Sheffield Wednesday keen to keep Sunderland’s Wickham

LOAN STAY? ... Connor Wickham, centre.
LOAN STAY? ... Connor Wickham, centre.
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SHEFFIELD Wednesday boss Dave Jones will hold talks with Martin O’Neill this week, as he attempts to extend Connor Wickham’s loan spell with the Championship outfit.

The Sunderland striker is expected to keep his spot up front in tonight’s trip to promotion-chasing Watford despite drawing a blank in four outings for the Owls.

Wickham’s initial month-long stint at Hillsborough expires after Saturday’s clash with Leicester, although Sunderland could exercise the 28-day recall clause on the deal before their own weekend encounter at QPR.

But Jones has made no secret of his desire to keep Wickham (right) after finally landing the 19-year-old on a temporary basis, following a four-month long pursuit.

“I would like to keep Connor definitely,” said Jones.

“I think he would like to stay. It will all depend on what Martin O’Neill feels about him.”

Whether O’Neill is prepared to allow Wickham to remain at Wednesday is a moot point after Sunderland were unable to name a full allocation of substitutes against Fulham last Saturday.

With Danny Graham and Steven Fletcher now both in the Black Cats starting line-up, O’Neill does not have another senior striker on the books to include on the bench.

But despite hauling Wickham off at the interval in last weekend’s defeat to Nottingham Forest, Jones believes the England Under-21 international is benefiting from first-team football.

“He has not played a lot of football over the last year and that eventually does catch up with you,” Jones said.

“He will have his ups and his downs but people forget his age.

“He is still a baby in footballing terms and if you are not playing week-in, week-out, then you are not learning as much. It is game time that gives you the experience. It is not training.

“I think the kid has got an abundance of ability. It is just finding the switch which will enable him to go and push on for the rest of his career.

“I think at the moment it is hard work for him. He just needs to relax and play because he is a very, very good player.”

Jones sees similarities between the £8million Wickham and Bolton striker Kevin Davies - ironically a player O’Neill tried to sign 14 months ago to mentor the teenager.

Then Southampton manager Jones sold Davies to Blackburn for £7.5m in 1998 and he flopped before eventually proving a success story at Bolton.

Jones added: “He went from Southampton to Blackburn and people thought he was the finished article and he wasn’t.

“He was still a young boy and I got him back two years later because of the demands that were put on him.

“Kevin has gone on and had an unbelievable career. But that period was his learning process. When you pay £7.5m for somebody, I know people expect the finished article and he was nowhere near.

“Look at Gareth Bale. How much did Spurs pay for him and how long did it take for him to develop? And Aaron Lennon.

“These are all young players who have gone for big money and are just expected to perform.”

Meanwhile, Sunderland youngster Billy Knott has extended his loan spell with Blue Square Premier outfit Woking until the end of the month.

The 20-year-old, who joined Woking in October, has scored five goals in 10 appearances for the non-league side.