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Sunderland striker dismisses move talk ahead of new season
CONNOR WICKHAM was back on Wearside again yesterday after his latest goalscoring exploits for England's Under-21s and the Sunderland striker has no desire to leave the Stadium of Light again any time soon.
Wickham's future has been the source of debate all summer following Paolo Di Canio's bid to transform his squad and the arrival of £6m man Jozy Altidore from AZ Alkmaar.
Discussions in the last fortnight with Juventus over Fabio Quagiarella and Alessandro Matri have led to fresh Championship interest shown in the Black Cats' £8m teenager from Bolton after summer talk of Sheffield Wednesday.
But Wickham does not want to think about leaving and is focused on proving himself two years after becoming the most expensive British teenager when he left Ipswich Town.
“I don't have any plans to move away, I want to break into this team, into a Premier League side,” said Wickham. “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.”
Contrary to a belief that Di Canio was looking to move the likes of Wickham on to strengthen his own recruitment drive, the Sunderland manager has not indicated such plans to the 20-year-old.
“He wants to help me every day, he tells me where I can improve,” said Wickham. “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. It's a good chance for me to show him that I'm capable of doing the things he needs.”
Wickham hopes to figure in Sunderland's Premier League date with Fulham this Saturday, even though Altidore looks certain to play just in front of Stephane Sessegnon in the opener.
What was a frustrating close-season with the Under-21s - when they were dumped out of the European Championship without scoring a single goal - ended well on Wednesday when Wickham scored in a 6-0 win over Scotland.
The Colchester-born front-man had no problem scoring goals for his country last season, but was barely used in the Premier League and has scored just once in 26 games since leaving Ipswich.
“I'm not sure what it is, I don't know why,” said Wickham. “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.”
Given the price-tag he arrived at Sunderland with, it would be easy to opine that Wickham could struggle to deal with the pressure to deliver when he has pulled on a red and white shirt. He said: “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.”
That is what he has been doing for England - before and after the European Championships – and he enjoyed the opportunity to impress Roy Hodgson on Tuesday night.
Hodgson was in caretaker charge of the Under-21s before last night's full international against Scotland. Wickham 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 in a manager, being demanding so you know what you've got to step up to, and he did that.
“The gaffer just drilled into us to forget Israel, there's nothing we can do about it now. It's been and gone. It's an unfortunate thing that happened.
We have to be strong enough to be able to pick ourselves up and move on, and we did. We had good support, and we went out and deservedly won the game.”
Di Canio is still pursuing new players and has not ruled out another arriving before the visit of Fulham.
Last night, though, he missed out on one of his top midfield targets after Tottenham's Tom Huddlestone completed a £5m switch to Hull City after a failure to reach an agreement with the Black Cats.
And former Di Canio target Gino Peruzzi, who failed a medical ahead of a £5m move last month, has signed for Italian club Catania.
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