Asian football expert @JohnnyDuerden meets the Bangkok-based Aurelio Vidmar, the former Caltex Socceroos assistant coach and Adelaide United boss who's in charge of Bangkok Glass in the Thai Premier League.
Former Caltex Socceroos assistant coach Aurelio Vidmar will be more interested then most on Tuesday when Australia takes on Thailand at the Rajamangala Stadium in Group B of the third round of qualification for the FIFA 2018 World Cup.
The former Adelaide United boss took the Reds to the final of the 2008 AFC Champions League and is now aiming to get back into that tournament with Bangkok Glass.
Vidmar was appointed to take charge of the 'Glass Rabbits' in August and the season ended with the team finishing in third place.
“It took a while to get used to the culture and understanding the league and how it all works,” said Vidmar.
“We were only there for three months in the end it worked out quite well."
The season finished three games early due to the death of Thailand's long-serving monarch King Bhumibol in October. It plunged the nation into a lengthy period of mourning.
“We finished within two wins and then the king sadly passed away,” said Vidmar. “Then the whole competition was cancelled.”
There was enough time for the former Olyroos boss to get an impression of the Thai Premier League. It was a good one.
“I was quite impressed. Technically they are very good. On the physical side probably not at the level in Australia but that's more genetic than anything else. There is a lot of unpredictability about the league. Having 18 teams makes it interesting and different every week,”
This presents challenges. “We played a team that had played 4-3-3 for the last five weeks but against us, they suddenly changed to a 3-5-2. It keeps you on your toes and makes you think about how to make changes. We started to form a good foundation for what we want to do next year.”
Vidmar has already started strengthening his squad ahead of the 2017 campaign by bringing in two young midfielders. “They will give us a lot more depth as they are talented. We are still looking to finalise our foreign quota as well.”
Former Brisbane Roar defender Matt Smith has enjoyed two successful seasons with the club and is looking forward to a third.
“We are close to signing another attacking midfielder –a foreigner—and that leaves one more spot. I don't know if that will be filled by an Australian or not, but probably not.”
Whoever comes in, challenging 2016 champions Muangthong United, runners-up Bangkok United and usual powerhouse Buriram United, will be far from easy especially with the money flowing around the Thai league.
“We are financially stable and financially responsible and are not paying ridiculous money on transfers. Others can spend big but, saying that, we finished third this year and there is not much between all the teams.
"We have recruited well with our two midfielders and if we get the attacking midfielder we want, we will be looking reasonably good to get into the top six, top four and that is where the team wants to be.”