KI SUNG-YUENG has paid tribute to the Sunderland fans that have made his time at the Stadium of Light special, but he does not know if he will be still playing for them next season.
The South Korean has been integral to the revival under Gus Poyet in the last few months and the Sunderland boss is keen to sign the player on a permanent basis.
But the Black Cats decided against trying to do a full-time deal with Swansea City last month, where he is due to return in the summer after his loan, until they know what division they are playing in next season.
Ki turned in another solid performance during Saturday’s memorable 3-0 win over Newcastle United at St James’ Park, an occasion which only boosted his glowing reputation among Sunderland’s supporters.
The 25-year-old said: “The derby win was a really special game for me and it always is to play in front of these Sunderland supporters. They are always behind us even though we did not deserve it sometimes this season.
“They have been great because they have waited for things to turn around and they are now able to celebrate better results.
“I don't know if I will be playing in the derby fixture next season, honestly. But I am really pleased with all the fans, all the staff and all of the players. I don't know what will happen in the future but at the minute I am very happy playing for this club and with these boys.”
Ki has been impressive in Sunderland’s climb out of the relegation zone in recent weeks but he knows a return to losing ways when Hull City arrive at the Stadium of Light this weekend could see them drop back in to the bottom three.
The former Celtic midfielder thinks Sunderland are a different proposition under Poyet.
He said: “Since the new manager came in we have improved a lot with and without the ball. As the game goes on we have started to win and got confidence as individuals and as a team.
“That's why we have got a lot stronger. We still have plenty of games still to go so we have to keep our concentration on all of the games.
“When you see us play like we have been, it does make us wonder why we have been at the bottom when we know we can play like this.
“We should not be down the bottom but we could not get the results, even when we performed well we could not score. We were unlucky.
“Now we are having greater concentration to win the games. Even when we are scoring we are never conceding goals. We are no longer bottom and we need to keep going to make sure we don't drop back down there.”
After picking up a seasonal derby double over Newcastle in the same season in which a Capital One Cup final appearance has been secured, this is already a historic campaign for Sunderland – and it could get even better.
If they can stun the rest of the country by defeating Manchester City at Wembley then a Europa League spot will be achieved, while the Black Cats also have a fifth round tie in the FA Cup to plan for.
Ki said: “We are desperate to keep playing and keep going and Wembley is helping. We know we have a lot of games still to come and it is tough.
“We have big teams coming up too. The boys are not thinking about the cup final at the moment, we are focusing just on the league games. Then, maybe, at the end of February we will focus on the cup competition.
"Europe? Not yet! But it has been a great pleasure, honestly, to be playing in this team and doing well. For five months we had a relegation fight and worries and we are going up step by step and it feels good. It feels much better. We are more relaxed now. We are all improving as a team with and without the ball. That's coming from the confidence.”