CONNOR WICKHAM has shrugged off Paolo Di Canio’s “Playboy” jibes and believes he can profit from the Sunderland head coach’s stewardship.
The 20-year-old endured another bit-part campaign at the Stadium of Light last season after starting just three top flight games, with his only goal for Sunderland coming in the FA Cup third round at Bolton.
Di Canio’s appointment as Sunderland boss boosted Wickham’s first-team opportunities and he featured in three of the last seven games after he had been loaned to Championship Sheffield Wednesday during the final days of Martin O’Neill’s tenure.
But Wickham’s mentality came in for criticism from Di Canio, who compared him to a “Playboy model” - comments which the England Under-21 striker has laughed off.
Wickham said: “I don’t know (what to make of it). I just saw it. It is just down to me to take on what I see in the papers.
“I don’t really read the papers anyway but I am fine, I will get my head down, keep working and show him what I can do when I get back.
“Our relationship is fine. He has had words on the training pitch and helped me along.
“He said he will help me improve as a player so for me there is nothing but positive vibes from him.
“I can’t wait to get back to Sunderland and just work hard again.
“I have played the two games that I have been fit for and come on for the other halves.
“I feel strong, I feel confident in the manager and that I will get a chance. Hopefully if I do get a chance, I will take it.”
Wickham is currently away with the U21 squad in Israel, where the European Championships get underway on Wednesday.
The Young Lions face Italy in their first Group A match, before taking on Norway and hosts Israel.
“All the boys are really looking forward to what is to come,” Wickham said.
“We had a week in Turkey, which prepared us physically for the weather and the demands of the heat, the pitch and the surface.
“The vibe in the camp is good and we are all looking forward to Wednesday night.
“I don’t think the belief has ever been stronger. Walking around the camp and at dinner - you can feel it everywhere you go.
“We’ve had the coaching staff and everyone drumming into us how the important tournament is.
“I don’t think anyone has got any doubts in the team that we can’t do well.”