GUS Poyet believes Sunderland would have been all but relegated by now were it not for the April contribution of Connor Wickham, who was yesterday named the Barclays Premier League Player of the Month.
And the Black Cats’ boss says that it has needed Player of the Month standard efforts from the likes of Wickham last month and Adam Johnson in January to keep Sunderland in with a chance of staying up this season.
Praising the big centre-forward, who scored five goals in April and helped create others, Poyet told the Echo: “Connor has been brilliant and I think if a struggling club at the bottom is to survive, it needs the momentum.that a player in that sort of form can supply.
“I think that without Connor or Adam showing the form which made them Player of the Month, then we would probably be down already.
“It’s as simple as that.
“It’s a team game of course and the reality is that they have to be grateful to their team-mates as well - they are both players who finish chances created by others, as much as they finish chances themselves.
“But at the end of the day, they are doing the thing in football that people in the game are prepared to pay most money for - scoring goals.- and they have made a massive difference to our hopes of staying up.”
Neither player came cheap to the club - Martin O’Neill paid Manchester City £10m for Johnson in 2012 while Steve Bruce acquired teenage prospect Wickham from Ipswich for £8m in June 2011.
But both are repaying sizeable chunks of their transfer fees right now with game-changing displays which have helped keep Sunderland’s survival hopes afloat.
Poyet pointed out: “I’ve read a lot of articles in recent weeks where people have speculated on who might move this summer and the most expensive players talked about are always attackers and goalscorers.
“You here of Diego Costa at Atletico Madrid, Edinson Cavani at Paris St Germain, Luis Suarez at Liverpool.
“And why is that? Because they are the players who make a difference and score.
“And in January, Adam Johnson made a difference for Sunderland and scored, in April Connor Wickham has now made the difference for Sunderland and scored.
“So yes, while it is important that the team at Sunderland deserves the credit, those two deserve special praise
“The idea now is to maintain the confidence and the momentum that Connor’s performances have helped to give us.”