Having been on Wearside since 2011, could the upcoming season be Sunderland striker Connor Wickham’s last chance to fulfil his potential?
It’s time for Connor Wickham to Fulfil his Potential
Wickham made his debut for Ipswich Town as a 16-year-old. This made him Ipswich’s youngest ever player. He went on to play 72 times for Ipswich, scoring 15 goals. During his time at Portman Road he was named Young Player of the Month, Championship Player of the Month and also the Football League Young Player of the Year in 2011.
With these various awards, goals and performances, Wickham showed much potential at Ipswich. It was this potential that persuaded Sunderland to pay £8million for his services in 2011. Injuries and falling out of favour restricted Wickham to 33 appearances in two seasons in which he scored two goals. Wickham was eventually sent out on loan, twice to Sheffield Wednesday and once to Leeds United. He rediscovered his goal-scoring touch at Wednesday, finding the net nine times in 17 appearances. However, his loan spell at Leeds in 2014 produced no goals in just five games.
With Sunderland in a desperate state at the wrong end of the 2013/14 Premier League season, and their main strikers, Steven Fletcher and Jozy Altidore badly out of form or injured, Wickham was recalled from his loan spell to help bolster Sunderland’s attacking options. During April 2014 Sunderland fans finally saw some of his potential come to fruition. He scored twice at Manchester City, securing a point, then a goal at Chelsea to help Sunderland to three more points and ending Jose Mourinho’s undefeated streak at Stamford Bridge in the process. He finished the month with two more goals as Sunderland beat Cardiff 4-0.
This form saw him named Premier League Player of the Month and his five goals helped Sunderland complete their great escape and avoid relegation. At this point the Connor Wickham’s future at Sunderland seemed very bright. However, last season he scored just five goals in 35 appearances.
Stories have surfaced at times that he likes the playboy lifestyle. Expensive bottles of champagne, expensive cars and holidays and the like probably don’t put a dent in his reported £60,000 per week salary. No-one begrudges him of his wage packet or what he spends it on. The club have given him that deal and very few would turn it down saying it was too much. And many would, even if they won’t admit it, spend the money in similar fashion if they had it at their disposal, especially at Wickham’s age. As long as he is sensible and remembers he is representing Sunderland and their fans then there shouldn’t be a problem.
Since he signed, Wickham has had five permanent managers at Sunderland. Could this have halted his progression? If he was at a more “stable” club would his career have been better off at this stage? Apart from Arsenal, is there such a thing as a stable club in the Premier League any more? Managers come and go sometimes at such an alarming rate these days that the phrase “stable club” fits very few.
Connor Wickham is still young at 22 and has years in the game ahead of him. At what level he plays ultimately comes down to him and what he wants to achieve during his career. The potential is certainly there. For a man of Wickham’s build (6’2 and 198 lbs) he can go missing in games and doesn’t put himself about like he should to unsettle the opposition’s defenders. He has played out of position many times at Sunderland to help the team out and maybe now that Sunderland have the experienced Dick Advocaat in charge things may start looking up for Wickham.
To do this though he must keep his head down, train hard and when he gets the opportunity in the first-team, make it hard for Advocaat to leave him out. Sunderland have signed a player to fill the troublesome left side they’ve had in previous seasons in Jeremain Lens so maybe now is Wickham’s time to really fight for that forward role he craves.
This upcoming season could be big one in the career of Connor Wickham. All at Sunderland are willing this young man to fulfil his undoubted potential at the club. If he can’t then maybe, no matter how harsh it sounds, it will be time to move on.