Monday, February 23, 2009

Another Korean Heads West

The Korean media are getting a little blasé about it all now. News that Cho Won-hee could be about to sign for Wigan Athletic was well-reported in Seoul but didn't provoke the kind of excitement seen in the past.

Dirty tackle.

It was expected that the defender-turned-midfielder would leave Korea over the close-season. He was at the heart of Suwon Samsung Bluewings' midfield last season and his last action for the club was to celebrate the championship win in December.

Since then, he turned down the chance of a move to Japan, almost headed to Russia, had a trial with Monaco before ending up in the Premier League.

"Won Hee has come and trained with us for the past couple of days and has done really well, we have been really impressed with him as a player and a person and can sign him as he is not under contract with any club," said Wigan boss Steve Bruce.

"We have known all about him because he has played in the Korean team, which is a very decent team, and he is typically Korean in terms of his athleticism and his work-rate. The problem we have got is the work permit criteria because, unfortunately, he missed a big chunk of the international games.

"About ten months ago they had six qualifying games in the space of a month and he missed the lot of them because of injury."

It is hard to know what the knobbly-nosed one is talking about. Korea haven't played six qualification games in the space of a month in recent years. There were six games in the space of five months last year. Cho may have been injured for some but the player, who started as a right-back before becoming a defensive midfielder, has never been an automatic pick, usually relying on others being absent to take his place in the starting eleven.

But he has impressed since moving to the middle of the pitch and looks to be a far better midfielder than full-back. He has energy and spirit in spades and is stronger than he looks.

Questions remain, however, as to whether he has the will to win when it really matters. The last time I saw him was at a charity gala at Christmas. Paired together on stage to play ‘Rock, Scissors, Paper', he was less than half-hearted and very happy to lose and return to his seat as I progressed to the last eight.

Anyway, he should do better than Lee Dong-guk who is now with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. The Lion King is looking to restore a damaged reputation in the south-west after struggling with Middlesbrough and then Seongnam.

Lee Young-pyo has also left England but is doing rather better. Since joining Borussia Dortmund, he hadn't missed a league minute until last weekend when he was suspended due to a red card received the previous weekend. It came with a wild kick right at the death. Lee claimed that he never saw the opponent.
Park Ji-sung is still going strong and has featured often for Manchester United of late. His lack of goals remains a cause for concern and that remains the major stumbling block to the star becoming an automatic pick. Still, he is likely to start against Inter Milan in the UEFA Champions League.

Kim Do-heon has been stuttering at West Brom though a serious injury hasn't helped. The midfielder was starting to impress before collapsing to the floor in the first minute of a match at Middlesbrough in October. He has yet to find his rhythm since returning to fitness. Seol Ki-hyeon has been loaned from the bench of Fulham to Saudi Arabian giants Al-Hilal and is doing well in Riyadh.

What of Ahn Jung-hwan? The 2002 World Cup hero decided to leave Busan but has yet not found a new club. The media has been full of rumours of a move to the United States. Despite the weeks of agent activity, sources in the US remain nonplussed as to why the story is still alive.

Things are never simple with Ahn, who knows what goes on in that handsome head of his?

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

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