CHUNG-YONG Lee’s international exertions have prevented him hitting the heights for Wanderers this season.
That’s the view of Wanderers boss Dougie Freedman, who admits the Korean star has struggled with the physical exertions of the Championship after a busy year playing for his country.
Chung-Yong played several friendlies last summer and has continued to jet back and forth throughout as Hong Myung-bo’s side continue their preparations for this summer’s World Cup finals.
And the travelling has taken its toll on the 25-year-old, who has managed just one goal in 43 league and cup appearances for the Whites this term.
“Chungy has always been reliable for us,” Freedman told The Bolton News. “But has he played above what he should be? Probably not, and he realises that as well.
“He had a terrible summer, in terms of a lot of games, came back and because of the situation we were in we threw him straight in. But as a result, he burned out around January time and so he hasn’t featured as many times as he’d like to just recently.
“Physically, he’s doing better now and he’ll definitely be featuring in the remaining games – although I never guarantee a start.
“I think he hit a brick wall at one stage but I’m hoping he is over that.
“The Korean teams don’t think of this, that the club managers have to work every day and try to cut the season into different periods.”
Freedman took Chung-Yong out of the front line altogether in mid-February, starting him in just one of eight league games.
But the midfielder has featured from the start in the last three victories over Huddersfield, Doncaster and Barnsley, which have seen the club climb comfortably towards mid-table.
Freedman would like to see Europe-based players given more leeway to miss internationals in the Far East but admits a change in policy is unlikely.
“It would help the clubs but different cultures have different attitudes to these games – it could be a matter of sponsorship,” he said.
“That’s why young Chungy has had to travel an unbelievable amount all season.
“If you look at how many miles he must have done from April to April... we have to take that into consideration and that’s possibly the reason he’s struggled.”
Freedman had predicted we would “see the very best” of Chung-Yong prior to Christmas, after a dip in form at the end of last year.
Again, fatigue was highlighted as a major factor, but while the former FC Seoul star has been a first-team regular this season, he has struggled to produce the kind of stellar performances Whites fans had become accustomed to earlier in his career with the club.
Freedman admits injuries have taken their toll – but with his second World Cup coming up in June, the Wanderers boss hopes Chung-Yong is now in the right physical shape to cope with another busy summer.
“When he played in the Premier League he was fantastic but he was younger and fresher,” he said.
“But with the broken leg he suffered and the expectation to play every single game I think it caught up with him a bit.
“I’m hoping with a bit more freshness in his legs now he’s over the worst of it and he can go and have a good World Cup.”