Coaching Thailand makes Reid smile

BANGKOK - 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.

The Liverpudlian, 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 tongue-twisting 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 told Reuters in an interview.

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

After three years in the soccer 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."

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