Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Wickham Backed to Get the Goals; Gardner: Wickham Can Fill Fletcher's Shoes

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Wickham Backed to Get the Goals; Gardner: Wickham Can Fill Fletcher's Shoes

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner ? (0191) 201-6283 ? stuart.rayner@ncjmedia.co.uk

CONNOR Wickham has been backed to fill the hole left by Steven Fletcher's ankle injury after leaping to the front of the queue to replace the Sunderland striker. Wickham (pictured left) was one of a clutch of strikers completely overlooked by manager Martin O'Neill until Sunday's half-time introduction at Norwich City.

The 19-year-old had a goal disallowed for offside during a vastly-improved second-half showing by the visitors.

With top-scorer Fletcher injuring his ankle to give Wickham his chance, Craig Gardner believes Sunderland's most expensive teenager is ready to take his chance.

The midfielder admitted: "It's a big blow to lose Fletch. He's different class.

"Everyone was questioning how much money he came here for. There's a big price tag on him but he has proved everybody wrong and he's different class.

He's a top-class person to have around the place.

"Fletch went off at Carrow Road but Connor came on and was brilliant.

"He has worked his socks off in training and hopefully he can really push on now. We can't hide behind one player or put our heads down." Fletcher and Wickham have responded differently to the pressure of a hefty price tag. When Sunderland paid PS12m to take Fletcher from Wolverhampton Wanderers, received wisdom was they had overvalued the Scotland striker. However, having scored six of their 13 Premier League goals this season, Fletcher has been crucial to the Black Cats. No details of the extent of Fletcher's injury have been forthcoming from the Stadium of Light, but a lengthy lay-off would be a major concern. Wickham appears to have been weighed down by the PS8.1m (plus addons) Sunderland paid Ipswich Town for him the previous summer. He has scored just one club goal since and has been restricted to six starts. …

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