Burnley boss Sean Dyche leads race to sign Sunderland stiker Connor Wickham

LOAN DEPARTURE: Sunderland's Connor Wickham
LOAN DEPARTURE: Sunderland's Connor Wickham

CONNOR Wickham is set to leave Sunderland on loan, with Championship leaders Burnley expected to win the race for his signature.

The England Under-21 international has been wanted by a host of Championship clubs this season but only now have Sunderland decided to let the forward go.

Having done all the ground work, Burnley boss Sean Dyche in pole position to take on a striker Steve Bruce paid Ipswich Town £8m for in the summer of 2011 but who has yet to deliver on his potential at Premier League level.

And if, as expected, the Clarets get their man, the 20-year-old could be involved in Burnley’s home game against Millwall this weekend.

Sunderland, though, will have to weigh up how much first-team experience Wickham is likely to get at the table-topping Lancastrians, with both of Burnley’s strikers in scintillating form this season.

Danny Ings and Sam Vokes have started every one of the Clarets’ 13 Championship games this season, with Ings having scored nine goals and Vokes eight.

That sort of form has meant that Burnley’s only other out-and-out striker – ex-Black Cat Ryan Noble – has not had a look-in so far this season.

But the Turf Moor outfit want to strengthen their squad.

Should Sunderland decide that Wickham is unlikely to get enough game time with the Championship pace-setters, there will be no shortage of takers in the same division, with three other clubs having expressed an interest over the last week.

Wickham – who scored once in six outings on loan at Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship last season – has been involved in seven Sunderland’s games this season but has started only one – the 3-1 defeat at Crystal Palace in August.

Other than that, he has been used as a late sub in the other six games except the Capital One Cup tie against MK Dons when he came on five minutes into the second half and scored twice to inspire Sunderland to a 4-2 win.

Wickham has played a couple of non-first-team games in recent weeks.

But the club has decided that, with Jozy Altidore and Steven Fletcher having impressed recently and derby hero Fabio Borini showing good form, the time has come to allow Wickham to play first-team football elsewhere so that he can get fully match fit and potentially help Sunderland in the second half of the season.