KI SUNG-YUENG admits he feared Rafael Benitez did not want him to be involved with Newcastle United’s first team, and is hoping his contribution to the Magpies’ first win of the season will mark a turning point in his career at the club.
Ki came off the bench to make his fourth league appearance for Newcastle on Saturday, and capped an excellent second-half performance with the driven free-kick that led to Ayoze Perez’s winner against Watford.
The South Korean failed to make the match-day squad on a number of occasions last month, and was worried he might struggle to convince Benitez of his qualities.
He slotted in superbly as he replaced the injured Jonjo Shelvey at the weekend, though, and is targeting an extended run in the first team now he has been restored to the fold.
“It was obviously the manager’s decision that I haven’t played much,” said Ki, who joined Newcastle from Swansea City in the summer. “Maybe there were things the manager didn’t like about my game.
“I’m not saying the manager didn’t like me, but clearly he wasn’t satisfied with what I was showing early on. That’s why I didn’t make the squad. I respected that decision. He is the manager – I am the player. He has a job to do, and so do we.
“I knew I had to work harder, but was never worried I had made the wrong move. This is my seventh season in the Premier League and I’ve experienced many things.
“I still have faith in my own qualities, and I believe in myself. Yes, it was a little bit difficult, but I always knew given the chance, I could play in front of these fans. The manager must like me now! He can see now how I can help the team.”
Newcastle’s win has lifted them out of the relegation zone, although they will return to the bottom three if Fulham beat Huddersfield Town tonight.
“Hopefully, this result is a boost we all needed,” said Ki. “Not just to move up the table, but to give everyone belief. It’s not good being at the bottom of the table, no one likes that, and it has been a difficult time for everyone. So of course this is a big win for all of us.”