4 July ~ A story that threatened to drag on all summer has concluded within a week. A protracted bidding war over Ipswich Town’s 18-year-old England Under-21 international Connor Wickham never materialised, with Sunderland being the only bidders for a player whose final transfer fee could exceed £12 million. Steve Bruce gets a player he has admired for a long time – two years ago he offered Grant Leadbitter, Carlos Edwards, Dean Whitehead and Daryl Murphy in an attempt to sign the current Championship Young Player and Apprentice of the Season. 

The initial £8.1m that Sunderland have paid looks like a huge amount for a teenager, but Wickham has the potential to be the complete centre-forward. He has a great first touch, is comfortable with the ball at his feet and is good in the air. He has the confidence to take players on, as well as the intelligence to bring others into play.

At 6ft 3in, Wickham is also naturally strong and has pace that belies his size. His intelligence on the pitch is way beyond his years, and he knows where the goal is – an example of most of these qualities was shown with a goal scored against Sheffield United in February. Starting from inside his own half, Wickham used pace, power and skill to ease through the Blades defence before placing the ball into the net, scoring one of the best goals scored at Portman Road in years.

While his nine goals in 41 games in 2010-11 may not seem a major haul for a striker, Wickham was in and out of the side through injury in the first half of the season and spent a lot of the time playing out wide as part of a front three. After Paul Jewell’s arrival as Ipswich manager, however, Wickham was one of the first names on the teamsheet, starting 21 of Jewell’s 23 games in charge. Such was the faith placed in a player who had just turned 18 that Jewell felt confident to loan out two of the club’s four strikers.

With owner Marcus Evans’s intentions unknown (see Csaba Abrahall’s article in the latest WSC for further details) we can only speculate on the reasons for Town cashing in on Wickham this summer. Whether the fee will go towards paying back the £50m-plus that the club owes Evans, or go towards rebuilding a squad that has so far lost five regulars plus a handful of squad players, remains to be seen. With Michael Chopra and Nathan Ellington already signed before Wickham’s departure, the centre-forward position was one Paul Jewell already knew he needed to strengthen, and now Wickham’s departure leaves bigger boots to fill. Rob Freeman

Comments (4)
Comment by jonmid 2011-07-04 12:32:46

Barring injuries this lad could become a future ace up england's sleeve

Comment by westy68 2011-07-04 15:10:11

It might be that I'm in middle age and convinced that everything I read is the product of hyperbole and style over substance but I'm not sure Wickham really is the ace up England's sleeve.

He's good of course and if he stays injury free he could at tops have a reasonable career, sort of a Kevin Davies without the Big Fat moniker.

As a 6ft 16 and 17 year old he was always towering over everyone else and therefore was able to brush fligty young whippets off the ball and his scoring record showed it. I thought that up a against equally big men last year he lost his advantage and therefore his rather average performance.

I hope I'm wrong, he is only 18 after all and a good player to date. I think he'll need all the help he can get if he wants to be a great one.

Comment by Paul Rowland 2011-07-04 17:02:56

Protracted bidding wars, dragging on all summer. YUK. I hate that sort of thing. Fair play to Sunderland, for sparing us from the tedium of it all.

Mind you, offering 5 million over the odds just to avoid a protracted bidding war does seem a bit excessive....

Comment by Dalef65 2011-07-04 18:14:58

With Premier League clubs falling over themselves to pay inflated prices for up-and-coming English talent,you cant blame Championship clubs for taking the money that is on offer for some of these players.
However,as another poster said,although there is no doubting he is good,this sort of fee for someone who may yet not "kick on" is definitely excessive.
One thing in his favour is that even if things dont go well at first,the size of the fee paid will probably dictate that he gets protracted chances to prove his worth,because Steve Bruce wont want him to be seen to fail.

Not at them prices,,...!

Rather like Arsene Wenger with Theo Walcott..

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