By Will Herrmann
In the final few games of last season Connor Wickham began to give some evidence that he has the ability to succeed at the top level and his goals went a long way to keeping Sunderland up. Gus Poyet has come out and said that neither Wickham nor Fletcher will be leaving this summer and yet the press are continuing to link Wickham with a move away. Here are three reasons why I wouldn’t be surprised if the press are right.
Firstly, he’s not going to play that much. Poyet is committed to playing either a 4-5-1 or a 4-3-3 formation and, as we saw at The Hawthorns last weekend, Fletcher appears his favoured centre forward. Wickham’s not a player that’s best utilised in the channels and once Giaccherini’s back I can see him slipping down the pecking order there too. His game time would be even further threatened should the club achieve the breakthrough they so desperately want with Borini, Welbeck or someone else. A player of that ilk would have a staring place ahead of him either up front or out wide.
Secondly, he might just be a bit of a wrong-un. After finally achieving some kind of success with a club who’ve paid him a lot of money for not very much it would have been great to see him knuckle down over the summer and prepare to kick-on this season. Instead we saw pictures of him appearing to be a bit of a tool and running up an alleged £25,000 bill in some Mediterranean bar. Have we got another North East footballer who aspires to being a Geordie Shore extra rather than a dedicated pro or was this just a young lad blowing-off steam? I don’t know and I won’t judge the lad on one incident but that plus his contract demands despite only ever playing well in a handful of games doesn’t paint a great picture.
Finally and most importantly, he’s actually worth something and financial reasoning makes his sale appealing. We’d all like to get paid more – I wish I got more than the occasional free pint for writing this – but does his very short-lived run of form justify his negotiations towards a bigger contract? Clubs consistently involved in European competition can afford to pay big wages to peripheral players but Sunderland can’t. There’s only so much room for players in the upper echelons of our earning structure and perhaps we just can’t afford to have him there. Yes, ideally we’d get rid of Jozy and free up some space but, let’s face it, he ain’t worth nowt on current form. If we are bringing in a top forward player and if we can get something close to the £8 million we’re after for a bit part player, we’re not a club that can afford to turn it down.