CONNOR Wickham is eager to force his way back into Martin O’Neill’s plans after finding himself confined to the fringes so far this season.
The £8million striker has played just 15 minutes of competitive football for Sunderland since March and wasn’t even included on the bench for the Black Cats’ draws against Swansea and Liverpool.
Wickham continues to attract the interest of Football League clubs over a potential loan move, with Burnley and former club Ipswich Town both keen on temporary deals for the 19-year-old.
But after scoring the winner for England under-21s last week and bagging a brace for the second string on Tuesday night, Wickham is desperate to hold down a place in the squad and ultimately push for a starting berth.
Wickham told the Echo: “Obviously, I just want to play as many minutes as I can and show the manager that I am capable of playing in the first-team.
“I just have to take each game as it comes and do the best that I can.
“I definitely want to get onto the bench.
“It’s been disappointing not to get into the squad and I just want to work as hard as I can to show the manager I’m capable of that.
“Hopefully in his future plans, I can then force my way into the starting XI.”
O’Neill was in the stands at the Sports Direct Arena on Tuesday to see Wickham notch a pair of tap-ins in the 2-2 draw with Newcastle United in the Under-21s League.
But Wickham says the presence of the Sunderland manager did not add any extra pressure to those on the fringes, stressing that the Black Cats players know they are under constant scrutiny.
“The manager (O’Neill) was in the changing room before the game,” he added.
“But you know you’re going to be watched every game anyway.
“Even if they’re not there, they’re going to see it on video.
“But you don’t think about things like that. You just do your best every game and show everyone what you’re capable of.”