Poyet warns Connor Wickham he must sign a new SAFC contract or move on

Connor Wickham is in the final year of his deal at Sunderland, and Gus Poyet says the Black Cats cannot afford to let him run down his contract

Alex Livesey/Getty Images Connor Wickham of Sunderland
Connor Wickham of Sunderland

Gustavo Poyet says Sunderland’s great escape hero Connor Wickham must commit his future to the club or prepare to move on.

The England Under 21 international striker came of age last season when he stepped out of the shadows to score five goals in Sunderland’s final six games to play a major role in preserving the Black Cats’ Premier League status.

But the 21-year-old, who cost £8m when he arrived from Ipswich Town three years ago, is in the final 12 months of his contract on Wearside and no new deal has yet been agreed.

Unlike homegrown talent Jack Colback – who left Sunderland on a Bosman free transfer at the end of June to join rivals Newcastle United – Wickham cannot leave for nothing next summer because he is under 24 years of age, meaning the Black Cats would be entitled to compensation from any club that he joined – although that would be a sum well below that they paid for him.

Poyet wants to keep Wickham at the Stadium of Light but admits that if that is not possible the club must protect its investment, which would mean putting him up for sale.

“For me, Connor’s situation is clear,” said Poyet. “He needs to sign a new contract or we let him go – we sell him. There is nothing in between. He is an asset to the football club and we paid a lot of money for him.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images Gus Poyet the head coach of Sunderland
Gus Poyet the head coach of Sunderland

“Last year he was a key part of us staying up and he was very important (to us).

“But he needs to realise that the club needs to look after the interests of the football club as well.

“I suppose that, one or the other, we are going to have an agreement.

“Which one of those (sign a new contract or move on) is going to happen, I don’t know – it is not my job, that is (sporting director) Lee Congerton’s department.”

Wickham has endured a difficult time since he joined Sunderland, with successive managers Steve Bruce, Martin O’Neill and Paolo Di Canio all reluctant to give him a run of first-team starts.

When Poyet took over last season, he allowed Wickham to join Championship sides Sheffield Wednesday and then Leeds United on loan.

But, with Sunderland sinking into the relegation mire and struggling to score goals, Wickham was recalled from Elland Road in late March and Poyet put his trust in the youngster.

Wickham responded with two goals in the 2-2 draw at champions Manchester City, another in the 2-1 win at Chelsea three days later, another two in the 4-0 home win over relegation rivals Cardiff City eight days after that, before turning provider in the next game as he set up the decisive goal for Seb Larsson in a 1-0 win at Manchester United.

Now Poyet is hoping Wickham repays the faith he showed in him by extending his stay on Wearside.

Poyet said: “Last year, I was the happiest one because I talked to him before he went to Sheffield Wednesday and I talked to him when he came back.

“I spoke to him when he came back from Leeds, and I told him that every single player wants a run of four or five games.

“I told him that you won’t get that situation many times, but he had it with us and he responded.

“Now the situation has changed a little bit.

“But I am not worried about it (the situation).”

Wickham played in Sunderland’s friendly defeat against CD Nacional in Albufeira on Wednesday night, and is likely to feature again tomorrow evening against Vitoria Setubal in the final game of the Black Cats’ ten-day stay in Portugal.

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