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Ki aiming to kick on after making Magpies return

Written by Tom Easterby

Returning midfielder Ki Sung-yueng feels Newcastle United can start to train their sights a little higher up the Premier League table after last weekend’s stunning comeback win over Everton moved the Magpies up to 13th.

The 30-year-old made his first start since just before Christmas in that 3-2 victory over the Toffees, and will look to keep his place in United’s engine room for the trip to AFC Bournemouth on Saturday (3pm kick-off).

Another win over the Cherries – who were toppled 2-1 at St. James’ Park back in November – would see Rafa Benítez’s men leapfrog their 12th-placed opponents and potentially move to within a point of a place in the top half.

And Ki told nufc.co.uk that, while United are still focussed on retaining their top-flight status, they can ‘have a go’ at pushing on up the league ladder.

“As a player, of course you want to go higher – you don’t want to stay at the bottom of the table all the time,” he said. “Now we have games that we can have a go in. We don’t underestimate the teams who are below us, but we have to have more confidence that we can go even higher.

“Confidence gets higher which is very, very important at this stage of the season, because we are still fighting relegation. Of course we are in a good position, but it’s not finished yet. We still have eight games to go and we have to win as many as we can.

“I think with the atmosphere from all the fans and among the players now, we think we can do better and we can stay in a higher position.”

The Korean schemer jetted off to the Asian Cup after featuring in the goalless draw with Fulham in December, but returned to Tyneside after suffering a recurrence of a hamstring injury during the tournament.

He admitted it was something of a relief to run out at St. James’ Park again after a lengthy stint on the sidelines.

“I had to go away with the national team for the Asian Cup, and then I picked up an injury in the first game, which was very disappointing,” explained the former Swansea City man. “So I had to come back to Newcastle, and the team was doing well so I had to make my body fit and wait for my chance. It was quite a long time, but I was very pleased to be able to play with my teammates and for the club.

“Physically, of course, I haven’t played a lot of games so it was a little bit difficult, but I was really pleased to play at St. James’ Park. Also, we won the game, so hopefully my form here will get better and better as I play more.

“You spend three months out of the team, and it’s quite a long time for me. I was doing well with the team so I was disappointed, but this is football, life. Now I can focus on the team because I’ve finished my national team career. I want to finish the season well and hopefully we can go as high as we can in the table.”

In his absence, Isaac Hayden and Sean Longstaff formed an effective partnership in the middle of the park before the latter’s knee injury earlier this month.

Mo Diamé and Jonjo Shelvey are both now in contention for a starting berth, and Ki – who won 107 caps in total for his country – says he’s ready to battle for his place ahead of the trip to Bournemouth, who have won just once in their last six league games.

“It’s going to be a difficult game because they are above us and it’s their home game, so they will have an advantage,” he said of the clash on the south coast. “But we beat them at home, so like normal we will give our best. We have to be more disciplined, especially in away games when it’s more difficult, so we have to be more compact. If you don’t concede, for sure you have a chance to score. Hopefully we score the first.

“I think we have very good players in my position so even on the bench and in the squad, everyone has the ability to play in the team, in my opinion. Of course, there is a lot of competition in my position, so I have to work hard every day.

“Isaac and Sean were doing very well, it was very impressive, and it helps the team if every single player gives everything – the team will improve more and more. Now we have Jonjo and Mo also in that position, so everyone will give our best. Anyone can play for the team, so we just have to train every day as hard as we can and see who is going to play.”

"I think with the atmosphere from all the fans and among the players now, we think we can do better and we can stay in a higher position."

Ki Sung-yueng

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