Azkals striker Mark Hartmann ready to earn AFF Suzuki Cup berth with Ubon UMT in Thai League.
Watching the AFC Champions League Playoff between Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) and Muangthong United gave Ubon UMT’s new Filipino striker Mark Hartmann a strong indication of the arduous challenge ahead in the 2018 Thai League (T1).
The former Global FC, Geylang International, Sarawak and Penang FA striker joined Thai side Ubon UMT in January and will go up against the likes of powerhouses Muangthong, Buriram United, Bangkok United and Chiangrai United in arguably Southeast Asia’s strongest domestic league.
Having scored more than 100 club goals in his career, the English-born Filipino is determined to stamp his authority in Thailand with Ubon but knows that it will be a tall order against the likes of Muangthong and Buriram.
เมืองทองทีวี : AFC Champions League 2018 : Muangthong United 5-2 Johor Darul Ta'zim พามาชมไฮไลท์ฟุตบอลเอเอฟซีแชมเปี้ยนลีก รอบคัดเลือกรอบ 2 ระหว่าง สโมสรเอสซีจีเมืองทองฯ 5-2 สโมสรยะโฮร์ฯ ผ่านเข้ารอบเพลย์ออฟไปพบกับ คาชิว่า เรย์โซล ในวันที่ 30 มกราคมนี้ต่อไป | Match Highlights as the Kirin defeat Johor Darul Ta'zim 5-2 in the AFC Champions League preliminary round.
Posted by Muangthong United FC. on Tuesday, 23 January 2018
“After seeing the result of that game (Muangthong v JDT), it was a scary sight,” Hartmann told Fox Sports Asia.
“JDT are a great team so it just goes to show how good this Thai league will be. It will be a great test for me but I want to keep challenging myself, Thailand is a good step in that direction.”
The 26-year-old turned out for Sarawak and Penang in the Malaysia Super League last year before the call came to join Ubon in Thailand. Despite a change of coaching staff at the club since his arrival, Hartmann is unworried as he believes the club’s hierarchy have put in place the right mix of people for success.
He said: “It was the previous coach Scott Cooper – Ubon are now coached by Mixu Paatelainen – who signed me but everyone at the club has been so welcoming.
“Training has been good, but it hasn’t been easy as it’s pre-season and everyone is getting into their stride. We’ve now had a couple of games and coach Mixu is applying his philosophy on how he wants us to play. There is a good mix of experience and young players that all want to win.”
“Personally I haven’t set a target yet. I want to be playing well and scoring as many goals for the team as possible. As a club, I know the president (Wirasak Jinarat) wants to win every game we play in so that sets the tone for all of us players. I want the club to finish as high as possible in the table as we can.”
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While his priority is to win games for Ubon, the former Swindon and Portsmouth apprentice is hoping that his strong showing at club level will get noticed by the Azkals coaching staff, in time for a national team recall for the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup.
He was part of Thomas Dooley’s Azkals squad that failed to progress from the group stages along with Singapore in the 2016 edition which was eventually won by Kiatisuk Senamuang’s War Elephants.
Despite a team primed with some of Southeast Asia’s top football exponents like the Younghusband brothers, Javier Patino, Iain Ramsay and Stephan Schrock, the Filipinos have never won the regional title, something Hartmann is hoping will change soon.
“I think me playing in Thailand gives me a great chance, I’m always available for the national team and the Suzuki Cup is a great and prestigious competition to play in. We will have to see when the time comes,” he added.
“Everyone in the Philippines would love for us to win the title. There’s so much talent from the pool of players to choose from so hopefully this will be the year we get it done.”
The Thai League will kick off on February 9 with reigning champions Buriram playing hosts to Ratchaburi FC but Hartmann will have to wait another two days to make his league debut as Ubon travel to the Chonburi province to face Siam Navy on Sunday at the Sattahip Navy Stadium.