SUNDERLAND striker Ji Dong-won will become South Korea’s most successful footballing export since Manchester United star Park Ji-sung, reckons Steve Bruce.
The Black Cats’ boss has never had any doubts about the quality and potential of the young striker but he has been quietly impressed by the desire and application shown by the 20-year-old since his signing from Chunnam Dragons this summer.
And he is now convinced more than ever that the Asian forward has what it takes to establish himself as a genuine Premier League force.
Bruce is currently in South Korea along with Sunderland’s newly-appointed head of international development Niall Quinn, and the pair were due to watch Ji in action for his country this lunchtime in a World Cup Qualifier against the United Arab Emirates in Suwon.
United’s Park was the first Korean player to make an impact in English football, having becoming an integral part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad since moving to Old Trafford in 2005.
But with the 30-year-old having now retired from international football, Bruce says it is £2million man Ji who is seen as the future of South Korean football, along with international strike partner Park Chu-Young, who this summer moved to Sunderland’s opponents on Sunday, Arsenal.
Bruce confirmed: “We have been invited by the Korean FA to the game against the United Arab Emirates, and it gives me an opportunity to see Ji in action for his country.
“Ji plays up front with the lad from Arsenal, but in his country Ji is the rising star – he’s the new Park Ji-sung, if you like. I’ve been impressed by him since he arrived here at Sunderland and eventually he will get his chance, but at the moment I am just letting him settle in gradually.
“There is a clamour from the supporters to see him play, of course there is, but I have to make sure we don’t throw him in at the deep end until he is fully ready.
“In my experience, almost all players who come to England from abroad need a bit of time to get used to living here and learn the language. But when he gets his chance, he will be fine.”
Ji has made six substitute outings so far and has yet to start a game. The 20-year-old has, however, opened his account, netting Sunderland’s consolation goal against Chelsea at the Stadium of Light last month.