Bruce: Sunderland need Ji and Wickham to fire after Gyan exit

Sunderland v Chelsea - Ji Dong-Won goal
Sunderland v Chelsea - Ji Dong-Won goal
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STEVE BRUCE says Sunderland need new signings Ji Dong-won and Connor Wickham to step up to the plate in the wake of Asamoah Gyan’s shock defection.

For the second time this year, the Black Cats have been hit by a major departure they had hoped to avoid – Gyan following Darren Bent out of the Stadium of Light for easy money.

And with the transfer window now closed until January, the Ghanaian’s departure has upped the ante on the quartet of forwards that remain – Stephane Sessegnon, loan signing Nicklas Bedtner and the two youngsters, Ji and Connor Wickham.

Bruce said: “Ji and Connor were brought in as ones for the future.

“They have fantastic potential, but my opinion, when I signed them, was that we wouldn’t start seeing the best of them for 12 to 18 months.

“I wanted to ease them in because they’re so young, but that might have to change now.

“We have lost Gyan and, because of that, we are going to have to ask the two young lads to step up and look to play their part in getting us goals.

“It’s not ideal, but I think we’ll be fine.

“Both of them are improving all the time and Ji’s now off and running with a finely taken goal against Chelsea, so I’ve seen some encouraging signs.”

While Ji’s goal was heartening for Sunderland, the only talking point in town at the weekend was Gyan’s shock departure to United Arab Emirates side Al-Ain on a season-long loan with a view to a permanent transfer.

Bruce chose his words carefully after the Chelsea game, but his disappointment in the man he made Sunderland’s £13million record signing last year was palpable.

“I had a conversation with Gyan and his agent 48 hours before the game after which they shook me by the hand – he wanted to play here, stay here,” he revealed. “The next thing, he’s off.

“It disappoints me deeply.

“He’s the African Player of the Year, he’s a hero in is own country and he’s playing on the biggest stage in world football.

“To leave the Premier League to go to the United Arab Emirates – no disrespect intended to that country – but to make that decision ... well I will let you draw your own conclusions.”