JI DONG-WON has time on his hands to progress following a difficult first season in English football.
That’s the verdict of Sunderland team-mate Phil Bardsley as Ji prepares to lead the line for South Korea in tonight’s friendly against world champions Spain.
Ji was restricted to a fringe role with the Black Cats last season after his £2million switch from Korean outfit Chunnam Dragons a year ago.
The 21-year-old made just two appearances in the starting XI, with the first of those under Martin O’Neill not arriving until the penultimate game of the season at Fulham.
With O’Neill ready to strengthen his forward options this summer, the Black Cats boss could look more favourably towards any loan interest in the striker, who produced the highlight of his Sunderland career with the winner in New Year’s Day victory over Manchester City.
But Bardsley believes it was always going to be difficult for Ji to adjust to the Premier League in his maiden season on Wearside after making such a seismic leap in his career.
Bardsley told SportMail: “Ji is only a young boy and he’s a long way from home.
“It’s difficult to settle. I’m sure he’d like to have played more football than he has.
“But he’s worked hard in training and got himself a deserved start at Fulham, where I thought he was pretty bright at times.
“It takes time to get used to the physical side of things for the Asian players when they come over here and it’s the same for the South Americans. They all adapt differently.
“For Ji the big plus point is he’s a young lad.
“He’s got a lot to learn, but time is on his side.”
Ji will continue his education in Switzerland tonight, as Korea take on Spain in a warm-up game.