Connor Wickham

Wickham heeding boss's guidance

Published:
by Stuart Vose

Striker credits O'Neill after returning to senior duty.

Connor Wickham says the advice of Martin O'Neill has helped him to carve a path back into Sunderland's first team.

The 19-year-old striker appeared as a half-time replacement for Steven Fletcher during the 2-1 defeat at Norwich and produced an impressive showing up front.

The manager has told me to hold the ball up and be more aggressive, and I've been doing that more in training

- Connor Wickham

Wickham's only other appearance of the season was a brief run-out at Everton but he got his chance after Fletcher highlighted an injury at the break.

The striker has been told by O'Neill to use his huge frame more and he's been making adjustments to his game in training.

“It's been a long four or five months for me and it was great to be on the pitch,” said the former Ipswich man.

“I've spoken to the gaffer before and he told me what I had to do, so I have worked my socks off in training and thankfully he had faith in me today.

“The manager has told me to hold the ball up and be more aggressive, and I've been doing that more in training and that's why my chance came.

“When I came on I thought I did that; now it's about getting that match sharpness.”

However, Wickham admitted that his joy at coming back into the team was somewhat muted by the result.

“I've known all along that I was capable of coming in and doing a job and I was excited to be able to get a game” he said.

“Thankfully my chance came today but all the boys are disappointed to come away with nothing.”

Now the England under-21 star is hoping his run-out marks the start of his season after admitting his recent omission from matchday squads was a motivating factor.

“I was hungry for more after my first appearance of the season [against Everton] but after that I was left out a couple of times,” he explained.

“That spurred me on to get my head down even more and work even harder. It's been a rollercoaster but hopefully this is the start of my season.”