JORDAN Henderson is backing teenager Connor Wickham to handle the pressure of his £8m price tag and come good at Sunderland.
The Herrington-born Liverpool midfielder is no stranger himself to the expectation that a big money transfer brings.
But the England Under 21 skipper, who tomorrow leads out Wickham and the rest of his young international team-mates to take on Belgium U21s at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium, says the striker has what it takes to succeed.
“There’s always going to be pressure on you when you’re playing football at the highest level and you’ve changed hands for big money,” said the man Liverpool paid Sunderland £18m for last summer.
“But if Connor has the right people around him I think he’s mature enough to handle it. There’s always going to be expectation and pressure enough in football but you just have to be level-headed enough to handle it and go out and play the football you know you can.
“I’ve played alongside him in training with the Under 21s and what everyone seems to forget because he’s so big is that he’s still very young, he’s still only 18 years old.
“But he’s a good player, he has all the attributes and he just has to work hard, keep his feet on the ground and if he does that I’d back him to have no problem.”
Henderson knows from his own time at the club that young players coming into the side come under scrutiny and it’s not a place for the faint-hearted.
But he said: “It’s an amazing place to play and Sunderland fans are brilliant. I’m sure he’s enjoying his time there and he’s just got to keep working hard because if he does, the fans will be with him all the way.”
Wickham will be hoping to force his way onto the bench for Sunday’s derby at the Sports Direct Arena after being left out of the Sunderland squad completely for the last two games.