The young South Korean's club pre-season will be disrupted by his participation at the London Olympics, but his Black Cats boss insists he'll get his chances when he returnsEXCLUSIVE
By Yong-Hun Lee & Ben Somerford
Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill says South Korean striker Ji Dong-Won is still in the running for a first-team place despite being away for the next weeks at the London Olympics.
The 21-year-old Jeju-born striker is part of Korea's Olympic squad for the London games which begins on Thursday July 26.
Ji's inclusion in the Olympic squad means he misses much of Sunderland's pre-season campaign, including the club's Peace Cup in South Korea.
O'Neill told Goal.com the former Chunnam Dragons man will get his opportunities to push for a regular run when he returns to the Black Cats after the London games.
"I'll give him chances after he comes back from the Olympics, we'll have more games after the Peace Cup," O'Neill said.
The Sunderland manager also praised the young Korean's technical ability but admitted he needs to improve physically to compete in the tough Premier League.
"He's technically fantastic but physically needs to be better for Premier League," O'Neill said.
The Northern Irishman also said the decision to let Ji compete at the Olympics was "difficult" and admitted it would have been for him to be part of the squad for the Peace Cup.
"It was difficult but I allowed it because it's great honour for him," O'Neill said. "I think it would have been good for him to participate in the Peace Cup, he could have got cheers in front of his home fans."
Meanwhile, O'Neill admitted he was in the market for a new experienced striker who he believes can complement youngsters like Ji and Connor Wickham.
"Of course we need to bring another striker and I cannot mention specific name," he said. "But it will be an experienced striker who can help young players like Ji and Wickham."
Sunderland take on K-League club Seongnam Ilhwa on Thursday in the Peace Cup, while Hamburg and Groningen will also compete in the tournament.
Meanwhile, Goal.com also spoke with Sunderland's Wes Brown, an ex-Manchester United team-mate of Park Ji-Sung, who said he understood the Korean's move to QPR.
"At his age, Park needs to play more games. He's a fine player so he won't have any problems at QPR," he said.