WES Brown says it is a shame that Ji Dong-won has missed out on the chance to star in the Peace Cup this week.
The South Korean has been picked for his country’s Olympic squad and has had to put country before club.
The striker was in Seoul on Saturday – scoring with a slick back-heel in a 2-1 win over New Zealand in a warm-up match – but flew out to Europe immediately afterwards for the squad’s pre-Games preparations.
Brown said: “It’s a great honour for Ji to be playing in the Olympics but I do think it’s a shame he hasn’t had the chance to be involved in the Peace Cup too.
“I think he would have loved it.
“I’ve been over in Asia before with Manchester United and I know how mad the fans are about their football and the Premier League.
“It was crazy when we went over there with Park Ji-Sung in the United squad – it was like pop stars and being mobbed.
“It was unbelievable how excited they were to have in the United side and I know Ji would have been very popular on this trip.
“I think he would have enjoyed playing with Sunderland in his own country too, because it has been tough for him going to the other side of the world last season and coming to the Premier League when he barely spoke a word of English.”
Brown feels that there is potentially much more to come from the former Chunnam Dragons star, brought to England by Steve Bruce last summer in a near £2m deal.
He said: “The lad has got talent and people seem to forget that he’s only just turned 21.
“He had a lot on his plate last season with leaving his home country to play so far away from home, dealing with a culture and a style of football that was completely different from the one he is used to. “But all the basics ingredient are there – he’s quick, he’s agile, he’s hungry to do well – and he’s at that age where he can continue to improve.
“It’s a shame he won’t be playing in front of his own fans in the Peace Cup but I think he’ll continue to develop regardless at Sunderland and he could become a very useful player to us in times ahead.”