SHEFFIELD Wednesday beat off competition from Hull and Huddersfield to sign Sunderland striker Connor Wickham on loan.
The Owls yesterday landed Wickham on loan for a month until March 9, with the 19-year-old in the squad for today’s Championship encounter against Derby County.
Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill fielded several enquiries about Wickham from Championship clubs before the Football League emergency loan window opened on Thursday.
Managerless Huddersfield, along with ex-Black Cats boss Steve Bruce - who signed Wickham for £8million 18 months ago – were both interested in landing the England Under-21 international.
But Wednesday have all-but-guaranteed that Wickham will start games for the Owls – even if he is on the bench today – and that proved decisive.
Owls boss Dave Jones has been using winger Michail Antonio as a makeshift strike partner for on-loan Leroy Lita, but Wickham is expected to provide a more orthodox foil for the ex-Middlesbrough man.
“He’s a good player who we have watched numerous times, at international level as well, and he scored for the Under 21s the other night,” said Jones.
“He’s a strong, young player with plenty of running in him and he’s got goals in him. He’s the type of player we’re looking for and there were other clubs interested.”
Wednesday have been tracking Wickham for several months and Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill had considered allowing the England Under-21 international to join the Owls last November.
Eventually, O’Neill opted against it and it proved a good decision, with Wickham making significant strides at Sunderland over recent months.
But after the £5m deadline day capture of Danny Graham, O’Neill believes it is an opportune moment for Wickham to play first-team football.
After today’s clash with Arsenal, Sunderland play just three times during the duration of Wickham’s loan, compared to Wednesday’s five games.
But O’Neill is still taking a risk if Graham, Steven Fletcher or Stephane Sessegnon are hit by injuries or suspension, particularly after offloading frontmen Fraizer Campbell, Ji Dong-won and Louis Saha during the January transfer window.
Sunderland would not be able to recall Wickham for 28 days, although if the Black Cats agree to extend the loan, they would be able to instantly bring the former Ipswich Town forward back to Wearside.
Jones added: “Hopefully he’ll end up staying longer. But let’s get this first month out of the way first.
“It depends on him doing the business and it depends on whether Sunderland get injuries and on whether they want to call him back.”