More money, more pressure for Wickham?
So, Connor Wickham has finally realised that there’s no point leaving Sunderland. Yet, if rumours about his new deal are true, I can’t help but feel like Wickham is playing the club rather than it being the other way round.
It’s being reported everywhere – a five year contract worth £60,000 per week. It’s news that leaves most fans with a bittersweet taste in their mouths. Personally I’m delighted that we’ve managed to strike a deal, but for £3 million a year? Maybe that’s going a bit too far.
These are figures that have been plucked from various news sources, the Telegraph included, but I’m reluctant to believe them. We, like many other clubs in this country, tend to be quite guarded over our wage bill. It’s rare that the details of a player’s contract is anything beyond speculation. I doubt even more that the club would have been keen to announce that we’ve just handed an incredible contract to a kid who has scored two league goals in 15 this season.
If it’s true, then Wickham will probably overtake Adam Johnson as the club’s highest earner, and that just doesn’t sit well with me at all. He’s a good player, and I’d be very disappointed if he left on a free transfer, but he hasn’t made it yet. There’s still a long way to go, and I really hope he doesn’t lose sight of that.
I do have a bit of sympathy with the club in a situation like this though. He represents a pretty significant investment – still one of the biggest transfers in our history, no less (depressing, isn’t it?). So when it starts to look likely that such a player could leave for nothing, you’re entitled to get a bit edgy.
At the same time, I’d like to think we didn’t just panic and throw a load of money at him in a desperate attempt to convince him to stay. It shouldn’t be forgotten that the Wickham has been a first team regular for nearly a year now, and there aren’t too many 21-year-olds in the Premier League who can say that. He’s at a pivotal stage of his career, and giving up first team football by leaving the club would be a huge risk. He was strongly linked to West Ham last summer – would he get into their side at the minute? I doubt it.
If only he could replicate the form he showed at the back end of last season. For once we had a striker that teams feared, albeit for just a few weeks. Admittedly, he’s unlikely to have as much of an effect on the left wing.
I’ve openly criticised the decision to play Wickham on the left hand side this season, but I’ll hold my hands up and admit that he’s threatening to prove me wrong. He looked a constant threat against Chelsea, and backed that up with solid performances against Manchester City and Liverpool. It seems to be more effective when Wickham is allowed more creative freedom; he’s starting to drop deep to collect the ball, or push inside to support Fletcher. Over the past few games, I’ve even noticed him tracking back a little bit. I almost had to scratch my eyes.
It’ll be interesting to see whether Wickham can prove us all wrong and live up to his potential. Adapting to his new role could be a serious test of character, but for £60k per week, that’s the least we expect from him.