BANGKOK // The former England midfielder Peter Reid faces his first big test as an international coach this week at the Southeast Asian Championships, a tournament where acrimony and bitter rivalry is the order of the day. The former Sunderland and Manchester City manager is hoping to steer Thailand to their fourth title in the fiercely-contested biennial event, which the Kingdom is co-hosting with Indonesia.
Although more familiar with the rigours of top-flight English football, Reid insists there is no less pressure as boss of one of soccer's less fashionable sides. "When you coach a country with a passion for football like Thailand, the pressure is definitely on, but it's part of the job," Reid said. "It's something I relish because I'm confident this team can win it. It'll be difficult, but the players are looking good. I'm pleasantly surprised with their ability."
The biggest threat to Reid's team will come from arch-rivals Singapore, whose dramatic 2007 victory was achieved amid ugly nationalist fervour and cries of foul play, triggered by a petulant mid-match walkoff by runners-up Thailand. Singapore, who have also won the tournament three times, are in Group A in Jakarta with Indonesia, Cambodia and Myanmar. Thailand take on Malaysia, Vietnam and Laos in Group B, which was moved from Bangkok to Phuket when the capital's two airports were occupied by anti-government protesters last week.
Group A matches begin tomorrow, with Group B games getting underway on Saturday. * Reuters