As the saga of Charlie Wyke’s contract renewal paves out, it seems incredible that some fans are questioning the merits of offering him a new deal. However, if the same situation had occurred 12 months ago, there would have been few who would have complained if he had not been offered a new deal at all. Even though after a prolific season in front of the net with 31 goals to his name, there are still those who question what he brings to the team –and to be fair you can understand the doubts.
Charlie is a player who could generate an entire podcast discussion every week. He really is that much of an enigma. One week he will score and look a complete pain to the opposition – the next week you have to check the team sheet to remind yourself that he is on the pitch. For the most part, you would say he is not the best at holding the ball up and laying it off or at winning the ball in the air. It has only been when Ross Stewart has played that we see a centre forward providing what has been missing from our approach play for much of our time in League One.
There has been the odd notable game where Charlie has been an exception to this. You think of what I can only describe as his ‘Attila the Hun performance’ with four goals against Doncaster, where over the course of 90 minutes he put to bed every doubt we had made of him in the previous two and a half years.
Playing alone up front, he linked the play superbly and headed four goals – this from a player who had only scored one header for Sunderland before the season started. Here is a question for the historians which I don’t know the answer to so I will throw it out there – has any Sunderland player headed four goals in a game?
What we can’t argue though about is 31 goals in a season. To accept the merits of retaining Charlie Wyke you have to accept him for what he is – a goal poacher. And at this level, he is outstanding at it. In my opinion, he has always looked better as part of a front two, where he has a partner to do the things he isn’t good at – such as linking the play, winning the ball, holding it up and then laying it off.
Both Phil Parkinson and Jack Ross played him for the most part as a lone target man. When Lee Johnson took over he seemed to recognise that Wyke benefitted from being part of a front two and was rewarded with the most prolific scoring spell of his Sunderland career. However, during the closing stages of the season, due to injuries and lack of performance from his on-pitch strike partner, Wyke has again led the line by himself in some games and it has to be said, looked largely anonymous in them.
If there is a question among fans of whether we would miss Charlie Wyke then the answer is that we would certainly miss his goals and the points that they have won this season. If he leaves the club we will be very lucky to find someone who brings that kind of goal output to the side. Goalscorers, particularly prolific ones, do not grow on trees – and they do not come cheaply. Surely it makes sense to do our utmost to keep a 31 goal striker rather than gamble on the hope of finding another?
Of course, it’s not only Wyke who’s out of contract. McGeady, O’Nien and Hume could all turn down deals and walk away. In my opinion, KLD, Speakman et all have made their first mistake in holding off contract talks until the end of the season. I understand there may have been a wish from both sides of the table to wait until the fate of which league we are playing in next season is known, but if that was the case why not put in promotion clauses and minimum release fees to any contract offers?
By waiting until the season end, the fear is that it is a form of Russian Roulette and we may not keep hold of all of them. Certainly in Wyke’s case, there were reports a couple of months ago that he would not be staying this summer if Sunderland were not in the Championship next season.
And if he leaves, it’s a huge gap to fill.