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Striker Urged To Model Himself On North East Legend

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Wickham can be as good as he wants to be, according to Niall Quinn.

Alex Livesey

Niall Quinn has urged Connor Wickham to put in the work to become Sunderland's Alan Shearer.

The striker has hit a rich vein of form at precisely the right time, scoring five goals in his last four games as well as laying on Seb Larsson's winner at Manchester United last week. It's a run that has lifted Sunderland to the brink of Premier League safety and prompted Gus Poyet to suggest the 21-year-old as a possible surprise inclusion for England's World Cup squad.

Like everyone else, Niall Quinn is happy to give Wickham a pat on the back, but insists praise should be considered a motivation for the striker, not a reward.

He has the chance now and he has the ability.

I think he'll want it more than ever now but I'd like to see him be the last out of the training ground.

I'd like to see him perfect his art.

He could make things good for himself if he starts to look at what other players do and practises on the training ground.

He needs to make curved runs into the box, lose his man, go one way or the other.

He's starting to do it but it doesn't come from listening to people and allowing them to pat you on the back.

It comes on the training ground and if he wants to be the top player his ability means he can be, then he needs to do that.

I think he can be Sunderland's Alan Shearer - it is a high bar to set for him, but I believe he can.

"Sunderland's Alan Shearer" aren't really words that fans like to see together, but the wider point that Wickham can be as good as he wants to be is probably fair. He has all the tools imaginable. He's an imposing physical presence with a nice first touch, real pace and an ability to strike the ball incredibly cleanly. There are genuinely no excuses for him.

Playing regular football will help, of course, but it definitely isn't enough on its own, and questions have been raised by many regarding Wickham's attitude before. Paolo Di Canio described him as being 'more interested in being a Playboy model than a footballer' and Quinn himself commented that he was 'the last into training and the first to leave' in his early Sunderland career.

The world really does appear to be at Wickham's feet right now. How much of it he wants to take for himself appears to be up to him.