Connor Wickham eyes Sunderland breakthrough

Connor Wickham insists he is committed to Sunderland and determined to “break” into Paolo Di Canio’s first-team plans

Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Sunderland's Connor Wickham
Sunderland's Connor Wickham

Connor Wickham insists he is committed to Sunderland and determined to “break” into Paolo Di Canio’s first-team plans.

The 20-year-old  has struggled to establish himself at the Stadium of Light since his £8 million move from Ipswich Town two summers ago, and spent one month of last season on loan at Sheffield Wednesday.

He has been linked during the close season with a return to Hillsbrough, and Bolton Wanderers.

But with his confidence boosted by a well-taken goal in England’s Under-21 friendly win over Scotland on Tuesday night, Wickham says he is working hard on a daily basis with Di Canio to “get the best out of me”.

And while the striker says he feels under no pressure to prove himself, he remains fully focused on making the grade on Wearside, and ensuring he is ready when called upon.

“I don’t have any plans to move away,” he said. “I want to break into this team, into a Premier League side. That’s my aim for this season.

“It’s just down to myself to get into the team, no one else can do it but me.

“So my aim is to stay here and work hard, and get into this manager’s team. I hope he wants to get the best out of me. He wants to help me every day, he tells me where I can improve.

“It’s when a manager stops trying to help you that you need to worry. For me, the manager’s doing all he can, he’s given me a fair crack on the training pitch.

“He’s always watching, and trying to help the strikers especially. So it’s a good chance for me to show him that I’m capable of doing the things he needs.”

Though Danny Graham has joined Hull City on a season-long loan, Sunderland have signed US front man Jozy Altidore this summer - meaning Wickham is vying with the latter, Steven Fletcher and, as things stand, Ji Dong-Won for a forward berth.

With Stephane Sessegnon arguably also in that reckoning, Wickham found his pre-season action curtailed to three appearances off the substitutes bench.

But the striker said: “It’s the manager’s choice who he wants to play.

“All I can do is play my best and show him on the training pitch what I can do, and hopefully he’ll see the capability that I’ve got.

“Am I under pressure to prove yourself? No, not at all. I’ve never felt pressured or that my confidence is low. It’s just about working on the training pitch. If I don’t play, I’ll take it on the chin, move on and carry on training and doing what I can do.

“Hopefully, the manager sees what I can do and if I’m needed to step up then I’ll be ready.”

Reflecting on the contrast between his fortunes with Sunderland and England, Wickham added: “I’m not sure what it is, I don’t know. I go away and seem to have a good run for England but in both teams there’s a lot of competition for places, especially here.

“It’s the manager’s decision who he plays. All I can do is make the most of the time I get, whether it’s here, with England or anywhere. All I can do is show the manager what I’m capable of, put my name in his head and hopefully he’ll notice it.”

On his latest experience with the international set-up, on this occasion being coached by Roy Hodgson, he said: “Roy was very good, training was very good. It was good with the players and the coaches, all the staff knew what they were doing.

“He knows what he wants, he’s very particular. It’s good, you know what you’ve got to step up to. The team is very strong and hopefully we’ll take that win (6-0 over Scotland on Tuesday) into the coming season.”

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