Last updated : 08 January 2006 By Ed

The Indie:

East is East and West is West, and the twain do meet after all; Kipling was not to know that replica shirts would sell equally fast at all points of the compass. Browning proved to be more prescient a few years earlier: "Look East, where whole new thousands are!"

New millions of football fans, in fact, hugely proud of fellow countrymen who up sticks for European football, and ready to buy the shirt and subscribe to the satellite channel. It may have been an expensive pastime obtaining shirts from all of Junichi Inamoto's clubs, but as players from Japan, China and South Korea have landed in England, so the sale of Premiership television rights overseas has soared from £178 million for the previous three-year contract to £320m for the current one.

At one stage, when Japan's Inamoto and China's Sun Jihai returned home after only one season with Arsenal and Crystal Palace respectively, it had seemed that the process might stall altogether. But both eventually came back, to be followed by various compatriots, and last summer an important new milestone was reached with the arrival of the Koreans Park Ji-Sung at Manchester United and Lee Young-Pyo at Tottenham.

Given the failure of Inamoto to break through at Arsenal, United's recruitment of Park has had the highest profile of all the transfers from Asia, and become one of the most successful. An appearance in the unfamiliar surroundings of Burton Albion's Pirelli Stadium for this afternoon's classic FA Cup tie will be his 28th of the season, every one of them shown live on Korean television. Tending to alternate with Cristiano Ronaldo, he has confirmed a reputation built with his national team and then PSV Eindhoven as a lively, resourceful wide-midfield player not afraid of hard work.

Park, whose name translates rather appropriately as "Wise Star", arrived with the immeasurable benefit of having sampled European club football for the best part of three seasons. Yet, in his first major newspaper interview in this country, he admits that the culture shock of western football takes much getting used to for any Asian player. Having only slowly adjusted to life in Holland, he found England and the Premier-ship another huge step, and took a while to demonstrate his quality.

Although capable of passing Harry Redknapp's foreigners' test by understanding what a British manager is saying (even, at Old Trafford, in a Clydeside accent), he prefers to answer questions via an interpreter, doing so with the politeness and good humour of his race. Why, to start with, did he begin his professional career six years ago in Japan and not, say, Suwon, where a road is now named after him? "There was a K-League in Korea but in those days I was always dreaming of playing abroad, especially in Europe. I wanted to experience playing in another country, and in Japan it was easier to adjust than in Europe."

"In the Champions' League we had disappointing results and I am very sorry." (He makes it sound like a personal apology.) "We hope to do well in the two cups, and even if Burton is a small team, we have to show we are strong. In the World Cup draw we are quite pleased to play Togo, France and Switzerland and have an opportunity to get through to the second round."

The gentle figure beneath the Beatles mop-top is clearly not big on complaints, though he does manage a couple. "I am generally happy, except for the weather. Korea can be cold, but not so wet, and the daytime is really short here. Also, I think Korean food is more delicious than English. But to come to United was the right decision."