After a couple of 'second-fiddle' years, Buriram United are well and truly back as kings of Thai football

Buriram United Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images

As their country's most-successful football club, anything less than being crowned Thai League 1 champions is usually seen as a disappointment of a campaign for Buriram United.

So when they had to settle for back-to-back runners-up finishes between 2019-21, those seasons would have combined for an abject failure -- as harsh or extreme as it may sound.

Some might even have considered Buriram to be in the doldrums.

But having returned to the summit of Thai football last year, a second consecutive title triumph -- secured at the weekend with a 2-1 win over Chiangrai United -- was the surest of statements that the Thunder Castle are the dominant force once again in the land.

The extent of their supremacy?

With three rounds still to go in the season, Buriram sealed the title by opening an unassailable 12-point lead over second-placed Bangkok United.

It was a similar scenario when they were crowned champions with two games to spare, even if they ultimately finished just two points ahead of runners-up BG Pathum United after picking up a solitary point in their final two outings with the trophy already in the bag.

The successive league triumphs have gone some way in mending the heartbreak from the previous couple of campaigns when Buriram first contrived to throw away a two-point lead on the final day of the season to lose the title to Chiangrai on head-to-head record, before they were a distant second -- 14 points to be exact -- behind 2020-21 champions BG Pathum.

So what exactly has fuelled the Thunder Castle's resurgence?

It would be easy to attribute their recent success to some savvy foreign signings and, in all fairness, both Goran Causic and Lonsana Doumbouya have played important roles by combining for 25 of the 68 goals Buriram have netted so far, while Malaysia international Dion Cools has also been a handy addition.

In truth, however, an already-strong core of local players taking their games to the next level has arguably been the defining factor.

Leading the charts with 16 goals, Supachai Jaided -- long regarded as a prodigious talent -- is on course to becoming the first local top scorer since Thailand legend Teerasil Dangda shared the accolade with Cleiton Silva in 2012, with the last outright Thai winner of the golden boot being Anon Sangsanoi three years prior.

Fellow hot prospect Suphanat Mueanta, still only 20, has chipped in with a handy eight goals while the reliable Narubadin Weerawatnodom, Pansa Hemviboon and Theerathon Bunmathan -- returning to the club after becoming a J1 League champion with Yokohama F. Marinos -- have been pivotal contributors as well.

The Thunder Castle's latest title triumph has also secured a return to the AFC Champions League proper for the first time since 2019, after they fell short in the qualifiers in their past two appearances.

After taking the best part of the past 24 months to reestablish themselves at the summit of Thai football, can Buriram now stay there and avoid slipping back into the "doldrums"?

Much will depend on whether they can hold on to their stars.

The older brigade like Narubadin and Theerathon are likely to stay put but Suphanat has already been linked with a move to Thai-owned Premier League club Leicester, or at the very least, their Belgian sister outfit OH Leuven.

Having already allowed his older brother Supachok Sarachat to pursue a move to Japanese outfit Consadole Sapporo, it is unlikely that Buriram will stand in Suphanat's way should he decide to desire a bigger challenge.

While he has not been subject to as many transfer rumours as his teammate, Supachai is also one that could believe he is capable of performing at a higher level than the Thai League. Turning 25 at the end of this year, it could be the perfect stage of his career to explore such a move.

As always is the case with football in Thailand, or all of Southeast Asia for that matter, there is likely to be the usual chopping and changing of imports come the offseason -- a process that is often hit-or-miss.

For every foreign signing that had been unable to replicate their from from the previous campaign, there has also been a new arrival that completely failed to make any sort of meaningful impact.

How Buriram decide to go about with the makeup of their foreign contingent will be crucial to their fortunes.

Nonetheless, there is no denying that Buriram, after a couple of lean years by their lofty standards, are back where they want to be.

They will be determined to stay ahead of the chasing pack on the domestic front.

Yet, considering this was once a club that flew the flag for all of Southeast Asia when they reached the knockout round of the ACL in 2013 and 2018, making waves on the continental front should be the next target on the horizon.

Kings of Thailand for now. Powerhouses of Asia next?