Crystal Palace v Sunderland: Wickham ready to shrug off any stick from Black Cats fans

Connor Wickham in pre-season training with Sunderland prior to joining Palace
Connor Wickham in pre-season training with Sunderland prior to joining Palace
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Connor Wickham is determined to concentrate on his game when Crystal Palace face Sunderland at Selhurst Park tonight.

Fit-again Wickham comes up against his former club for the first time since his summer switch to London, and he is ready for any stick from the travelling supporters – and is backing home fans to make life tough for the Black Cats.

Wickham, back from a calf injury which has sidelined him since August, said: “The reaction from fans doesn’t bother me, it’s part and parcel of the game and you learn to ignore it.

“At Palace, we’ve got a set of fans who back us through thick and thin. Selhurst Park is a horrible place to play if you’re an away player.

“It’s the one team I’ve wanted to play against since I came to Palace. I’ll be seeing some friendly faces again, but once I’ve crossed the line it’s me against them and there’s no friends on a football pitch.”

Wickham is relishing the opportunity to put a run of games together and couldn’t be happier at the south London club.

The 22-year-old, who had four years on Wearside, added: “I’m now around all my friends and family and it’s made a massive difference in my self-confidence.

“I’ve managed to settle and I feel I’m at home being down south again.

“I’ve got my friends and family around me and wake up in the morning looking forward to coming to work and that’s the most important thing.

“I’m motivated to put all my effort into Palace and I’ve got the right manager who speaks to me every day as well as the coaches who have been fantastic with me. I’m in the perfect set-up to get the best out of myself.”

Wickham – who hit 15 goals in 91 appearances for Sunderland – will feature tonight for Alan Pardew’s men, for the first time since helping Palace win at Chelsea early in the campaign.

He added on cpfc.co.uk: “I’ve managed to come to a club working with a manager who believes in me and the boys believe in me too.

“I don’t have a point to prove because I know what I can do, and I’ll show the people here what I can do.

“I feel my game’s developed massively at Palace and I’m a million times a happier player when I’m playing down the middle.

“When I’m working with two natural wide men in Wilf (Zaha) and Yannick (Bolasie), then there’s (Jason) Puncheon, Yohan (Cabaye) and Joel Ledley who are going to run beyond me, I don’t have to worry about what goes on behind me because they’re going to be there and working their socks off.”

With Dwight Gayle out injured, Wickham is relishing the chance to start in a central role on his return. He said: “The position is mine to lose now and hopefully I’ll bring something to the team that’s been missing for a couple of months, someone to hold the ball up, create more chances and score more goals and get more points.”