Ki sets sights on Kilmarnock scalp ahead of Old Firm clash
Published 24/12/2011 | 05:00
Ki Sung-yeung joined Celtic in August 2009, but it is only in the last 12 months that the midfielder has established himself as a fixture in the starting 11 at Parkhead.
He will be one of the first names on Neil Lennon's team sheet for today's visit of Kilmarnock, who have not won at Parkhead since December 1955, and his qualities have also been recognised in his homeland. The 22-year-old has already won 44 caps and last week he was named South Korea's Player of the Year ahead of Manchester United's Park Ji-Sung and Bolton's Lee Chung-Yong.
His performances have also been noted south of the border and during the close season he was linked with a move to Liverpool. The good news for Celtic fans, however, is that he has no intention of leaving Parkhead until he has helped wrest the championship from Rangers' grasp.
Next Wednesday's meeting with Rangers will go a long way to deciding whether Ki can realise his ambition this season but he has been in Scotland long enough to understand that it can prove fatal to look too far ahead.
"We just want to concentrate on beating Kilmarnock first because we need those three points to keep the pressure on Rangers," he said.
"The atmosphere in the squad is fantastic and we know that if we can win these two games, we will have a great chance of winning the league."
That prospect was long odds against when Celtic faced today's opponents in October and found themselves 3-0 down with only 20 minutes remaining. Lennon has subsequently confessed that he would have resigned had that scoreline remained the same but his players found the gumption to earn a 3-3 draw.
"The fightback at Rugby Park was definitely the turning point of our season," said Ki. "We've been brilliant for the two months since that game."
Ki is thankful just to be playing again after spending a week in a Korean clinic last month. He underwent brain scans after collapsing while on international duty, suffering from vomiting and dizziness.
Doctors initially refused him permission to make the 12-hour return flight to Glasgow but he insists he has now fully recovered.
"I was worried because normally I am fit and quite healthy. It was a concern to feel so sick," he said.
"I feel better now, although a little tired. I have done a lot of travelling and played a lot of games in the last three months."
Paddy McCourt is available for selection after recovering from a calf strain, but fellow Irishman Anthony Stokes is struggling to overcome a similar injury. (© Daily Telegraph, London)