CONNOR Wickham scored his fourth goal in five games for England Under 21s last night to remind everyone at Sunderland of his goal-scoring potential.
Attention on Wearside over the last week has centred on the £5m capture of free-scoring Swansea striker Danny Graham.
Graham showed how good a signing he might be when he came on as a late substitute at the weekend and galvanised Sunderland against Reading.
But the Black Cats don’t just have Graham, Steven Fletcher and Stephane Sessegnon to look to for goals – as Wickham demonstrated in the Under 21’s 4-0 win over Sweden U21s at Walsall’s Banks’ Stadium.
His prolific run for Stuart Pearce’s young England side continued last night despite only being brought on as a substitute after half time.
By then England – on their way to a run of seven consecutive clean sheets – were 3-0 ahead thanks to goals from Liverpool’s Jonjo Shelvey and Blackpool winger, Tom Ince.
Wickham added a fourth in the 77th minute when he powerfully headed home Henri Lansbury’s left-wing cross at the far post, eight yards out.
On a busy night for the 19-year-old Black Cat he could have had a second goal, only to shoot straight at the keeper and also delivered a dangerous cross which Ince just failed to convert for his hat-trick.
It was a reminder that while the strongly-built Sunderland striker remains raw, he can be effective and at his best can wreak havoc in the opposition box.
He has started only two games for Sunderland this season and been substitute in seven others, but Martin O’Neill has noted the former Ipswich Town frontman’s improvement over the course of this campaign.
It will be reassuring for the Sunderland manager to know that while Danny Graham has been brought in to improve the Black Cats’ average-looking goal tally, Wickham could also prove to be part of the solution.
H Also in action for England last night was Sunderland’s young keeper Jordan Pickford who was involved from the start in the side’s 3-1 win over Denmark U19s at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium.
Pickford, who was subbed in the 87th minute, kept a clean-sheet until he was beaten in the 52nd minute by Danny Amankwaa.
But shortly afterwards he pulled off a vital save with the scoreline at 2-1 to deny Christian Norgaard and minutes later England got their all-important third goal.