Former Adelaide United assistant Phil Stubbins flew back to Thailand yesterday (Monday) and is set to sign a new deal with Division One club Ayutthaya.
Adelaide-based Stubbins agreed to coach the second-tier outfit for the last nine games of the recently completed season with Ayutthaya third last and staring down the barrel of relegation.
However, the former AIS development coach spearheaded a stunning turnaround in the club’s fortunes and Ayutthaya is yet to be beaten under his stewardship.
The club won six and drew three of its last nine games eventually finishing 8th. It won its last five games, the only team in the 18-team league to do so.
Ayutthaya had failed to score in its first six games of the campaign but hit the target 18 times under Stubbins who twice was named Thailand’s Coach of the Month.
“There’s a deal on the table when I get back. There’s another opportunity I wouldn’t mind discussing but in the back of my mind I’ve sort of committed myself to Ayutthaya,” said Stubbins.
The Englishman has become a cult hero with fans, recognised wherever he goes and his effigy appears on posters and flags at Ayutthaya games.
“The last game was great and obviously winning helps so at the moment the relationship with the fans is pretty healthy.
“After that last game I actually went into the stands and got in amongst the supporters and thanked them as best I could given the language barrier.
“I’ve always been a pretty accessible sort of person and I think the crowd probably felt that and as a consequence it drew us closer together.”
If Stubbins inks a long-term deal with Ayutthaya it will be a coup for the provincial club as Thai Premier League outfits have shown interest in snapping up the Englishman.
“There’s not a lot of loyalty in the game anymore but going over there (Ayutthaya) and being allowed to achieve what we achieved and given the autonomy to do it I think they deserve my loyalty towards them.”
Stubbins has had previous coaching stints with top-tier Thai clubs Police United and Bangkok Glass but is excited at the chance to become the first man to take Ayutthaya into the Premier League.
“They’re pretty new on the ground (formed in 2009) and they’re finding their way as they go along,” he said.
“It’s been good to go there and put on a presentation and show them how a football club could be run in terms of best practice, management of a squad and such like and they’ve been all ears.”
Stubbins’ budget at Ayutthaya is less than half of the one at Bangkok Glass but he doesn’t see that as holding back the club’s prospects of achieving top-tier status.
“The difference between the TPL and Division One isn’t much anyway but there is a marked difference between the way business is done.
“At Ayutthaya you sit in the boardroom and exhaust all the possibilities to get the best option then you do it under budget.
“Bangkok Glass just say ‘sign him, what are you worried about?’ And if it stuffs up they just say ‘get rid of him and bring somebody else in.’
“At Bangkok Glass you’re looking at a club that’s probably as cashed up as any club in Thailand and they’re run by one of the richest families in the country.”
Nevertheless Stubbins will make major changes to his squad for the next campaign having been unable to do so during his nine-game rescue mission.
“Last season we won games because of structure and organising the team and as results came the confidence grew and we became quite effective at scoring goals.
“But I think next season I want to play even more on the front foot and be able to dominate possession and all the rest of the stats that go with a winning team.
“I also want to be strong defensively so to strengthen in certain areas will mean an influx of players.
“I’d say from around a 25-man squad that we’d introduce eight or nine new signings and possibly release the same number.
“We’re allowed a quota of seven foreign players but I’ll sign six foreigners, the reason being that instead of spreading the money among seven I can sign six with a bit more quality. The rest of the signings will be Thai players.”
Over the next three weeks Stubbins will finalise his first team squad, arrange the pre-season schedule and is expected to agree to a new deal before returning to Australia for a short Christmas break then heading back to Ayutthaya on 3 January.