Sunderland’s Connor Wickham: England have set the bar

Connor Wickham (right)stretches for the ball past Austria's Patrick Farkas during the U21's International match at the AMEX Stadium, Brighton.
Connor Wickham (right)stretches for the ball past Austria's Patrick Farkas during the U21's International match at the AMEX Stadium, Brighton.
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SUNDERLAND’s Connor Wickham believes England Under-21s could not be much better placed for success at this summer’s European Championships.

The Young Lions yesterday overcame Austria 4-0 at Brighton’s Amex Stadium in what was their last match on home soil before they head to Israel.

While red cards either side of half-time no doubt helped the hosts’ cause, a record-breaking ninth win on the bounce and yet another clean sheet will only further boost morale.

That run puts Stuart Pearce’s side amongst the favourites for the crown and Wickham believes it will play on the mind of rival teams in Israel.

“We couldn’t ask for much more,” said the Sunderland striker. “It is a great record to have and obviously going into the tournament other teams will know what we have done in the lead-up to Israel.

“They will know we are nine games unbeaten and haven’t conceded a goal so I think it puts in a really strong position going into the tournament.

“It just down to the players now to keep playing, keep working hard and keep fit.

“Hopefully we will take the strongest team possible to Israel.”

Pearce is planning to name his 23-man squad for the championships in the week starting May 13 and has his eyes on the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kyle Walker and Jack Rodwell.

The Under-21s boss has made his mind up about up to 21 of those spots and Wickham is hopeful of being one of those on the plane, having scored and got man of the match against Austria.

“I would like to think I have sealed a place,” he said. I’ve scored a few goals throughout the campaign.

“I’ve scored again against Austria and got two man-of-the-match awards so hopefully it will be in the gaffer’s mind.

“But, at the end of the day, it is his choice. He will take who he wants to take, the strongest squad. I think anybody involved with the campaign is in with a shout of getting on the plane.”

Wickham netted the last goal in yesterday’s 4-0 win, following on from Jonjo Shelvey, Josh McEachran and Marvin Sordell efforts.

However, England looked shaky at the back before the red cards as Austria regularly threatened to breach the backline for the first time in 16 months.

“We watched videos on them and they were probably one of the more technical teams that we have faced in the lead-up to Israel,” Wickham added.

“But all the boys did well and at half-time the gaffer just said we were doing certain things wrong and could improve things.

“The boys knew that going into the changing room at half-time, but we’re all good players.

“We know what we are capable of and we know we can pick ourselves up from making mistakes.

“We’ve got a team around us and a good defence to stop the ball going in the back of the net.”