Reid excited by Thai challenge
English coach enjoys the challenge of Thai football.
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2009 15:48 GMT

Peter Reid is excited by the footballing potential in Thailand [EPA]
Having managed three Premier League clubs and played in the World Cup for England, Peter Reid would be forgiven for regarding coaching strugglers Thailand as a demotion.

Reid, however, says the job is no holiday and presents a challenge big enough for him to turn down a lucrative return to the English top flight.

Getting to grips with the entertaining but haphazard Thai game has been fun, though by no means easy, he says.

"When I got here, I didn't know anything about Thai football, it was a total blank," said Reid, who refers to his players by squad numbers rather than their Thai names.

"I was surprised by the players' ability and I'm learning things about football I'd never have learned in the Premier League," he said.

"It's great for my football education. This is pure football and I love it."

Team building

After three years in the football wilderness, Reid rejected an offer to coach regional giants Iran but leapt at the chance to try to steer Thailand to their first World Cup finals in 2014.

In September, the 52-year-old inherited a team badly deflated by their dismal exit from 2010 World Cup qualifying.

Five months on, the new-look side have dominated most of their matches and have lost only two of their 13 competitive games under Reid.

Two disputed goals by Vietnam in December cost his side their fourth Southeast Asian championship, and former European champions Denmark needed a penalty shootout to beat them in last month's King's Cup invitational tournament.

"They're technically excellent, they have a natural instinct to attack and they've shown character even when kicked in the teeth," Reid said of his team.

"They're a great bunch and I like them. They have so many endearing qualities."

Thailand's Surat Sukha, in blue, muscles past Iran at the Asian Cup in January [EPA]
Communication issues

Reid has quietly introduced fines for the famously undisciplined Thai players and has come down hard on the drinkers and partygoers of his squad.

Few speak English so the former Manchester City, Leeds and Sunderland boss has had to put on his boots and shorts to demonstrate exactly what he wants them to do.

"Communication has been tricky but football is a universal language," he said.

"But the substitutions are a real nightmare. Their names and nicknames are difficult and I'm convinced I'm taking the wrong players off," he joked.

Reid rejected suggestions that the standard of the Asian game was weak and believes some of his team, most of whom earn around $250 a week, are capable of playing professionally in England.

"Some are outstanding and can easily play in England, without a shadow of a doubt," he said.

"I've worked championship (second division) and Premier League and they can definitely make it."

In December, minutes after his side thumped lowly Laos 6-0 on a rugged, rain-soaked pitch in provincial Thailand, Reid shocked fans when he ruled out a return to his old club Sunderland in the Premier League.

He says he has no plans to go back any time soon.

"I'd like to manage in England again," he said. "Of course I'd go back to club football, if the right job came up, but I've a four-year contract and I'll honour that."

Thai talent

Reid is adjusting well to his new home and has refrained from the kind of fiery outbursts that are synonymous with the English game but frowned upon in Thailand, where smiling, not shouting, is encouraged.

He has struck up a good rapport with the local media, humbly greeting reporters in Scouse-accented Thai before performing a "wai" with his head bowed and palms pressed together.

"I'm doing my best," he said. "But the press still complain I don't smile enough."

Skilful striker Teerathep Winothai, a former youth player in England with Crystal Palace and Everton, said Reid's appointment had made a big difference to the team.

"He shows us respect and we respect him," said Teerathep, the poster boy of Thai soccer, who plays in the Belgian second division.

"We've learned so many new things and we all respond to him."

Reid plans to scour the kingdom's remote, rural provinces in search of the labourers and farmers' sons who could guide the soccer-obsessed country to the World Cup finals.

"I'm convinced there are players out there who I've missed and I'll go out there looking for them," he said. "I'll get out and watch the local sides, I don't mind.

"I just love football, even Sunday pub football and if there's talent out there, I'll find it."

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