CONNOR WICKHAM is delighted to have sealed England’s spot in the European Under-21 Championships despite the ugly scenes in Serbia.
The racist abuse subjected to England’s black players, particularly Wickham’s Sunderland team-mate Danny Rose, has somewhat overshadowed the achievement of Stuart Pearce’s men in qualifying for next summer’s tournament in Israel.
Leading 1-0 from the first leg, England secured victory in stoppage time when substitute Wickham tapped into the empty net on the counter-attack after Serbian stopper Branimir Aleksic was up for a corner at the other end of the field.
Sunderland striker Wickham, who netted for the second time in three U21 outings, said: “Obviously to come on with five minutes to go and try to hold the ball up is difficult to get into.
“Their fans were on our backs for the whole game too.
“But I’m delighted to come on and score the winning goal.
“All along, the thing we were aiming for was to get there (to the Championships) and now we have proved we can go anywhere and win.”
Meanwhile, Sunderland midfielder David Vaughan says Wales have rediscovered some pride despite suffering a 2-0 defeat in Croatia on Tuesday night.
Wales were thrashed 6-1 in Serbia in September’s round of World Cup qualifiers, yet responded with a 2-1 win over Scotland last week and a much-improved display against Croatia.
Although Chris Coleman’s side now have little chance of qualifying, with seven points separating them from the top two in Group A, Vaughan believes the latest two international outings have proved heartening.
The 29-year-old said: “The biggest thing over these two games was to right the wrong of that Serbia game which I think stands out as a bad night for Welsh football.
“So credit to the team because I think the performance levels were much, much better and we can take positives from both games.
“While there is still a chance of qualifying, we’ll keep on fighting and we’ll go into the next two matches looking to pick up the points.”