STUART PEARCE insists time is still on Connor Wickham’s side after the Sunderland striker secured England under-21s’ spot in the European Championship qualification play-offs.
Wickham grabbed the only goal of the game against Norway at Chesterfield last night with his first competitive strike since Sunderland’s 2-2 draw with Aston Villa last October.
The 19-year-old was not even on the bench for Sunderland’s last Premier League outing against Swansea nine days ago and could still be allowed to leave the Stadium of Light now the emergency loan window has opened for Football League clubs.
Championship duo Burnley and Ipswich are both interested in the striker, who has made just six starts for Sunderland since his £8million move from the latter 14 months ago.
But England U21 boss Pearce has pleaded for patience over Wickham, stressing the 6ft 3in frontman’s tender years and the dangers of making snap judgements.
Pearce said: “It is important that someone in my position doesn’t elevate these players to a God-like status too soon and certainly not write them off too soon.
“We have a tendency in this country to do so, but an even ship and a steady progression would be more beneficial.
“Connor is still only 19, but sometimes because of the stature of the lad – in fact a lot of the players – the bottom line is that they are all under-21s.
“The big problem is Connor hasn’t played a great deal of first team football.
“Physically, this is quite demanding. The good thing is football of a good standard will benefit Connor and his club. I’m pleased for him.”
Wickham pounced on a mistake in the Norway defence – enforced by ex-Sunderland striker Martyn Waghorn – and coolly slid the ball home just before the break to hand England a lead they precariously held onto in the second half.
Victory for England, who also included on-loan Sunderland left-back Danny Rose, ensured they topped their qualification group and sealed a spot in November’s play-offs which will decide who competes at the Euro’s in Israel next summer.
“To win seven out of eight games in this group at international football isn’t easy,” added Pearce.
“The performances over the last two games of Danny Rose, Martin Kelly, both the goalkeepers and Steven Caulker has been pleasing
“We’re pleased with that and pleased to have topped the group but we know full well that we’re going to have to play better in November if we are going to be successful and get to the finals.”