Connor Wickham has chance to impress Sunderland boss Di Canio in Euro vision

OPTIMISTIC ... Connor Wickham
OPTIMISTIC ... Connor Wickham

SUNDERLAND striker Connor Wickham will have a close season chance to catch Paolo Di Canio’s eye when he takes part in next month’s UEFA Under 21 European Championship in Israel.

The 20-year-old was yesterday named in Stuart Pearce’s 23-man squad for the finals, a squad which includes Cats team-mate Danny Rose.

Wickham, an £8million signing by Steve Bruce in 2011, has yet to justify that fee since moving from Ipswich as one of the brightest young prospects in the game.

But he barely featured before Bruce’s sacking in December 2011 and featured even less under Martin O’Neill – though niggling injuries played their part in his selection under both managers.

He has started just seven league games for Sunderland, been a sub in 20 more, and scored just one goal in that time. He had a brief loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday earlier this year, during which he scored one goal.

But although that record is far from eye-catching, at international level Wickham’s record is genuinely impressive.

He scored eight goals in 10 appearances for England U17, one goal in four for England U19 and has five in 13 for England U 21 so far.

He has played his part in helping Pearce’s players reach this summer’s finals and will hope that he can have a good tournament personally in order to play his way into Di Canio’s plans.

Within days of his arrival, the Italian head coach spoke glowingly of Wickham’s physical attributes as a target-man striker before he picked up a calf injury.

But he was less impressed by Wickham’s display as a second-half sub against Southampton.

A big summer for the big forward though could see him force his way into Di Canio’s thinking for the new season and finally see Wickham carve out for himself a genuine career path at the Stadium of Light.