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Wickham benefits from one-to-one training with Di Canio
ADAM JOHNSON has revealed Connor Wickham’s goalscoring heroics in Tuesday night’s Capital One Cup win over MK Dons are a result of one-to-one training sessions with Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio.
Wickham came off the bench to score the second and third goals of the Black Cats’ dramatic comeback after the hosts had gone two goals behind to their League One opponents.
It is a remarkable turnaround for the 20-year-old striker, whose future on Wearside has been shrouded in doubt for awhile having failed to make an impact since his £8m move from Ipswich Town.
The England Under-21 international felt the wrath of Di Canio towards the end of last season when the Black Cats boss compared him to a “Playboy model” and said he needed a slap in the face to reach his full potential.
But it appears the fiery Italian, a striker himself during his playing days, has invested considerable time working with Wickham on a one-to-one basis.
With Steven Fletcher back from injury and £6m summer signing Jozy Altidore to compete with for a starting place, Wickham will have to take more opportunities to impress, something Johnson feels the 20-year-old can do.
“He’s had a tough time here, especially the last couple of months of last season,” Johnson said. “He’s got through it now. I think he’s been excellent for the Under-21s and everyone still forgets he’s only a young lad.
“He’s got bags of potential but he’s worked so hard this pre-season to get himself into good shape and to try and get back among the goals. I know the manager has worked individually with him as well on different things.
“That’s starting to show now because he was excellent against Southampton. He’s got everything there - he’s big, he’s strong and he got his goals on Tuesday. If he can keep that confidence up he can get a lot of goals for us.”
Johnson was also heavily involved in Sunderland’s comeback on Tuesday night and bagged his first goal of the season, something he hopes will kick-start his scoring account this season.
He said: “Hopefully the goal is the start of something and I can get a few more because that’s a target for me this season.
“It’s always nice to get the win and of course to score yourself is always an added bonus. To get a goal early is good for me and hopefully it will kick-start a bit of a run of goals. I want to get into the next game now and prove what I can do.”
They may be in the hat for tonight’s third round draw, but it didn’t come easy for the Wearsiders, who were outplayed by their League One opponents for large spells.
Despite their dramatic comeback, Johnson admits the first 75 minutes were unacceptable but believes the fact they did rescue the tie is a positive they must take going forward.
“We have got to take something out of it and that’s that we didn’t give up,” the 26-year-old said.
“In the first half especially we were poor. We got outplayed and I thought MK Dons played really, really well. But we knew that - we knew they’d try to pass the ball well. We couldn’t get our game plan going but it’s all about a win and we’re into the hat.
“I think we have got to learn from the first 60 minutes. We won it but for the majority of the game we were poor. We won, but it’s nothing to sing and dance about.”
With five days left before the transfer window closes, Di Canio is still trying to add to his squad. Greek international Charis Mavrias became his 11th summer signing last week and Johnson admits it is taking time for the new arrivals to settle in on the field.
He said: “It’s tough for us at the moment. We’ve got a lot of new players like everyone has said. They’ve come in and we’ve had a lot of new starters who might take time.
“Sometimes the window is good because you can strengthen your squad. Obviously I don’t know what is going to happen here but the manager says he is looking to bring in even more new players and that could be a real plus point for us.
“The fans will be looking forward to that as well. We need the bodies for competition for places and that’s always a good thing. When it is out the way everything can maybe settle down, I suppose.”
Meanwhile, Stephane Sessegnon is likely to feel the wrath of Di Canio after he was arrested on suspicion of drink driving in Newcastle on Tuesday night.
The Black Cats boss is strongly against his squad drinking in the days running up to games. The Benin international, whose future on Wearside appears uncertain, will appear before Newcastle Magistrates court on October 4.
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