Connor Wickham has hit out at the lack of opportunities he had in his natural centre-forward role during his four years at Sunderland.
Wickham will come up against his former employers for the first time tomorrow night after Sunderland sanctioned the 22-year-old’s £9million move to Crystal Palace during the summer.
Sunderland splashed out £8m to land Wickham as a 17-year-old in 2011, but he produced little return on that outlay until he netted five goals during the tail end of the 2013-14 campaign to keep the Black Cats in the Premier League.
However, Wickham then found himself shifted onto the left-flank for much of last season, where he produced an inconsistent contribution.
Wickham said: “I had four years up at Sunderland and I’m grateful for what they did for me. But now I’ve a new project.
“I got five goals to help them avoid the drop. That was a good period for me. I’ve always known I can score goals.
“That was the only time I was given a chance to play as a striker there and prove I could do it.
“But the following season I went back to playing on the left and my confidence got knocked again.
“Now I have come to a club which has a manager who believes in me.
“I’m a million times happier at Palace than I was at Sunderland.
“I can play down the middle and I’ve got two wingers to run off me and two who will run in behind me.”
Wickham was on the receiving end from some Sunderland supporters who questioned his attitude, yet he has brushed off the potential flak which could come his way tomorrow.
“The thought of being booed doesn’t bother me,” he added to the Daily Star.
“From the stands, everybody plays a perfect game of football and nobody ever makes a mistake.
“I don’t know what the Sunderland fans were expecting. They were quick to judge. I played a position that wasn’t my natural position or one that I anticipated playing in.
“They said I never scored goals and this, that and the other. But I scored goals when I played as a central striker.
“At Palace, we’ve got a set of fans who’ve backed me through thick and thin.”