Bruce happy with new boy Ji Dong-won ... and Louis Laing catches his eye too

Sunderland's Ji Dong-Won
Sunderland's Ji Dong-Won
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STEVE Bruce was forced to rely upon the testimonies of his scouting network for the homework on Ji Dong-won.

But the Sunderland boss believes the modest £2million outlay on the Korean striker is a worthwhile investment after the 6ft 2in striker impressed on his Black Cats bow.

Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Arminia Bielefeld was only the second time Bruce had seen Ji in the flesh – the Sunderland manager travelling to Turkey in February to watch an international friendly against South Korea.

Ji impressed Bruce then and he continued to receive positive reports on the 20-year-old, who is likely to feature again for the Wearsiders in tomorrow night’s encounter with Hannover 96.

Bruce told the Echo: “I’d only personally seen him play once when I saw him in Turkey.

“But he was very good in the Asian Cup games and we had people watching him there then.

“And it was a bit of a no-brainer considering the fee, the age he’s at and the fact he’s the Korean centre-forward.

“I thought he was terrific in the first half on Sunday. His movement and link-up play was excellent. We’ve been very quietly impressed with him. But we must remember he’s only young, as is Connor (Wickham).

“I’m very pleased to bring them both in as I have with the other transfers. Now we’ve just got to make a team out of them!”

Ji and Wickham are not the only youngsters to be given a chance for Sunderland during pre-season with 18-year-old homegrown centre-half Louis Laing featuring in both friendlies against York City and Bielefeld.

While rookie team-mates Ryan Noble, Billy Knott and Blair Adams have flown to the other side of the Atlantic for the England U20 World Cup in Columbia, Laing has been given the chance to link up with the first-team squad.

Laing was handed his senior debut in the final home game of last season against Wolves and Bruce admits the England U19 international is bursting with potential.

“Louis is the next one who we’ve got high hopes for,” added Bruce.

“He’s only a boy of 18 and he’s come on the tour with us.

“We’ve had three lads go away with the England U20s which is great for the club too.

“Louis could have been on that trip but he’s come with us for valuable experience.

“You can see he’s the modern footballer. He’s a good athlete, comfortable in possession and he’s got a big future.”