Last season, Sunderland had lots of problems with players running down their contracts, with the likes of Jack Colback, Phil Bardsley and Craig Gardner leaving on frees this summer. If Sunderland had sold those three last summer, they would have picked up between £5-10m in transfer fees. Currently, Gus Poyet is trying to deal with a similar situation with Connor Wickham, who could leave for free next summer. Given the huge fee that Sunderland paid and his untapped potential, it would be a travesty for Sunderland to lose the striker next summer for a small amount of compensation, meaning he will have to be sold this summer or a new contract will have to be agreed.
He played a vital role in the run in for Sunderland last season, scoring five goals including a crucial strike against Chelsea and a brace against Manchester City. After a long time at the Stadium of Light, it appears that the former Ipswich striker is starting to fulfill his undoubted potential and to lose him for a small fee would be extremely damaging for the Black Cats. He gave the side impetus last season when it looked like they were dead and buried. It’s clear he is now ready for a more prominent role after his performances last season, both for Sunderland and for Sheffield Wednesday in the first half of the season.
Gus Poyet should sit down with the young striker and promise to make him his main man for the the upcoming season. Not only has he earned it after his incredible run towards the end of the last campaign, but it would ensure Wickham stays at the club. In two or three seasons time, Wickham could be in the England squad and he could command a fee upwards of £15m, it would be a huge mistake to let him walk away either this summer or next. He is a fantastic finisher and he also has the ability to dribble with the ball, which makes him more than your typical target man. With Andy Carroll’s injury problems and Rickie Lambert’s advancing age, Wickham could be the man England look for to offer something different up front.
The interest in Connor Wickham is mainly coming from West Ham, although there have been tentative links with a move to North East rivals Newcastle. It’s very easy to link the striker with these two clubs as both need another striker, and he would offer something different to their existing strikers, but for a fee of around £6m, a move for Wickham could be a shrewd move for these two sides. He is young, English and has experience in the Premier League, plus his potential will mean that there is a chance that a huge profit will be made in a few years time.
It’s very interesting to consider Wickham’s own thinking about his future. It’s obvious he has to play first team football in the top flight if he is to improve as a player and the logical thinking is that he will get that at Sunderland, therefore he should sign a new contract and carry his form into this season for Gus Poyet’s men. However he has been poorly treated in his time in the North East and he may see his contract situation as the perfect way to force a move to another club, one which will treat him better as a young upcoming player. Both West Ham and Newcastle would represent excellent moves for the striker, but they are only worth making if he will be getting first team football.