TITUS Bramble has backed Sunderland boss Steve Bruce’s decision to ease in highly-rated Connor Wickham this season – despite the youngster being the club’s biggest buy of the summer.
Bruce spoke after Saturday’s game against Chelsea of how it might be necessary to ask more of the teenager in the wake of main striker Asamoah Gyan’s surprise departure.
But Bramble says he has been completely behind Bruce’s efforts to ease the youngster in gently, having been the victim himself of being thrust into the spotlight way too soon in his own career.
Bramble was also plucked from Championship side Ipswich as a highly-rated youngster and suffered from being exposed too soon to the passion and expectation of North East football as he struggled to find consistency at Sir Bobby Robson’s Newcastle.
“I know exactly what it has been like for Connor here because I was in a very similar situation when I left Ipswich for Newcastle,” he said.
“You go from playing at a club in a small town to suddenly playing in the North-East where football is everything.
“He hasn’t know anything like it and it can be a little bit overwhelming – coming on as a late substitute in the game against Newcastle for example would have been incredibly difficult for him with fans expecting miracles.
“It’s tough when you’re as young as that. When you come in with a big price on your head, sometimes fans expect big things from you straight away.
“That’s fine if you are an established player, but when you are young you need time. I was thrown straight in at Newcastle and it was tough.
“But in Connor’s case, the manager has been looking to ease him in, giving him games every now and again.
“It is much better to do that than to throw him in at the deep end.”
Eighteen-year-old Wickham has yet to start a game for Sunderland – having made four substitute appearances so far.
But the deep end beckons for the England Under 21 international who is regarded as one of the brightest young prospects in the country – Gyan’s departure seems to have made certain of that.
But Bramble is in no doubts that the teenager has what it takes to eventually make the grade.
“Connor will have no problem making the adjustment,” he said. “He’s got so much ability. We see him in training every day and think ‘wow, this guy has got everything’.”