CONNOR Wickham has joined Championship outfit Sheffield Wednesday on a month’s loan, writes Chris Young.
The Echo revealed today how Sunderland had agreed to let the £8million striker leave the Stadium of Light on a temporary basis, to ensure his recent progress continues.
And Wednesday have triumphed in the battle of three Championship sides to sign Wickham, with the 19-year-old joining the Owls until March 9 and included in the squad for tomorrow’s clash with Derby County.
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 O’Neill is anxious to ensure that progress is not halted by a lack of first-team action after Sunderland’s attacking ranks were boosted by the £5m deadline day capture of Danny Graham.
The emergency loan window for Football League clubs opened yesterday and O’Neill believes it is an opportune moment for the £8million frontman to go out and play first-team football.
Sunderland would have a recall clause after 28 days if the loan switch extended and with the Black Cats in action just three times in the four weeks following tomorrow’s clash against Arsenal, it minimises the risk of O’Neill being left short up front.
O’Neill told the Echo: “A couple of clubs have enquired about him and I’ve spoken to his agent as well.
“It’s one where it’s an outfield player in a position where we’ve got a couple of options at this moment.
“Now that Connor has got a bit of momentum going, having played in the first team, we want to ensure that progress continues.
“And he’s obviously anxious to play as many games as possible, so it’s something I’ve looked at.”
Wickham, who grabbed his fourth goal in five games for England Under-21s on Tuesday night, has started just once in the Premier League this season.
Graham’s arrival has not improved Wickham’s prospects of Premier League football, with O’Neill already vowing to consider the possibility of pairing his new arrival with top scorer Steven Fletcher.
But O’Neill insists Graham will have to earn a place in the starting line-up despite the Gateshead-born striker’s heavy price tag.
“Danny wants to come here and wants to do well,” added O’Neill.
“It was a nice reception he got down at Reading from the travelling fans which he will have appreciated.
“He genuinely wants to score some goals and play well in the team and over the course of time I expect him to do that.
“But I’m not guaranteeing anyone a starting position, eventually you have to earn it.”