Reclaiming their throne: How our FFT SEA 'Club of the Year' bounced back in style

Buriram United regained their place at the top of Thai football in 2017, winning the league title over their bitter rivals and previous holders, Muangthong United, by a whopping 14 points. They also added a FourFourTwo Club of the Year award to their ever-expanding trophy cabinet...

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In 2016, Buriram’s three-year stranglehold on the league crown came to a shuddering halt, with the team known as the Thunder Castle finishing a distant fourth, a scarcely-believable 25 points behind the Twin Qilins.

It did not take long for us to start gelling. Buriram have a unique system – everyone is family here

- Buriram captain Suchao Nutnum

Following a major internal review, a new direction was forged and fresh players were recruited - although Buriram’s issues looked far from solved when they trailed Chonburi FC 2-0 at halftime in their season-opening match at home.

“The beginning of 2017 was a bit tough,” Buriram captain Suchao Nutnum, one of the key players who helped the team regain its title, told FourFourTwo.

“New players were coming in and players were just starting to get to know one another. Young talents had recently been promoted from the academy tam. Things were a bit bumpy.

“In the first game we were down 2-0 against Chonburi, but we managed to equalise at the end. This is the Buriram spirit. We fought hard to come back.”

That 2-2 draw would be the start of an 11-game unbeaten run to start the season, although they still trailed Muangthong throughout the first half of the campaign.

Consecutive losses to Bangkok Glass and Ratchaburi Mitr Phol meant Buriram then lost further ground, but they refused to panic.

Muangthong snapped Buriram's run of three straight titles in 2016

Their two-game slide was followed immediately by a three-game losing streak from the Twin Qilins, giving the Thunder Castle the opening they needed.

The new-look Buriram side was also about to hit top form at just the right time.

Those consecutive defeats in May would prove Buriram’s only losses for the entire league season

“Towards the end of the first leg and early second leg, everybody started to understand one another more,” Suchao said of the two-part Thai league structure. 

“The teamwork started to improve and that affected our performance in the second leg. I was happy with everyone’s output in 2017.”

The players were getting a grasp of Popovic’s tactics and those consecutive defeats in May would prove Buriram’s only losses for the entire league season.

“It did not take long for us to start gelling,” Suchao said. “Buriram have a unique system – everyone is family here. And the key to a happy family is understanding.

[NEXT: The Thunder Castle is rocked by a sudden coaching change]