Gary Rowell column - Connor Wickham is again crucial to Sunderland’s survival

Connor Wickham impressed in Saturday's defeat at West Ham

Connor Wickham impressed in Saturday's defeat at West Ham

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CONNOR WICKHAM scored five goals in Sunderland’s final six games of last season to play a starring role in the Great Escape.

For various reasons – not all of them his own – it hasn’t happened for him so far this season, where he has not made anywhere near the impact he did last year and his development has stalled.

However, having seen his performance at West Ham, he could still have a big part to play in the remaining games of yet another relegation battle.

He was one of the positives to come out of Dick Advocaat’s first game in charge and I hope he keeps his place and gets a regular start from now on, as I fear he’s suffered from being in and out. When he has been picked, it’s often been out of position.

That lack of continuity doesn’t help any player, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Advocaat sees getting the best out of Wickham as one of his top priorities in ensuring Sunderland’s survival.

When the clocks go forward, it’s usually a sign for Wickham to get into gear, as 12 months ago, he began to show his best form in a Sunderland shirt.

He’s got to believe that if he did it last year, then he’s capable of doing it again now.