Four former legends of Thai football, all to have worn the red of Muangthong, are now doing their part to develop and guide the next generation.
Mario Gjurovski, Natthaporn ‘Oat’ Phanrit, and Dagno Siaka helped form the core of SCG Muangthong United when the club won the championship in 2012, a season when Muangthong went undefeated under the direction of Slaviša Jokanović. Jetsada Jitsawada played centre back for Muangthong in the 2009 championship season.
Both Dagno and Mario have also had seasons as the club’s top scorers, while Natthaporn, a defender, has 70 appearances for Thailand on the international stage. Jitsada has also represented his country with 28 appearances.
Mario and Dagno are coaching the club’s U19 team, which this season comprises 16, 17, and 18 year old players scouted from across the country.
Coach Jitsada and Coach Oat are at the helm of lower division teams with many MTUTD Academy graduates making the transition to professional play at the top level.
Academy Director, Englishman Darren Read, explained the huge advantage to the club, as the legends will instil the Muangthong United Academy Philosophy alongside the coaches own tactical/technical knowledge, while serving as tremendous inspiration for the youngsters.
Today MTUTD MEDIA caught up with the coaches at the club’s training grounds, near the SCG Stadium.
MTUTD: What was it like, making the change from being a player, to becoming a coach?
DAGNO: Yes, this was a difficult time for me. I was injured, and had to hang up my boots quickly. It took me about a year to get used to the role of coaching.
OAT: Yes, there is a big difference. As a player, you just wake up each morning and prepare for training. As a coach, you have to think a lot. You have to plan what you’re going to do for the next day, week, but also you have to think about the long term, the months ahead.
MARIO: In a way, I had started to become a coach during my last few seasons as a player. I never thought I would be a coach, but with experience and age I started to take on a coaching role in the locker room, and in training, just naturally. So when I made the decision to become a real coach, I was already on the way.
JITSADA: Yes it is a difficult change to make. As Coach Oat has mentioned, when you are a player you don’t think very much about the progress of the team and player development, but as a coach you really have to plan for the future. For me the first few months were a challenge, but I was then able to get used to my new role.
MTUTD: As a player, you have met many different coaches in your career. Who is someone that really affected you and now is perhaps influencing your own coaching style?
MARIO: I have worked with over 30 different coaches. Sometimes I like their style, but for me maybe only a few. The truth is you have to have your own style as a coach, and to develop what is natural for you. Of course, you have to learn, and I am working towards the Pro Licence, but the style has to come from you.
DAGNO: As Mario said, you cannot just take 100% what other coaches do and try to copy them. It wont work. Instead you have to develop your own style and way.
OAT: There are coaches I admire, such as Jurgen Klopp, or Sean Dyche at Burnley FC. I see their tactics such as quick recovery when you lose the ball, or using a compact formation that is difficult to score against. But that said you have to find your own method that works for you.
JITSADA: When I played with the Tobacco Monopoly team I learned a lot from Coach Jose Alves Borges. He taught me the importance of the psychology of football, and getting yourself into the right mindset for success. This is something I now try to do with my team, to develop their knowledge and understanding of the psychological aspects for being a player.
MTUTD: What has been challenging for you as a coach?
OAT: To be able to communicate clearly with the players and have clear understanding between coach and player. When I am working with 30 players at a time, it is hard to know what everyone's thinking. Some players are quiet, and don’t speak up. They may be confused about something. So I try to talk to every player, and be clear with them, so there are no misunderstandings between us.
DAGNO: I agree, communication is very important. The players know us, they know our history, and they can believe in what we’re doing, because we bring to them all of our experiences as a player. We know what it’s like and the kind of mentality they need to have to be successful, not just on the pitch, but in everything in life.
MARIO: That’s right, the mentality of the player is the most important thing. They have to go out everyday to get the most out of what they are doing. This is so important. They can look at us and see this. And for us, Dagno and I to be coaching together on the same team, they can see how well we know each other and understand too how they have to push themselves to get the best from the day. In the end, our goal is we want our players to be on the Muangthong United first team. Even us as coaches, we will push ourselves to get the best results, and one day too hope to take on the responsibility of the first team.
JITSADA: As my colleagues said, communication between teammates and the coach is very important, and helping the players to feel confident in themselves and the team as a whole.