CONNOR WICKHAM hopes his loan spells in the Championship ultimately prove to be the making of him as a Sunderland striker.
Wickham came of age in a red and white shirt at Manchester City last night after his second half double earned rock-bottom Sunderland a shock draw against the title chasers, albeit the Black Cats were left ruing the loss of two points following Vito Mannone’s late howler.
It was the only the second and third Premier League goals of Wickham’s career after the England Under-21 international was farmed out on loan to Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday, following Sunderland’s £8million investment in the summer of 2011.
But since being recalled from his stint at Leeds last month, Wickham has looked far more comfortable as a Premier League frontman and backed that up with a brace as Sunderland narrowed the gap with the safety mark to six points.
Wickham told the Echo: “It wasn’t easy playing in the Premier League at 17.
“But I’ve never felt pressured to do what I do.
“I didn’t plan to go out on loan, but it happened. I’ve played a lot of football since going away. That can only help me and benefit me.
“I came to play Premier League football, but I went away, got match fit, scored a few goals and I’ve played against three of the top five since coming back.
“I didn’t ask to come back, the manager called me, so for me it was a positive and I had something to prove.
“Hopefully this is the start of something new.
“I hope I’ve showed what I can do and stood out.
“It was one of the best games I’ve played in a Sunderland shirt.
“It’s all about confidence, just ask any player.”
The heartbreak for Sunderland, after Wickham’s second half double had cancelled out Fernandinho’s second minute opener, was that they missed out on a victory which could have given them real hope of a miraculous escape from the threat of relegation.
Goalkeeper Mannone, one of Sunderland’s most consistent performers this season, spilled Samir Nasri’s shot into the bottom corner with two minutes to go, to deny Gus Poyet’s side a first Premier League victory since February.
“Going 1-0 down in the first two minutes was not ideal and people maybe thought ‘here they go, they’re going to get a few more’,” added Wickham.
“But no, we picked ourselves up.
“We got back in the game and went 2-1 ahead, which not many teams will do there.
“It was mixed emotions afterwards; disappointment to be honest.
“To be 2-1 up after being 1-0 down and to score twice in 10 minutes to turn the game on its head, and then we’ve conceded a disappointing goal with the ball just trickling in.
“It was hard to watch.
“We can take positives because we were strong and the team showed what we can do.
“We’ve come against a top team, didn’t get off to a great start, but we need to keep performing like that.”