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So Where Do Sunderland Stand With Wickham?

There are conflicting stories in the press regarding the future of Connor Wickham. So what do we make of them, who do we believe, and where do we see it going?

Alex Livesey


Summers are confusing. Football is confusing. Sunderland are very confusing. Basically, whilst we'd love to know and fully understand what is going on at the Stadium of Light right now, I think it's important to accept that we have absolutely no chance.

Since Connor Wickham produced a flurry of unexpected goals to help fire Sunderland to Premier League safety, his contract situation has been thrust to towards the top of the agenda. Suddenly, he has one year left on his deal and finds himself holding all of the cards.

Of course, I'm not going to pretend that every Sunderland fan has spontaneously decided Wickham is the new messiah or anything. There are those who suspect that his goals were little more than an immaculately-timed purple patch and scoff at anyone allowing themselves to get carried away beyond that train of thought. Fair enough.

However, there is little question that Sunderland want to tie him down to a new contract this summer and avoid the pain in the backside that saw us enter this close-season not having a clue who would be sticking around beyond their current terms.

Depending on what you read at the moment, the news is either encouraging or alarming. Mark Douglas in The Journal has reported that Wickham has turned down an offer of a new contract, which doesn't sound very promising at all. However, George Caulkin in The Times insists talks are 'ongoing'.

So, two respected and reliable local journalists with contrasting stories. Who to believe?

The answer, so far as I can tell at least, is both. The situation is probably that Connor Wickham has rejected an offer, yet talks are ongoing and Sunderland will be back with another. It's surely what you'd expect with any contract negotiation. It's the contractual equivalent of Schrödinger's cat right now. It's both alive and dead at the same time, in the quantum universe at least.

In the real universe, though, our universe, that doesn't really help us. In the real universe, I am not sure that Sunderland can afford not to get Wickham's signature on a new contract.

That may sound a little dramatic, but many fans are already questioning the club's ambition in the transfer market. Wickham not signing would probably be perceived by enough fans to make a sentiment as the club not being willing to do, or spent, what is necessary, and it coming a year after selling fan-favourites Stephane Sessegnon and Simon Mignolet, and mere weeks after failing to prevent academy product Jack Colback from walking away, it would likely be too easy a connection for fans to ignore.

I don't personally think it will come to that. I suspect the club will return with a better offer and Wickham will commit. I'm not sure there are many more tempting offers out there for him at this stage of his career and I think he's switched on enough to recognise Gus Poyet, who is the first manager to truly show him any trust, is the kind of coach who can improve players.

Hopefully, what we are seeing here is just a little jostling for position. Wickham and Sunderland are a good fit right now, and locking the striker down to a new contract is surely too good an opportunity to deliver something decisive for new sporting director Lee Congerton to miss.

I'd like to think at least that Sunderland are prepared to really back themselves now. With Poyet recently signed up for a couple more years and the club finally having found some identity, the time has never been better to make a statement that they believe they can strive for the best-case scenario with greater gusto than they protect themselves from the worst. Showing that they are prepared - no, determined - to take full responsibility for turning a talent like Wickham into the player he is capable of being would certainly be a step towards that.

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