Boss Martin O’Neill yet to make decision on Sunderland’s Connor Wickham

LOAN STAY? ... Connor Wickham, centre.
LOAN STAY? ... Connor Wickham, centre.

MARTIN O’Neill is yet to make a decision on whether to allow Connor Wickham to remain at Sheffield Wednesday.

The Sunderland striker’s month-long loan spell at Hillsborough expires after tomorrow’s clash at Leicester, with the 19-year-old expected to make a fifth successive appearance for the Owls.

O’Neill is still to hold any discussions with Wednesday counter-part Dave Jones over extending Wickham’s loan, despite the Owls boss declaring earlier this week that he was keen to keep the England Under-21 striker.

Sunderland would be able to trigger an instant recall clause with Wickham, should O’Neill opt to let the £8m frontman remain in the Championship.

But O’Neill will make a decision on Wickham after the weekend, with the striker fulfilling the purpose of his loan by playing regular first-team football.

O’Neill said: “I’ll have a look at it and see where we are.

“The idea was for him to get some competitive games in, to help himself and help Sheffield Wednesday along the way.

“At least he’s played some games.

“I saw the quotes from Dave Jones saying he’d like to keep him, but he hasn’t approached me yet.

“But it will have been really useful for Connor, no doubt about it.

“With Danny Graham coming in, you hoped him and (Steven) Fletcher would stay fit, and that was the risk we ran.

“And there was also the risk of Connor getting injured at Sheffield Wednesday.

“But he needed the games.”

O’Neill has been keeping a personal check on Wickham’s progress, with the Sunderland manager watching the former Ipswich Town man in action at Birmingham City last month, and again in Tuesday night’s defeat at promotion-chasing Watford.

Although Wickham continued his goalless streak for the Owls, O’Neill was encouraged by his performance against the Hornets.

“I’ve seen him twice against Watford and Birmingham,” added O’Neill.

“He did OK at Watford; a shot on the turn which he chested down and volleyed, which was a good effort, and then a header which he probably felt he should have scored.”

Meanwhile, Sunderland full-back Phil Bardsley has been left out of the Scotland squad for the World Cup qualification double-header against Wales and Serbia later this month.

Bardsley, who has not started a Premier League game since December, was named in Strachan’s first squad, but has been omitted this time around.

But Bardsley’s Sunderland team-mate Steven Fletcher has been included by Strachan.