O’Neill interested in Sunderland’s Wickham move

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill.
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill.
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FORMER Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill is hoping to tempt Black Cats striker Connor Wickham into pledging his international allegiance to the Republic of Ireland.

Wickham, on loan at Championship Sheffield Wednesday until January, has won 17 caps for the England Under-21s after coming through the national team’s various age groups.

But the £8million frontman is yet to to make a senior appearance for England and has been left out of U21 boss Gareth Southgate’s last two squads.

Wickham qualifies for the Republic through his Northern Irish father and the 20-year-old is a familiar face for O’Neill after the new Ireland manager’s 15-month stint in charge at the Stadium of Light.

O’Neill, who will take charge of the Irish for the first time against Latvia on Friday, said: “I worked with Connor at Sunderland.

“Steve Bruce bought him but I thought the price tag concerned him and for a little while I thought being a professional footballer was enough for Connor – and at that stage that he liked the lifestyle which was all very new to him.

“But you have to knuckle down and actually have to go and do something.

“In my latter days at Sunderland, it looked as if he was going to come round and wanted to become a professional player. He is out on loan at this minute at Sheffield Wednesday and Connor would be the first to say that to go and play in the Premier League week--in, week-out is still a big task.

“But those little spells on loan, particularly this one where he is doing all right and scored a few goals, will help him.

“I don’t think I am in a position at this minute to turn down anything and if someone tells me someone is available, particularly someone I have worked with and might have a chance, I would give it some consideration.”