Wickham's Euro preview

by Ashley Houghton

Striker relishing challenge ahead of Israel trip.

Sunderland striker Connor Wickham says he is excited by the prospect of playing the UEFA European U21 Championships in Israel.

Stuart Pearce’s side are in Group A for the tournament which pits them against the hosts, Italy and Norway.

Wickham has been ever-present for the under-21s during their build-up to the tournament, scoring three goals in four games, and is full of confidence ahead of the opening game on June 5.

“I go away next Monday so to be selected for your country and especially to go to one of the biggest tournaments around and represent at such a high level is good for me,” the 20-year-old explained.

“I think we’ve got a good squad again – we haven’t conceded in the last nine or ten games so we’ll go there and I think we will do really well.

“There’s confidence because I don’t think there is any doubt about the ability we’ve got in the squad.”

Danny Rose, who spent the 2012-13 season on loan at Sunderland, is also in the squad whilst Barclays Premier League winners Phil Jones and Chris Smalling will also make the trip.

And Wickham feels the squad’s strength in depth could prove to be a decisive factor.

“There is strength in numbers and strength in every single position so we go in as favourites or one of the favourites,” he explained.

“Hopefully we’ll come away as winners.”

Wickham’s sentiments were echoed by his manager Pearce who told www.thefa.com  that everyone in the squad will have to play their part.

He said: "The importance of the whole squad, not just 1 to 11, but 12 to 23, they are the most important players you have.

"The one thing you do know is that the team that starts the tournament will not be the team that finishes it, that is a fact.

"I don’t think any team has ever relied on just eleven players for every game, certainly not the winning team."