Connor Wickham decision is imminent for Sunderland

Sunderland are pushing Connor Wickham for a decision on whether to sign a new contract after his late-season surge helped to keep the club in the top flight

Action Images / Lee Smith Sunderland's Connor Wickham
Sunderland's Connor Wickham

Sunderland's desire to keep hold of Connor Wickham will be tested in the next fortnight with a clutch of Premier League clubs ready to make a bid for the striker.

The Black Cats are pushing Wickham for a decision on whether to sign a new contract after his late-season surge helped to keep the club in the top flight.

Sporting director Lee Congerton does not want a repeat of the scenario which led to Jack Colback quitting the club this summer and negotiations with the striker’s representatives are underway.

However, Wickham’s contract situation has alerted Leicester City, Crystal Palace and Stoke City, who are all monitoring the former England under-21’s availability.

It is understood Leicester are ready to table a £5million bid to try and prise the striker from the Stadium of Light – and the reaction of the Cats hierarchy will be telling.

Although Wickham has encountered his critics on Wearside there is no great appetite to sell one of their few recognised senior strikers – especially with doubts about whether Sunderland will be able to bring Fabio Borini back to North East.

The Wearsiders have Jozy Altidore but the US international failed to find form last season and there are injury concerns surrounding him as well.

All of that leaves Wickham as the man most likely to lead the line when the club’s pre-season programme begins later this month.

The forward is seeking assurances about where he stands in Poyet’s striker shake-up and promises of becoming the number one striker away from the North East would be tempting if Sunderland can’t offer similar pledges to him.

With uncertainty surrounding Altidore and Wickham, making sure Steven Fletcher is in the correct shape to rediscover his scoring form is essential.

As reported in the Journal last month, the Scotland international returned to pre-season training a week early to make sure he was fighting fit for the start of the pre-season campaign.

Poyet has heaped praised on the former Wolves man and said he is “excited”.

He said: “Fletch came back a week early to make sure he started running with no reactions.

“I saw him on Thursday and everything looks fine. He’s excited. People don’t know sometimes the players are like any of us.

“When you like to play football so much you’re excited about the chance to go back.

“At the end of the season you are desperate to go on holiday but after a month you’re desperate to go back.

“We will have Steven there without any problems.”

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