Connor Wickham

Wickham: I'm fitter than ever

by Stuart Vose

Striker ready to step in if needed.

Connor Wickham feels he’s in the best shape of his short career going into the busy festive period.

The 19-year-old striker has made impressive contributions against Chelsea and Manchester United recently ahead of a busy Christmas programme.

Wickham replaced the injured Steven Fletcher at Old Trafford on Saturday and says he’s ready to step in if needed.

That’s thanks in part to an intensive training schedule which has seen the 19-year-old look sharp since returning to first-team action.

"Fletcher has been magnificent this season and it’s up to me to prepare for a start if it comes," he said.

“Fletch is great – he scores goals and I’m not going to argue if I’m not starting. I have to put performances in and I think I’m doing [so]. That’s all I can do.”

He added: “I feel stronger and fitter than I ever have before. Not being in the squad made me determined to come back stronger.

“I think my performances this season have been much better than previous.”

Sunderland play their final pre-Christmas game this weekend when they head to the south coast to take on Southampton.

The Boxing Day visit of Manchester City precedes a home clash with Spurs, with the Stadium of Light hosting Barclays Premier League action twice in four days.

And Wickham sees the festive period as a chance to get more action under his belt and further press his claims for inclusion at senior level.

“We’ve got loads of games coming up so maybe there will be an opportunity for me to get on or even start and score a few goals,” he said.

“The team know we have to win a good few games now and get a run going. There’s loads of games coming up and it’s an opportunity to get points on the board.”

Wickham added: “No game is going to be easy – we simply need to beat as many teams as we can.

“We have created enough chances to score goals, and if we can score goals we’re going to win games.”