YOUNG Sunderland striker Connor Wickham does not want to go out on loan.
The 19-year-old would prefer to stay on Wearside and fight to make a first-team impact this season, despite the increased competition for places up front.
And the England Under 21 international says he is determined to improve to the point where he becomes a genuine contender for a place in the Black Cats’ starting line-up.
“What happens in football happens and if the club wants me to go out on loan then so be it,” he said. “But personally I’d like to stay and fight to get in the first-team squad – and get time on the pitch in the Premier League.
“The Premier League is where you want to play your football. Having worked hard to get here and made the move to a club like Sunderland, I want to make the most of it.
“I’m loving being at the club. I’m only young and I know I can improve.”
Competition for places in the starting line-up has improved over the summer with the arrival of £12m signing Steven Fletcher and the former Manchester United and Everton striker Louis Saha.
With Stephane Sessegnon being used as prolific Fletcher’s first-team partner and Fraizer Campbell also hoping to make an impact in the last year of his contract, Wickham and fellow young striker Ji Dong-won have found themselves pushed to the periphery of the squad.
But Wickham, who scored twice in the Sunderland Under 21 squad’s 2-2 draw with Newcastle United, says his challenge this season is to put pressure on the players ahead of him.
He said: “Fletch has made a great start and you can tell he’s a natural finisher while Louis has been there and done it at the highest level for many years.
“They’re both quality players and it is great for Sunderland to have them.
“It’s not a problem for me that they’re in my position because I’m young and wanting to learn and improve all the time. Working with players like them is good for your own game. I’m enjoying playing with them in training and looking to pick things up.”
Wickham, who has had no first-team action this season, is looking to catch the eye with England Under 21s, who play Serbia tomorrow night at Norwich City’s Carrow Road ground in the first leg of their Euro 2013 play-off. The return leg will be held in Krusevac on Tuesday.
A cracking goal from the Sunderland striker was one of the highlights of an England Under-21 training session yesterday.
Wickham said: “The Under 21s is really important to me.
“I’ve been playing in them since I was 17 and it’s a really great chance to develop your game because you’re training with all the best young players from across the country and seeing how different players do things.”