CONNOR WICKHAM hopes he can profit from his best chance of making a mark at Sunderland after being assured he will be part of Gus Poyet’s plans during the relegation run-in.
Wickham was instantly thrown into the Sunderland side in last night’s 2-1 defeat at Liverpool after being recalled from his loan spell at Championship Leeds United just over 48 hours earlier.
It was only the 10th time the England Under-21 striker, who was sent to Sheffield Wednesday on loan earlier in the season, had started a Premier League game for the Black Cats, almost three years after arriving at the Stadium of Light in an £8million move from Ipswich Town.
But with Sunderland desperate for a frontman capable of finding the net regularly and Poyet pledging not to judge Wickham on how he fared at Anfield, the 20-year-old wants to finally come good on the Black Cats’ investment.
Wickham said: “It’s what I came here originally to do, but unfortunately it didn’t happen.
“Whether it’s two years down the line or three years down the line, I’m here now and in the squad.
“It’s an opportunity for me to stay in the team. If I can score a few goals, then good.
“The manager called me back and said I was going to be in his plans and more involved.
“It’s positive coming back and if I get the chance to play football, hopefully it works well.
“He told me I was going to be involved (starting) at Anfield which was a massive lift to me.
“Hopefully I can get on a roll and start performing.”
Wickham’s eagerness to play regular first-team football was evidenced by his decision to join Leeds last month, rather than take a chance of playing a bit-part role in the Capital One Cup.
“It wasn’t a hard decision for me at all to go before the cup final because I knew I wasn’t going to be involved,” he said.
“Regardless of whether I’m playing at Wembley or anywhere else in the country, I don’t care. I just want to play football.
“For me, it was a personal decision to go on loan and the manager let me go.”
Ironically, the withdrawal of Wickham and Emanuele Giaccherini to make way for Adam Johnson and Ki Sung-Yueng sparked a late comeback from Sunderland, with the two substitutes helping to put the visitors in the ascendancy during the last 25 minutes.
After Lee Cattermole hit the crossbar, Ki pulled a goal back before John O’Shea glanced a header agonisingly across the face in the dying stages.
But while Wickham says there were positives to take from Sunderland’s performances, he knows that all the matters for the third bottom Black Cats is putting points on the board in Monday’s pivotal Stadium of Light clash with West Ham.
“We dominated the last 25 minutes, pushed it and got the goal,” added Wickham.
“Unfortunately, it just didn’t come for us in the end.
“Liverpool are up there for a reason, but it’s up to us to start performing against not just the big teams, but those in or around ourselves and pick up points.
“We’re going to have to do it at home, we haven’t got a choice.
“We need to start picking up points - good ones or scrappy ones. We need to start looking at that reality.”