Candid Connor Wickham wants to be dealt in for Paolo Di Canio’s Sunderland revolution this season – so he can banish the perception he’s done “nothing” in his two years with the club.
With Steven Fletcher battling to be fit for the first month of the season, ï¿½9million man Wickham is the second-choice striker behind Jozy Altidore.
Di Canio has given the England Under-21 striker his backing by telling The Journal he is “happy” with his forward options and the variety they give him.
That is despite a slew of speculation linking the forward with a move away from Wearside.
QPR, Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday all want the rangy forward.
Sunderland’s attention is focused on a creative midfielder – Tom Huddlestone and Scott Parker of Tottenham are on his radar – and a winger as well as a pair of full-backs.
That is a vote of confidence of sorts in Wickham, even if the striker himself admits he would have liked to play more minutes in pre-season.
Last term he was loaned to Wednesday to get him more first-eam football after Martin O’Neill felt the forward was stagnating.
Wickham’s focus remains trained on making it as a Black Cat, however, and he feels Di Canio’s intensive pre-season programme has given him a platform to finally make his mark on the club two years after he completed a ï¿½9million move from Ipswich Town.
He said: “I want to stay here. I have been here for two years and I haven’t done anything.
“I haven’t really stamped my authority on the team so hopefully this season it will happen for me.
“I am working hard, I’m resting up and I’m relaxing and doing things the right way.
“I have had a really tough pre-season but I’m approaching it in the right way and I just want to get my head down and get on with things. Hopefully, I will get my chance when the season comes around.”
Wickham’s minutes have been limited in pre-season and he was only a late substitute in Herning as Sunderland beat FC Midtjylland courtesy of Adam Johnson’s goal.
However, he insists he has no one but himself to blame if he is not starting games for the Black Cats this season.
Wickham added: “I maybe haven’t played quite as much as I want but that’s down to me, to my performances in training.
“The manager – when he feels the time is right – will hopefully give me a chance and it’s up to me to show him that I can do it when I do get my chance and opportunity.”
Wickham feels the intensity of the fitness work during Sunderland’s pre-season will give them a fantastic platform to start the season.
He said: “It has been a hard pre-season. We’ve done a lot of travelling, we’ve had a lot of hard sessions and there’s been a lot of running.
“We’re ready for the start of the season now, we look fit, we look strong and hopefully that will stand us in good stead for the long-term this season.”