Wickham keen to be the main man
Published 03/06/2014 | 12:37
Connor Wickham is determined to prove he can be Sunderland's main man next season.
The 21-year-old striker proved a central figure in the Black Cats' unlikely Barclays Premier League relegation escape when he was recalled from a loan spell at Leeds to score five goals in three games and help to secure a draw at Manchester City and vital victories over Chelsea and Cardiff.
In an instant, the England Under-21 international, who cost the club an initial £8.1million when he moved from Ipswich in June 2011, had become the player then manager Steve Bruce hoped he had signed.
However, having had to wait so long to make an impact, Wickham is intent on cementing his place in manager Gus Poyet's plans.
He told the Sunderland Echo: "The aim is to be the main striker next season.
"I won't think about it until I start doing my own training. I'll take a break, switch off, relax and have a bit of chill-out time.
"Then I'll start doing my training and start thinking about it. I'll make sure I do the right training and make sure I put myself in the manager's thoughts when we come back."
Poyet has decisions to make over his strike-force with Steven Fletcher having been limited by injury last season, summer signing Jozy Altidore struggling to make his mark and Fabio Borini, who played much of the last campaign as a wide midfielder, having returned to parent club Liverpool after a successful loan spell.
Wickham himself made just 18 appearances for the club either side of short spells at Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds, but he knows there are places up for grabs.
He said: "There's a lot of competition for places, particularly as Fletcher is going to come back. Obviously Fabio won't be here, but it's down to me and what I can do.
"I've just got to be better than anyone in my position. At the end of the day, the competition makes it interesting."
Meanwhile, midfielder Sebastian Larsson will be at the Stadium of Light next season after signing a three-year contract extension.
The 28-year-old's existing deal was due to expire at the end of the month, but has now committed his future to the club until the summer of 2017.
Larsson said: "I'm delighted to have signed a new deal with the club. I've had talks with Gus and [sporting director] Lee Congerton and I feel that this is a club moving in the right direction and I want to be part of it.
"I had a few options, but I want to be at Sunderland and I'm looking forward to the new season."
Larsson was one of a trio of out-of-contract players Poyet was keen to retain, although the first to give him the answer he wanted.
Full-back Phil Bardsley decided instead to join Stoke, while midfielder Jack Colback, who is interesting a series of suitors including West Ham and Newcastle, is yet to make a decision.
The Swede's move will come as a boost to Poyet as he attempts to avoid another relegation fight next season.
He and Congerton have wasted little time in making their moves with West Brom full-back Billy Jones and Wigan midfielder Jordi Gomez having already been drafted in as free signings to replace the departed Bardsley and Craig Gardner.