Onside: Sunderland’s teen star needs to start

editorial image

If that doesn’t show his quality, then what will?

Connor Wickham’s 57th minute introduction to the Reebok Stadium in the FA Cup Third Round tie against Bolton Wanderers at the weekend undoubtedly change the game for Sunderland.

Going 2-0 down to Championship opposition had lead to boos from the 6,000 Black Cats fans that made the journey to the North-West, until Wickham appeared on the touchline without his illuminous substitutes bib.

His arrival on the field instantly gave Sunderland the instinct to go forward and more attacking options that have been lacking throughout the season.

I remember speaking to a friend who lives Norfolk about the teenager and he said that the tactics for his Ipswich Town side were as follows: Get the ball and give it to Connor.

That is a Championship club who at the time were doing very well, so it can not have been the worst tactic to employ.

We looked more of an attacking threat when he came on and never put a foot wrong in the 33 minutes he was on the field.

Then he got a goal and inspired the comeback that was finished by an amazing Craig Gardner strike, whcih has become his trademark.

But now Martin O’Neill must sit up and take notice of what he has sitting behind him when he names a team for the Saturday.

Even last season, before he got injured, Wickham was playing out of his skin and scored a brilliant goal against Aston Villa past one of the Premier League’s greatest ever goalkeepers in Shay Given.

Now that he has scored and impressed again, Wickham has to play. Simple as that.

I am an enormous fan of Steven Fletcher and think that his price tag has been justified with goals, movement, work rate and team play - but he should be looking over his shoulder.

- MARTIN DUNN