CONNOR Wickham insists he was always calm that his Sunderland career would be extended, despite the speculation over his contract situation.
This month’s transfer window had threatened to be dominated by speculation over Wickham’s future at the Stadium of Light, before the striker penned a new four-year deal with Sunderland four weeks ago.
That outcome ended six months of contract talks with Wickham and his camp, with Sunderland rejecting a couple of offers from West Ham last summer for a player entering the final 12 months of his deal.
But on the first occasion Wickham has spoken publicly about his new Sunderland contract, the 21-year-old says he was always looking to remain with the Black Cats after several discussions with head coach Gus Poyet over his plans for the £8million frontman.
Wickham told the Echo: “The speculation never bothered me as much as what was made of it.
“People don’t see what goes on behind closed doors, and it was never in doubt.
“I took criticism for how long it took, but that was the process.
“At least it’s settled now and everyone knows what’s happening.
“I’ve signed the contract and that’s the end of that.
“Over a month, I sat with the gaffer a couple of times and he explained to me what he wanted me to do.
“We had a good chat for half an hour, 45 minutes, and we got a lot out in the open and we understood each other.
“Now I know what he wants from me, and that’s made it a lot easier.
“He said to me way before the negotiations even started what he wanted me to do for this season.
“I was happy to do it then, I’m happy to do it now. The contract was just one of those things that came up between then and now.”
Wickham has been forced to spend the bulk of this season as a left-sided forward, despite netting five goals in four games from a central role during last year’s Great Escape.
But, while Wickham ideally wants to play down the middle, he has had no issue in filling a position that he played at boyhood club Ipswich.
“Obviously, I want to play as high up the pitch as I can, and the role on the left involves some defending, which probably isn’t the strongest bit of my game,” he said.
“But the gaffer wants me to do it, so that’s what I’ve got to do.
“It’s up to me to adapt to the way he wants me to play.
“The manager asked me before the start of the season whether I could play on the left. I did it at Ipswich for a whole season and it didn’t seem the same as what it seems now.
“Full-backs push on and there is defending to do, but the fact is that we need to score more goals and get forward in numbers as much as we can.”
Wickham was introduced at the interval in that left-sided role in yesterday’s FA Cup third round win over Leeds United, in a tie which ultimately proved to be nervy for Sunderland after Patrick van Aanholt’s superb goal had given them the lead.
“It wasn’t easy, but it’s not going to be against Leeds with the history of the two teams,” he added.
“But we’ll take the win and we’re into the next round.
“We did have chances and Pat scored a good goal. But in the second half, we let them get back in the game and they hit the post. We’re happy to take the win though.”