Steve Bruce: I will not bring in Connor Wickham

IN the cut-throat world of football management, short-termism is king.

Connor Wickham in training

IN the cut-throat world of football management, short-termism is king.

Why wait for tomorrow when you could be just one defeat away from losing your job today, so the logic goes.

However, Steve Bruce is determined to buck the trend and resist the clamour to thrust £8m starlet Connor Wickham into the Premier League limelight, claiming it could ‘ruin’ the raw 18-year-old.

He insists Wickham – and fellow summer buy Ji Dong-Won – have been brought in with an eye on the future rather than the here and now.

With just one goal in three games so far, however, it is finding goals here and now which is the headache.

Sunderland’s lack of a cutting edge has cost them dear in the last two games, with the Black Cats failing to find the net despite creating numerous opportunities against Newcastle in their Wear-Tyne derby defeat and against Brighton as they exited the Carling Cup at the first hurdle.

Bruce admits £13m record buy Asamoah Gyan has so far failed to find the form which saw him score ten times in his maiden Premier League season, while Benin international Stephane Sessegnon has excelled in both games but without producing a finish.

Sunderland’s shortcomings in front of goal have led to pressure from the fans to give Wickham and Korea international Dong-Won a chance.

However, Bruce is refusing to give in and throw them in at the deep end, mindful of the fact Wickham has stepped up from Championship side Ipswich while Dong-Won needs to adapt to English football after playing in the far less-demanding K-League in his home country.

Bruce, who is hoping his side stop firing blanks as they head to Swansea this afternoon, admitted: “It is a worry for us that we are not scoring goals, but I am not going to be derailed.

“When we bought Ji and Connor Wickham, we were looking at the next 18 months because we have two promising young players.

“They have exceptional talent and given time they will be very good players for Sunderland.

“I need time for them to settle in and get used to the Premier League. When they are ready, I will unleash them.

“It would be wrong for me to throw them in at the deep end when things are going wrong because, suddenly, it would be an uphill battle for both of them.

“Let’s be fair, it could ruin them. These are two boys we have invested in for the future.”

Bruce has invested heavily in Wickham, fighting off interest from free-spending Liverpool to make the England under-21 international his most expensive signing of the summer.

He is convinced the player he has dubbed ‘the best English striker of his age’ will eventually realise his prodigious potential at Sunderland.

He added: “With Connor, we have to be patient. He is only 18 and could still play in youth team.

“We paid a lot of money and he will be an exceptional talent, if given time.

“It was always my fear, bringing him here, that because of the fee there would be a clamour to rush him into the side rather than let him develop.

“If he is allowed to develop the way he should, he will become some player.

“Connor played for an hour at Brighton but I will not bow to the clamour to include him.

“Danny Welbeck is the prime example. He was not ready for Manchester United last year so he came here on loan and we made him ready. Now he is playing for Man U.”

Bruce accepts Sunderland need to find a solution to their goalscoring problems quickly, though, and to that end is preparing to re-enter the transfer market ahead of Wednesday’s deadline to sign one, or possibly two, new frontmen with proven track records at the highest level in Europe.

He said: “We signed Ji and Connor and we knew what we were doing left us with two inexperienced strikers, so we need a bit more firepower.

“We are still trying, and we are close to two things which will help.”


David Whetstone
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