JI DONG-WON is eager to hand Steve Bruce some payback after earning the backing of the Sunderland manager.
Bruce has persistently sung Ji’s praises during Sunderland’s pre-season campaign after some encouraging displays during the formative stages of the Korean hitman’s tenure on Wearside.
Despite Bruce looking to add to his attacking options before the transfer deadline with ex-Newcastle man Craig Bellamy on the radar, the Sunderland boss insists he is happy for the unproven Ji to be one of the club’s four strikers this season.
Bruce arranged with South Korean manager Cho Kwang-Rae for Ji to miss tonight’s international friendly with Japan and the 20-year-old believes he has been given every chance to be a success at the Stadium of Light.
In his first press interview since joining Sunderland, Ji told the Echo: “When I first went arrived, I wasn’t as fit as the other players and on the pitch, I didn’t feel I showed my best in Germany.
“But despite not being 100 per cent, the coach still said good things about me
“I need to do my best to pay back Steve Bruce and make him happy because Sunderland have been so supportive.
“To help me adapt to life at Sunderland, Steve Bruce agreed with the Korean head coach that I wouldn’t play tonight.
“I appreciate the attitudes and thinking of both sides. It shows they’re thinking about me.”
Ji is firmly in contention to feature in Saturday’s Premier League opener at Liverpool, although it is likely to be from the bench with Asamoah Gyan and Stephane Sessegnon expected to lead the line at Anfield.
The £2million summer signing is happy to bide his time though and insists Sunderland can upset the odds against Kenny Dalglish’s side.
“A strong team doesn’t necessarily beat all the other clubs,” said Ji, speaking through an interpretor.
“We have been working hard in pre-season and we’ve picked up some good players during the transfer window.
“I’m expecting the reverse result that everyone else will be thinking.
“There’s time for me to get onto the pitch and get involved in the first-team.
“It depends on Steve Bruce of course. All I can do is do my best on the training field.
“There are plenty of good players here like Gyan, Sessegnon and Connor Wickham.
“I’m learning good things from them both on and off the pitch.”
Sunderland have been flooded with interest from the Korean media since Ji’s arrival as the former Chunnam Dragons striker looks to follow in the footsteps of international team-mates Manchester United’s Park Ji-Sung and Bolton’s Lee Chung-yong.
Despite the intense interest in his homeland, Ji insists there is no extra pressure on his shoulders.
“I don’t think there’s a burden or any pressure,” he added.
“I’ve got the motivation myself to challenge for a place in this league.
“Ji-Sung Park has been at Manchester United for many years and I want to follow in his footsteps.
“I’ve got a loyalty to Sunderland too and I want to become a big success here.”