CONNOR Wickham will not be allowed to leave Sunderland on loan ahead of a busy December fixture list Martin O’Neill has insisted.
The England Under 21 international has been the subject of intense speculation that he was set to move to Championship side Sheffield Wednesday.
And while O’Neill did confirm the Owls interest, he has decided it will lead to nothing.
“Sheffield Wednesday did make an approach for him and apparently it was reported that we couldn’t agree the wage structure but nothing could be further from the truth.
“I didn’t know about that claim and I wouldn’t have been party to that.
“The reality is that I was asked by our chief executive if I would be prepared to let a deal go through and I said that we couldn’t afford to let anyone go.
“We had just let David Meyler out to get games and I don’t like to let players go out in pairs if they’re on the fringes of the first team.
“In terms of Connor, it could have been on a few weeks ago when Sheffield Wednesday first got in touch.
“But we have a spate of games coming up here which he would miss and we don’t have the back-up to allow him to do that.”
O’Neill acknowledges that Wickham – like Meyler, now on loan at Hull City – could do with more playing time.
The 19-year-old’s introduction as an 89th minute substitute at Goodison Park last week was his first first-team football of the whole campaign.
But the manager says he has to put the interests of the club to the fore when it comes to considering every loan application.
“In an ideal world it would have been great for him to get a game, to get sharper and gain more experience,” O’Neill agreed.
“But we will have to see what transpires here first.
“We will let him fight here and see what the next few months bring him because things can change very quickly in football.
“A short while ago we were talking about having plenty of central midfielders at the club but in the week that David Meyler goes out on loan, Lee Cattermole pulls a hamstring and Craig Gardner gets suspended.
“That just shows you that one week you can be looking at one situation and the next week a completely different one.
“Connor hasn’t really featured for us in games so far but that doesn’t mean that he won’t in the weeks ahead.”