Played For Both Sides – Midfield Mr Dependable

Stephen Kennedy takes a fond look at one of the many players to have turned out for Sunderland and Swansea City

Unless your surname is Beale, the world seems a brighter place this week for anyone with a passing association to Sunderland AFC. Sure, the play-offs now seem to be streaking away from us with every passing fixture, and of course, we have to play the top two in the coming weeks, and yes, at the time of writing, there’s rumours aplenty about an injury to Jack Clarke, but, is it time for the fans to crack each other’s heads open and feast on the goo inside? Probably not.

Beale is gone, Dodds is back, and with that change, hopefully we’ll see a return to the attacking football we’d been spoiled with for the 18 months previous to the appointment of the man who definitely wasn’t involved in that burner Twitter account.

So what better way to return to form than welcoming a flailing Swansea City to the Stadium of Light this weekend?


If you should ever need to look up an example of a complete, cultured, attack-minded centre-mid, look no further than former Sunderland and Swansea man Ki Sung-yeung. Starting out in his native Korea with FC Seoul, Ki won an array of accolades in his formative years, including a third-place finish at the 2006 Asian Youth Championship, player of the year at the same tournament in 2009, and was named the K League Players’ Player of the Year also in 2009. His performances were enough to catch the eye of European suitors and so, in January 2010, he moved to Celtic for £2.1m.

Ki’s time in Glasgow was something of a rollercoaster, as from a professional level, he turned out consistent performances and scored some important goals, but he also found himself frequently dropped by Neil Lennon and was insanely the victim of racial abuse from some opposition fans.

Overall, Ki’s time in Scotland was a brief, but successful one, which saw him pick up a Premier League winners medal, and a Scottish Cup in his 18 months with the Bhoys – with interest from Blackburn and Tottenham, Ki eventually made the move south, bypassing England entirely, and signed for Swansea City in August 2012, for a then-club record fee of £6m.

If ever there was a team who matched Ki’s playing style to a tee, it was Swansea City in the early 2010s. The midfielder slotted straight into their starting XI, and was a mainstay for the entire 12/13 season, forming a formidable midfield amongst the likes of Leon Britton, Jonathan de Guzman, Pablo Hernandez, Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge. That year was Swansea’s second back in the top flight, and, helped by the assured quality Ki and co, they finished an impressive 9th in the league, and won the League Cup in the process.

So it was bizarre to say the least when Ki was then made available for loan the following summer, but, rather than worry ourselves about the reasons why, Sunderland showed a then-rare bit of initiative and stole in, bringing the midfielder to Wearside for the 13/14 season. In truth, Ki had a quiet start to him time at Sunderland, but then again, we were utterly dreadful for the first few months of that season. His first notable contribution came with his first goal, the last-minute, extra time winner in our 2-1 League Cup quarter-final win over Chelsea in December.

That goal as then followed up two weeks later, with a penalty in a rare 1-0 win away to Everton on Boxing Day, and another in a 4-1 rout away to Fulham, alongside a hattrick from REDACTED. Of course, the first major event of that season would be a little matter of Sunderland reaching Wembley for the first time since Micky Gray’s knacker of a penalty in 1998. Ki played a major role in getting us there, as he (along with Marcos Alonso) was one of the few successful penalty takers in one of the worst shootouts you’re ever likely to see, but of course, sparked some of the best limbs in recorded history, in our semi-final win at Old Trafford.

Although, of course, we ultimately succumbed to Man City in the final, it did mean that Ki had the accolade of making consecutive appearances in the League Cup final for different clubs. A quiet end of the season saw some fans question Ki’s commitment, and, from what I can work out, this appears to be based on nothing more than….Borini taking over on penalties? When in fact, it since came to light that he played on with tendonitis in his knee for the closing months of the season. Either way, Sunderland completed the greatest of great escapes under the stewardship of Gus Poyet, and survived yet another season in the Premier League.

Whether there was an option there, or we simply decided against it, Ki’s time in Sunderland was left at just one season, as upon his return to Swansea, he then found himself a first-team regular for the following four seasons, under their array of insane managers at the time.

He eventually left following the expiration of his contract in summer 2018, where he promptly made us all forget everything nice we’d ever said about him, by joining Newcastle. Promising initial form for pre-death cult Newcastle was dashed by an injury on international duty, and then the appointment of Steve Bruce saw off his career in the North East after only a year and a half, as he was loaned out to Mallorca in February 2020; a spell which was also curtailed thanks to COVID.

Ki called timed on his stay in Europe in the summer of 2020, and in July of that year, returned to first club FC Seoul. In what I can only imagine was a tribute to his time at Sunderland, Ki helped guide Seoul to survival in his first year, before finishing as runner-up in the Korean FA Cup in 2022.

He’s still going strong at the age of 35, and, although he retired from international football in 2019, is a former captain of his country, for whom he is also the ninth most capped player of all time.

Joined Left League Apps League Goals
Sunderland 2013 2014 27 3
Swansea City 2012 2018 139 12