barbecued chicken on a stick. It certainly beat paying £5 for a pastie!

The journey took an hour. It was stifling hot as I arrived in Sisaket; a town seemingly dominated with market stalls, at least either side of the railway tracks. I walked the ten minutes or so to the Boonsiri Boutique Hotel, my place of rest for the night.

I’d read that taxis were rare in the town, so I inquired at reception as to whether it was possible to book me one to take me to the match, as the stadium was on the outskirts. The young lady said it was no problem and it would be there at 5pm.

After a siesta my room phone rang to tell me that my carriage was awaiting. What excellent service! I explained to the driver as well as I could where I wanted to go. He nodded and headed off in the correct direction according to my previous research.

It was normal to see scooters with fans wearing team shirts on the way to matches in Thailand. Therefore, I was a little concerned not to encounter any as the stadium floodlights appeared on the horizon.

I needn’t have worried. I was at the right place and the game was kicking off at 6pm. It was just that I was early. 100 Baht (£2.20) secured me a seat near the centre of the covered stand. There was time to have a look around before that.

I managed to gain access to the stand behind the goal to take some photos, where I came across a couple of local ultras taking their banners and drums upstairs. Again, broad smiles were the order of the day.

It was obvious that the early kick off time would affect the attendance. Many were still at work. I was slightly shocked that only 20 or so fans had made the journey from Korat to cheer on Nakhon Ratchasima. It was a case of choose any spot as the teams warmed up.

The Sri Nakhon Lamduan Stadium was a typical multi purpose arena as seen around Thailand with an athletic track around the pitch. Stands formed a horseshoe shape on three sides, with the Main Stand a lone structure with a roof and seats over the centre section.

The home side were the underdogs but started well with their Brazilian number 10, Cristiano looking very talented on the ball. Two WAGS of Brazilian appearance came into the stand as the crowd gradually built.

Cristiano brought a good save out Swatcat keeper Todsaporn Sri-reung, who was on loan from Police-Tero in the second minute with a long range shot. The main noise came from the far side and the few behind the goal as the sun quickly dropped.

The locals sang some song which had a resemblance to Belinda Carlisle’s, Heaven is a Place on Earth. While Cristiano was good with his feet, he missed an easy chance to score with his head mid way through the half as a glanced at a perfect cross from Nattaphol Sukchai.

Nakhon Ratchasima put together their first meaningful attack when Phaitoon Nontadee went on an excellent run beating several players to pull back to Veerapong Korrayok, who contrived to hit the side netting with his shot.

Natthakit Insao also reached the byline for the hosts before teeing up Pongsak Boonthot, whose weak header was easily dealt with just past the half hour mark. It was a similar story a few minutes later as Igor Luiz fluffed a headed chance from a Wongsaphat Silahirunrath free kick.

The visitors went 1-0 up a couple of minutes before the interval, when Nebojša Marinković went on a fine run that was nodded home by Phaitoon Nontadee to the joy of the gargantuan figure of Ratchasima’s Serbian coach Miloš Joksić.

Swatcats continued where they left off, as they were the better side for the fist ten minutes after the restart. Sisaket looked to get back into the game, with Cristiano missing another sitter with his head.

However, the hosts were offered a lifeline when the referee awarded them what looked like a very soft penalty on sixty seven minutes. Justice was seemingly done as Cristiano blasted the spot kick at least ten yards over the bar.

The Koupreys had their danger extinguished a few minutes later as they were made to pay for their miss. A fine ball saw the defence go missing as Leandro Assumpção waltzed through to double the lead.

The Brazilian added another soon after with a fine run and beautiful chip over home custodian Pornchai Kasikonudompaisan which received well deserved applause from all around the stadium.

Confidence seemed to drain from the Sisaket players. Fortunately, the visitors realised that their job was done and didn’t inflict any greater damage. There was still time for the hosts to come close twice before full time.

An awful clearance from the Swatcat keeper saw the ball returned into the area, where Cristiano saw his effort blocked on the line. The same player hit the bar with the last action of the game after a Methanon Sutthasen was nodded into his path.

The match was certainly a tale of two Brazilians. Sisaket’s Cristiano could have been the hero, but instead it was Ratchasima’s Leandro who left with the plaudits. I’d thoroughly enjoyed it all. Click here to see a brief clip. Now it was time to find my way back.

I hadn’t risked asking the driver to return in case the match went to extra time. I mean how was I meant to explain the permutations to him in Thai when he’d dropped me off? With no taxis around and the crowd heading away it was time to get my daily steps in.

It was still very warm as I walked south before taking the main drag back towards town. I was relieved to come across a 7/11 half way up Thanon Khu Khan to take on board a toastie and a Gatorade.

I’d read that there may have been a lively bar near the bus station, but I didn’t find it if there was. Instead I stopped for a beer in a bar called Stand By, which had an indoor area which seemed to be popular with well dressed locals.

I was tired and needing a shower, so I headed back to my hotel and started watching some of another England ODI victory over Australia. While this was naturally satisfying, I hadn’t planned for weeks in advance to sit in a hotel room when there was exploring to be done.

After a change of clothes I headed along Ratchakan Rotfai 2, busy with people working on the night market stalls and past the station, where I’d read reviews for a bar called Cuckoo’s Nest. I walked all the way without locating it. Not to worry, as I had a plan B.

Hotel Prompiman was said to have a bar, club and snooker hall. It was time that I found out. Sure enough, this looked like the place to be in town. I took a seat at a vacant table and was soon enjoying a large bottle of Chang in an open fronted place with I-Bar club across the yard.

The service was excellent with the waitresses filling the glass as it emptied. On reflection, it may well have been the not unattractive female staff wearing figure hugging dresses advertising the popular brew that persuaded me to have another.

I settled my tab and was mulling over a visit to the nightclub when a couple of local fellas beckoned me over. They insisted a drank with them. Being the perfect diplomat and tourist, I concluded that it was the least I could do.

It transpired that one of the fellas was in the army as he showed me photos of him in full uniform and on parade, followed by images of his family. I was praying that his phone didn’t have too much storage as I made my excuses and went across the way.

It had been some time since I’d been clubbing, but my memory told me that the bouncer hadn’t smiled and welcomed me the same way as was in evidence here. Entry was free and drinks sensibly priced.

People stood by tables and were served, but they seemed fine with me going straight to the hatch and paying. Again, I was getting smiles from everyone. A very decent local band had the place rocking, which can be seen below.

It was definitely bedtime a couple of large bottles later. A local had tried to strike up a conversation when I first tried to order a beer, but the music was too loud and I wanted to take everything in.

The same fella saw me as I was having a look at the food on the busy street stall. He seemed a friendly chap and insisted on giving me a lift back to my hotel, even waiting while I popped into 7/11 for snacks.

Somehow, I couldn’t imagine that happening in the UK? It summed up Sisaket and its wonderful smiling people. It wasn’t the most aesthetic of towns but the locals more than made up for it. I wouldn’t hesitate to return.

Incidentally, I later discovered that I was on the wrong side of the railway for my originally intended place of lubrication, so that will have to wait for a return trip. Maybe for a Sisaket United match? I wouldn’t need to have too many excuses to see so many smiles again!