Paolo Di Canio has thrown his support behind striker Ji Dong-Won after a difficult evening in the Capital One Cup for the South Korean striker.
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Afforded his first start of the season alongside American striker Jozy Altidore, the 22-year-old struggled to make an impact, repeatedly giving the ball away cheaply. Caught offside early in the second half, his withdrawal 3 minutes into the half in place of Connor Wickham was cheered by large sections of the home support.
Having faced an uncertain future at Sunderland, Ji was linked with moves to Dortmund and Borussia Mönchengladbach following an impressive six month stint with Augsburg in the Bundesliga. In the final year of his current contract, there is already conjecture on Wearside that this could be his last season at the Stadium of Light.
"(Ji’s) a very good quality player but it is difficult for him to play in this environment where every mistake causes a reaction,” Di Canio said after the 4-2 victory over MK Dons. “I understand how the fans fell because I was fan once. But I cannot fault his attitude – he gives everything in training and he’s technically a very good player – and I need to build his belief. This wasn’t a good game for him and he knows that as a striker he has to hold on to the ball better and look to play it simple. But he could still be an important player for us.”
However, Di Canio praised the introduction of Wickham, Ji’s replacement, as the moment that changed the match against MK Dons.
“Connor took his chance to play well. He did well at Southampton and he turned the game against the MK Dons. I have been impressed with him over the last couple of weeks, he has shown a lot. I’m very happy because he’s another player we can use in the future. I hope now that Connor does not switch off – he has to use this as a starting point. He has fought hard to get a position in the side and that’s what he needs to do now, to carry it on from here. But this was a very good game for him and he had a big say in us getting the win.”