So something rumored for a while now seems to have come to fruition as media outlets report that Sunderland have bid £13m for Ipswich Town's hot prospect Connor Wickham, or we've bid £8m depending on who you prefer to believe. Either way, it seems a bid has definitely been accepted, and he's on his way to Sunderland for a medical.
Which ever it is I can't say I'm all that bothered. Sure there's a £5m difference but that's not a great deal in today's climate, and we've got the money to spend so why not use it on one of English football's hottest prospects.Now then, the player himself from the limited action I've seen, which is the sum total of a few Ipswich games and a few England youth games when there's absolutely nowt on the TV, he looks a top class prospect.
He's fairly tall, relatively fast, and his goalscoring record is pretty good for a lad of his age and experience. He'd fit the 'New Number 9' mantra touted earlier in the year from Messrs Quinn & Bruce, and dare I say it here, but he's got a touch of the Shearer about him from what I've seen. Not I'm not saying he's illegitimate or has a disease he simply can't shake off, but in playing style.
A quote these days in football isn't worth much, but former Ipswich and England man Kevin Beattie said of Wickham:
The boy has everything, strength, skill, the lot. It would not surprise me if he were partnering Wayne Rooney up front for England in a few years time. He impresses me that much.
13 goals in 65 league games at Ipswich Town is considered a handy haul for some more experienced strikers, let alone a lad of 18. Not to mention an even more impressive record at youth level for England witha cumulative total of 11 goals in 22 games across all levels.
It may to some represent a gamble bidding so much for someone so young, but one I'm glad to see us go for as he's got the world at his feet, and is far and away the most accomplished player of his age group.
I think the fans who are referring to Wickham's potential signing as a gamble have a severe case of Sunderland Syndrome. Had Wickham gone elsewhere they're the same ones who would have said "type of player we should have been in for, good signing for..." and so on.
Its also worth factoring that whilst we'd like to find the next Kevin Phillips for a buttons, that type of player and transfer rarely happens nowadays as managers and boards become better at judging potential, and holding out for more money.
The very same cynics would also like Bruce to dip his toe abroad and get good value elsewhere. Firstly, so far Bruce doesn't have the most stellar of records at Sunderland when doing that. Secondly, remember who we are. We've struggled for years with not being the most attractive of teams to come and sign for. Thirdly, signing Foreigner X also has its problems. Whilst Wickham may never hit the heights his potential suggests, there's also every chance Johnny Foreigner there doesn't settle in the area.
The signing of Wickham would be no more or less a gamble than any other signing really when you sit back and look at things. You can point to good and bad value signings at every price... Andy Carroll £35m, Bebe £7.4m, Theo Walcott £5m... there's no rhyme or reason to suggest pricetag and playing ability are matched, its down to how much the manager believes in the player. Bruce clearly does believe in Wickham, and I'm backing him.
Now just the small matter of whether he actually comes to Sunderland. Reportedly at the same time he's holding out for Liverpool (boyhood fan apparently) to come a calling. If he goes there, I'm sure he'll be over the moon with the extra few grand he'll get, and can spend every Saturday sat on a bench wondering how to spend it. Or he could come here, make a name for himself, and if he does any good the so called bigger boys will still be looking at him.
Harking back to an earlier point about quotes being worth precious little these days in football, here's something Connor himself said about moving to a 'big team' or for those worried about a bid from elsewhere:
To be reading in the papers that I'm worth £10m or that Premier League clubs are interested is a bit of an experience in itself. I've got a good head on my shoulders so it's not going to make me get big-time or anything like that.
So there you go. hopefully he'll see that a move to Sunderland is a sensible move, and indeed a more ambitious route really. For me he'd hinder his own development by going to the likes of Liverpool or Tottenham Hotspur and playing little, whilst at SAFC he'll be the main man alongside Asamoah Gyan. Or so you'd think anyway. We'll have Gyan, Dong-Won & Wickham if all runs smoothly, although I still see us getting another in too.
The right move, at the right time. Should Conor make the sensible choice, I welcome him with open arms. Good business from the club, and a mark of our ambitions for those who question it.