Black Cats keen to keep Wickham despite West Ham bid

WANTED: Sunderland's Connor Wickham

WANTED: Sunderland's Connor Wickham

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Sports Reporter

SUNDERLAND will not allow Connor Wickham to leave for less than the £8m they paid for the striker after rejecting a £4m bid from West Ham yesterday.

The Hammers are in the market for a forward after losing Andy Carroll to an ankle injury for four months, and manager Sam Allardyce has identified Wickham as one of his top targets.

A £4m bid was swiftly rejected by the Black Cats yesterday and the club remain keen to keep the 21-year-old even though they are yet to make a concrete offer to extend his stay on Wearside.

Wickham is in the final 12 months of a four-year deal and although discussions between his representatives and club officials have taken place, an agreement has failed to materialise thus far.

Just last week, Gus Poyet revealed Wickham would be sold if a new contract wasn’t signed, but the Black Cats head coach does want the young striker in his squad after he helped keep Sunderland in the Premier League last season.

The Black Cats are reportedly only interested in selling Wickham if they can recoup what they paid Ipswich Town three years ago, but it is understood they are also unwilling to sell because of long-running transfer saga involving Fabio Borini.

Sunderland have had a £14m agreement in place with Liverpool for three weeks, but the forward has stalled on a move in the hope of staying at Liverpool or signing for a club playing in the Champions League.

With the Premier League season just around the corner, Sunderland officials are now pushing Borini and his representatives for an answer, although The Northern Echo understands they are gradually accepting the Italian won’t be returning to the Stadium of Light.

After Ignacio Scocco’s departure, Steven Fletcher and Jozy Altidore are the club’s only other senior strikers and Poyet does not want to lose Wickham and face the prospect of needing two front men in before the transfer window closes on September 1.

So far, the head coach has signed Billy Jones, Jordi Gomez, Costel Pantilimon,Patrick van Aanholt and Jack Rodwell, while Santiago Vergini has also returned for a second loan spell.

The Argeninian defender arrived at the Stadium of Light in the latter stages of last season and having helped keep the Black Cats in the top flight, Vergini admits he is delighted to be back.

“Firstly I'm very thankful to the club for giving me this opportunity, I’m really happy to be here once again and I’m also very happy to see so many recognisable faces,” Vergini told the club’s website.

“I’m very keen to get started and join in with the rest of the squad ahead of the new season.”

“The feeling I’ve had here at this club has been very good, it is a big club and my whole focus is on contributing all I can.

“I believe I can bring many things to the team, I am available for selection and I hope to be given game time.

“My natural position is centre-back but I also feel very comfortable playing on the right, so the challenge for me is to become part of the team.

“I will offer all I can so we can have a good season.”

Sunderland’s U21 Premier League season opener against Liverpool has been rescheduled.

The young Black Cats had been due to face the Reds on Monday, August 18 at the Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground, but at the visitors’ request the game will now take place on the following day, kicking off at 7pm on Tuesday, August 19.

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