CONNOR Wickham will stay in Sunderland’s starting XI for the rest of the season if he continues to show top form, Gus Poyet has promised.
The England Under-21 international followed up an excellent weekend display against Everton by netting two goals against Manchester City to earn Sunderland a point at the Etihad last night.
And Poyet insisted that Wickham has earned his shot – with Sunderland fighting for their lives at the bottom of the Premier League.
“When I got to to the club there were five or six strikers,” Poyet said in the wake of the 2-2 draw against City. “And it was impossible to play them all.
“I had to make decisions.
“Connor was young, so I let him go out on loan and he did well so we brought him back.
“But if he delivers, he keeps playing – it’s that simple.
“If you play well, you’re in the team and I’ll find the shape to get you in the team because it’s all about performing.”
While Poyet was pleased with Sunderland’s efforts at one end of the pitch, he was disappointed at the other where keeper Vito Mannone might have done better for City’s opener and was completely at fault for the late leveller.
“I know,” sighed Poyet, who was conscious of how well the ex-Arsenal keeper has done generally, over the course of this depressing campaign.
“The hardest part is that Vito has been wonderful this season and now he feels terrible.
“But it doesn’t change my mind about him – what happened to him against City.
“He needs to recover quickly and look forward.
“We have to think about ourselves in these games against the top teams – we have to think about passing, creating, defending, running and tackling.
“We have to forget about the opposition and concentrate on ourselves.
“It is not easy, but we achieved that on the day against City and we have to do that in the remaining games – concentrate on what we might do right, rather than what the opposition might do right.”