Gustavo Poyet believes a loan spell at Leeds United has made Connor Wickham undroppable.
When Wickham left for Elland Road in February, it looked like he might never play Premier League football for Sunderland again.
Even with Steven Fletcher struggling with injury, Jozy Alitdore bereft of confidence and Ignacio Scocco yet to adapt to English football, Wickham was surplus to requirements.
But having been called back after five goalless games at Leeds, the striker has become crucial to Sunderland’s survival chances.
“I think it was right for everybody for him to go to Leeds on loan,” said coach Poyet. “With the situation we were in, it wasn’t right to put a young player in. We could have played a young right-back at Man City, but it would haven’t been fair to put them up against (Samir) Nasri or (James) Milner. If it had gone wrong, you could have killed them forever.
“So we decided to play Santiago (Vergini). It wouldn’t have been fair to give the responsibility to a kid.” Wickham played too, scored twice and is now a fixture. Poyet admitted: “The manager always has a few favourite players but the rest pick themselves. I don’t think anyone in this football club is going to ask why Connor is playing instead of them. We want him to be player of the month.
“For a few months other players were ahead of Connor because of me and my decisions, not because of the qualities of Connor. But you need to check and re-check your decisions.
“He was ready, but maybe if he hadn’t gone out on loan, if the chance had come along he might not have been in a good way.”