Ki Sung-yueng opens up on his ‘difficult’ start at Newcastle under Rafa Benitez

Ki Sung-yueng.
Ki Sung-yueng.

Ki Sung-yueng says Newcastle United was the right move for him – after coming in from the cold.

The midfielder came off the bench in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Watford.

Ki – who replaced the injured Jonjo Shelvey at St James’s Park – set up Ayoze Perez’s winner.

The result – Newcastle’s first win of the season – lifted the club out of the relegation zone.

Ki, signed on a free transfer in the summer following his release from relegated Swansea City, had found his opportunities limited in the first three months of the season. However, the 29-year-old didn’t regret his move.

“I was never worried I had made the wrong move – I wasn’t that worried,” said Ki.

Jonjo Shelvey leaves the pitch injured to be replaced by Ki Sung-yueng.

Jonjo Shelvey leaves the pitch injured to be replaced by Ki Sung-yueng.

“This is my seventh season in the Premier League, and I’ve experienced many things.

“I still have faith in my own qualities. 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.”

Ki quickly settled into the game following Shelvey’s withdrawal, and Perez headed his driven free-kick past Ben Foster in the 65th minute.

“It’s my first game for a while,” said Ki.

I still have faith in my own qualities. 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.

Ki Sung-yueng

“I’m just so pleased I can help the team at a really important time. Hopefully, this result is the boost we all needed, not just to move up the table, but to give everyone belief. It’s not good being at the bottom of the table.

“The manager just said to me try and control the game.

“In football, circumstances can change so quickly. Someone gets injured, and you get that chance you’ve been waiting for.

“It wasn’t something I expected, but I did my best to help the team.

Ki Sung-yueng joins in the celebrations with Ayoze Perez, centre.

Ki Sung-yueng joins in the celebrations with Ayoze Perez, centre.

“I had a good feeling that we would win the game. Don’t ask me why. I just felt if I did get the chance, I could do something for the team.

“I’ve worked really hard, I’ve felt in good condition. Of course, this is a big win for all of us. It’s massive for the fans as well – you could hear them celebrating.

“It’s been a difficult time for everyone. This is our first win. We have a lot of games to go. We still need a lot more points. We cannot just rest on this, we have to go again in our next one.”

Ki said he “respected” manager Rafa Benitez’s decision not to play him – and responded by redoubling his efforts in training.

“Obviously, it was the manager’s decision that I haven’t played much,” said the South Korea international.

“Maybe there were things that the manager didn’t like about my game, so I had to work really hard to get my chance. I had to be patient. I thought I needed time here to adapt to settle down.

“It was difficult with a new team. I had to wait for my chance, and I knew when it came I had to take it.

“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’s the manager, I’m the player. He has a job to do. I knew I had to work harder.

“I never spoke to manager about my situation – I just waited for my chance.”

Ki added: “The manager always tells us that it’s better to work hard than complain.”