Foreign headline names try their hand in Thailand

A trip to Thailand may have given Sven Goran Eriksson's career a fillip but it hasn't always been plain sailing for former football A-listers in the Land of Smiles.

The Swedish ex-England boss seems to have worked his old magic with new club BEC Tero Sasana, who hit form with a 7-1 romp over TTM Phichit last week and have only lost once since he joined as technical director in September.

Eriksson, whose cluttered CV includes Notts County, Leicester City and Ivory Coast since departing the England job in 2006, has now been mentioned for the vacant Blackburn Rovers post by a senior official at the Premier League club.

Big names who have turned their careers around in Thailand are rare. Robbie Fowler, Bryan Robson and Peter Reid are also among those who have tried their luck in the balmy Asian tourist spot, with mixed results.

Fowler, known simply as "God" to adoring Liverpool fans for his goal-scoring exploits, failed to fully capture the hearts of Muang Thong United during an ill-fated spell in the Thai Premier League.

Robson was appreciated as a solid, if unremarkable, manager for his two-year spell with the national team which ended in 2011.

Zesh Rehman, the towering defender who was one of the first British Asian stars in the English Premier League, had a better time at Muang Thong, winning the fans' affection before moving to Hong Kong champions Kitchee this year.

"It is a big challenge," Eriksson told AFP. "Football is getting better and the interest in football is higher. Of course they want the level to improve for the national team and at club level also."

Young, fit players from all over the globe who struggle to break into the upper echelons of their own competitive leagues are eager to take up offers to make their mark in the TPL, which recently eased strict quotas on overseas players.

"I love it here. People are friendly and easy going. My wife and son love it too," says Wales's Michael Byrne, who plies his trade with TPL side Chainat FC.

And Eriksson has been welcomed with open arms by the Thai football community, including the national team coach, Germany's Winfried Schaefer.

"This is very good for Thai football. We need a good coach like him," said Schaefer. "Sven is an experienced coach and Thai players can learn a lot from him."