Thursday, August 6, 2009

As One Leaves, Others Return

K.League news.
Every summer the press is full of speculation about which Korean player is going where. A potential transfer to one of the big leagues in Europe is a major generator of headlines in the numerous sports dailies on sale in Seoul and well as the innumerable portals that litter the internet.

It works both ways. As well as players like Lee Chung-yong who head west, there are those who come in the opposite direction and come home after stints in Europe.

Last year Lee Dong-gook, who spent 18 fairly miserable months in England with Middlesbrough, came back to the K-League late last year, just in time to spend a short – and fairly miserable time- with Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma. This year though, he relocated to Jeonju and is starring for title challengers Jeonbuk Motors.

Last week, two more came home. Oh Beom-sok is a right-back and has signed for Ulsan Horang-I after his year or so spent in Russia with Samara FC. He is now ready to help an improving Ulsan challenge for the championship play-offs and there is almost half a season in which to do so. Oh was one of the stars of the 2007 Asian Cup due to his indefatigable runs down the wing and his ability to assist in attack.

A bigger story is the return of Kim Do-heon. ‘Hoeny’ as he was known at West Bromich Albion in England after moving west from Seongnam in January 2008, has come home to sign for the K-League champions, and the club where he started his career, Suwon Bluewings.

Kim was unlucky in the Premier League. As West Brom was promoted to England’s top tier in May 2008, Kim started to look like an automatic starter. But then a serious and unlucky injury in October, he caught his studs in the turf and damaged ligaments in his knee, put him out of action until the end of the year – though medical staff at the Birmingham club were amazed at how quickly the midfielder recovered.

The problem was that West Brom occupied bottom spot in the Premier League for almost the entire season and by the time Kim returned, he wasn’t able to get a sustained run in the team. Perhaps coach Tony Mowbray felt that the technically-gifted 27 year old was not suited for a the rough-and-tumble of a relegation battle in England.

As the team slipped back into the second tier and Mowbray departed for pastures new in Scotland, the club wanted to sell Kim and managed to do so to Suwon for around $500,000. That wasn’t the highest bid for the player from a Korean team but Kim wanted to stay in or around the capital.

With Suwon struggling this season, Kim who has played for the club before, will be a welcome addition and his shooting ability around the edge of the penalty area is a weapon that will have the club’s fans on their feet once he gets his eye in. For the moment though, he isn’t looking too far ahead.

"I felt that Suwon were the team that wanted me the most. I know the team well and the coach knows me. I am looking forward to doing my best and helping the team finish in the top six and play-offs,” Kim told local media at his unveiling.

That is looking more and more likely for Suwon after a Saturday evening’s 2-0 win at home to FC Seoul. Kim played the final 23 minutes of that match and his first action back in the Land of the Morning Calm was falling on the floor after a knee in the back from a Seoul defender. It was a typical K-League welcome but a great result. After his time in England, Kim feels that he can handle life at home.

“There were good things and bad about playing in Europe,” he said. “I was able to see for myself international football. On the other hand, I wanted to play many games but I wasn’t able to do that. But due to that experience, I will try to play well in the K-league.”

If he does, he may not only resurrect his international career but may just help Suwon’s season, one that has been forgettable so far, live a little longer in the memory.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

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