It’s fairly well known at this point that when Phil Parkinson was manager of Bolton Wanderers back in the summer of 2018, his top striking target was then-Bradford man Charlie Wyke - who, of course, ended up signing for Jack Ross at Sunderland.
It was expected, then, that when Parkinson arrived at Sunderland that he’d make the most out of having Wyke at his disposal. It was a frustrating six weeks or so for the manager as he waited for Charlie to return to full fitness, toying around with both Marc McNulty and Will Grigg up top in striking roles to varying success.
Since Charlie recovered from his issues he’s been a virtually ever-present in the side, cementing the idea that Parkinson would make him the focal point of his attack.
And whilst he’s not scored anywhere near enough goals, he does work his socks off for the team. I’d go as far as to say that the entire system we play hinges on having him up top - Parkinson spoke yesterday to the press about how he’s asked Chris Maguire and Lynden Gooch to think and play like number nines, and both have scored with regularity in recent months. Wyke, despite being the furthest forward of our attackers, is not expected by his manager to be the team’s most reliable goalscorer - he’s merely the pivot for others to work from; a decoy in the system to occupy opposition defenders whilst our more able attackers work themselves into pockets of space where they can cause damage.
So, to that end, I feel that whilst Wyke frustrates me sometimes with his lack of movement and inability to trap the ball when he has his back to goal, he’s mainly on the pitch to act as a distraction. And I can live with that, for as long as Gooch, Maguire and co. continue to score the goals that will lead us to promotion.
Ideally we’d have brought someone else into the squad in January with a better goalscoring record, but for the next three months or so I suspect that he’ll do a job.
Phil West says...
I think that Parkinson’s main reason for sticking with Wyke is his belief that he offers a physical presence up-front, can hold the ball up, bring others into play, and make chances for his teammates. The evidence suggests otherwise. Wyke is not particularly effective with his back to goal, is not dominant in the air, and his hold-up play is mediocre.
That being said, I like his work-rate and his attitude, despite ploughing a lone furrow up front during many games, never appears questionable. He’s a grafter, and I think that appeals to Parkinson. Is that enough to justify his continued selection? I’m not convinced, but we aren’t blessed with a multitude of options in this area, so it might simply be a case of ‘make do and mend’ between now and the end of the season.
Personally, I would quite like to see Kyle Lafferty given a start, and an opportunity to show that he can be our target man. He’s got plenty of experience and his cameo against Ipswich was decent enough. He might not become a prolific scorer for us, but if given some decent ammunition, maybe Lafferty could ease the goalscoring burden on the likes of Maguire and Gooch, upon whom we are extremely reliant at this point.
Regarding Grigg, I believe that, barring injury problems hitting the squad, bringing him back into the team would be a mistake. His attitude and demeanour have seldom impressed, and it’s extremely unlikely, to me, that he could embark on a sudden goalscoring spree between now and the end of the season. At some stage, acceptance that Grigg experiment has not worked will arrive, and it looks to be a shoot-out between Lafferty and Wyke for the lone striker’s role as we enter this crucial stage of the season.
Michael Graham says...
Parkinson is keeping Charlie Wyke in the team for one reason and it’s a very good reason - he’s contributing. I don’t think he’s contributing as many goals as anyone would like, but he created the winner against Ipswich and scored the winner at Tranmere.
You have to look deeper than that though to see Wyke’s contribution. It can’t really be measured by statistics. Lynden Gooch and Chris Maguire are both thriving playing off him, for starters. I don’t think Gooch sneaks in to score the opener against Rochdale, for example, without Wyke occupying the centre backs and dragging them out of the space Gooch gets into.
He is working hard to provide an outlet for the rest of the team too, and although he doesn’t win too much himself - which is understandable against two and sometimes three centre-backs - his presence and hustle allows the midfield to pick up far more second balls than they used to do.
I think Wyke is a player who is very difficult to get excited about really. He is about as unremarkable as a footballer can get. There is no pace, he can hold his own but you wouldn’t call him a powerhouse, and he doesn’t possess any composure in the box or on the ball beyond that which is the minimum you’d expect for a player at this level.
However, he’s a quietly effective player who is bringing good performances out of others, so you can certainly see why he’s retaining the faith of the manager.