Sunderland’s Connor Wickham: Expect another City epic

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CONNOR Wickham predicts another Manchester City-Sunderland classic this weekend when the Black Cats travel to the home of the Premier League champions.

And he points out that it’s unlikely to be a game any fan will feel comfortable leaving before the last minute!

Last season, the two teams played out two epic encounters as Sunderland emerged as City’s bogey team – taking four points from six from Roberto Mancini’s side – winning their New Year’s Day game at the Stadium of Light in the last minute and, in March, coming within seconds of becoming the only Premier League team to win at Eastlands last season.

As it was, Sunderland held a two-goal lead going into the last five minutes against City in Manchester and even though they drew, still emerged as the only side in the whole of the Premier League not to be beaten away by the eventual champions last term.

Wickham believes this Saturday’s game is likely to be another enthralling encounter as two of the three unbeaten Premier League sides go head to head.

He told the Echo: “Last season’s games were amazing in terms of going all the way down to the wire and I think we showed, in those games, the team spirit and the quality we have in the side.

“You have to ride your luck sometimes against the very best teams and you also have to hold your nerve, and we did both last season.

“There’s no reason why we can’t do it again this weekend because we have a stronger squad.

“Whatever happens, I can’t see too many people leaving before the end of the game, seeing as we beat them at home with a last-minute goal and were just a few minutes away from beating them at Eastlands.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if it was another great game this weekend because we’re not a side to fear anyone and we’re still unbeaten.”

Wickham was on the fringes of the first team last season and he has remained on the fringes this campaign, too, behind summer signings of Steven Fletcher and Louis Saha.

But the former Ipswich forward believes that the strengthening of the strike-force improves Sunderland’s hopes this weekend.

He said: “Steven Fletcher has hit the ground running and, with the signings we’ve made, we do have more goals in the squad now.

“You also hope that the players at the club last season, like myself, are a season better this season for their experience.

“One of the best things about this weekend is that plenty of Sunderland players will have played in those games last season, so they know that it can be done – you can go to Eastlands and get something from the game and, if you work hard enough, City can be beaten.”

Wickham appreciates it remains a daunting game and a massive challenge but says he is ready to play his part if called upon.

He said: “I’ve been in and around the squad and would love to be involved this weekend.

“There’s a lot of competition for places but I’ll just keep working hard and see what happens.”

Wickham and on-loan Sunderland left-back Danny Rose have both been named in the England Under-21 squad for the European Championship play-off double-header against Serbia.

The pair are set to face Serbia in Norwich next Friday, with the second leg on Tuesday, October 16 in Krusevac.

H Connor Wickham was speaking at City of Sunderland College’s Bede Campus where he took part in a kickabout to promote the free “Just Play” week.

The event, sponsored by Mars and the FA, begins next Monday, October 8, with 150 venues across the UK offering free Just Play football sessions.

Sign up for a free session by searching online for the “Just Play” website which will also show your nearest centre.