Mannone: Striker Has 'All The Talent In The World'

Mark Runnacles

It seems Connor Wickham's fan club is growing by the minute.

Vito Mannone has hailed the impact and ability of Connor Wickham as the in-form youngster continues to haul Sunderland closer to Premier League safety.

The striker returned from a barren loan-spell at Leeds last month and has since scored five goals in his last three games as Gus Poyet's team went from looking like dead-certs for the drop to favourites to survive. Understandably, that has made him popular with his team mates.

Mannone told reporters:

You need the ball to go in the net, and sometimes you need a striker in form like Connor is.

He has done a great job since he came back from the loan, and you could see that from the way he was holding up the ball, making the team come up the field, and finishing off the chances we create.

He has all the talent in the world. Before, it was tough for him. But the work pays off. He went to the Championship, scored a lot of goals, and came back. That's a good way to be.

Wickham is very much the story right now, isn't he. I'm not sure his talent has ever really been in question. I remember his first goal for Sunderland - a sharp take on his right foot followed by a crisp drilled finish on his left - and it was obvious then that he had a huge amount of talent. It wasn't the kind of goal that ordinary players can score.

As far as I can tell, the questions have always been over his attitude, with Niall Quinn admitting over the weekend that following his move from Ipswich three years ago, Wickham was 'always the last to arrive at training and the first to leave'. If someone has put a rocket up his backside, then that can only be great news.

As for the bigger picture, Mannone has urged calm, insisting there is still plenty of work left to be done if the club are to guarantee their Premier league status for next season:

We cannot assume that we have achieved anything. Nothing has been done yet - we have just started the job.

Before the Cardiff game, we had four games to go, and we talked about how they were four finals for us. We've only won one.

There are still three more to go and they are every bit as important, if not even more. We have only won one battle. To win the war, you need to succeed in another few fights.

Hear hear, Vito. Don't go counting those chickens yet, lads, with or without a striker in red-hot form. This is Sunderland.

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