Sunderland striker aims for starting spot ahead of West Brom clash

Connor Wickham
Connor Wickham

CONNOR Wickham accepts he faces a challenge to break up the strike partnership of Nicklas Bendtner and Stephane Sessegnon.

Wickham and fellow summer signing Ji Dong-won are in contention to make their first Sunderland starts against West Brom tomorrow as Steve Bruce looks to shuffle his pack following Monday’s dire display at Norwich.

Sessegnon and Bendtner have been Bruce’s preferred front two for the last three games after the latter arrived at the Stadium of Light on a season-long loan from Arsenal.

But Sessegnon was worryingly wasteful at Carrow Road and boss Bruce will be tempted to switch the Benin international to the flanks for the visit of the second bottom Baggies.

Despite spurning a glorious opportunity to break his Black Cats duck against Norwich, Wickham is not short of confidence in his own ability, but realises the quality of those ahead of him.

Wickham told SportMail: “All I can do is work hard in training to get into the team.

“Everyone is fighting hard for their place, there’s competition in every position.

“I’ve just got to keep showing that I’m good enough to get in the team.

“Every player has got different abilities and you can take in what they bring to the team.

“Nicklas is a big, strong lad and people know what he’s capable of.

“They’ve seen him at Arsenal and to have someone like that come in, being young like I am, you learn from those players.

“If a ball comes up and you hold it, there’s Stephane around you too and he’s quick and strong.

“He’s someone who you know you can form a good partnership with.”

Wickham will link up with the England U21 squad following tomorrow’s encounter, ahead of Euro 2013 qualifiers in Iceland and Norway.

Thr 18-year-old’s rawness has been evident in his six substitute outings for the Black Cats despite his £8million price tag.

But the former Ipswich frontman insists he feels at home on Wearside with a youthful Sunderland squad and a manager who is not shy of blooding the club’s rookies.

“It is quite a young squad to be fair and you can sometimes get on better with people your own age,” added Wickham.

“I obviously know Jack (Colback) from Ipswich and Louis Laing and Billy Knott from international duty with England.

“It’s nice to have some faces who you know, get on with and can have a laugh with.

“It’s important at any club that youngsters get a chance, either in training or in games.

“If they’re good enough, they deserve a chance and we’ve got a long of good, young players fighting for that opportunity.”