Does this amount to strikebreaking, a scabby edition of Soapbox? Pete Sixsmith is meant to be on strike. Truth is he couldn’t resist upping tools long enough to tell us he likes what he has seen so far in the close season transfer dealings …
Many years of my working life have been spent working with 18-year-olds. Some went on to be doctors and lawyers. One has produced a bestselling novel. Some went into the caring professions – nursing, social work, comforting Newcastle fans. And some hit the depths and became teachers. But I have never taught one with an £8m price tag around his neck or hers.
I remember when Liverpool spent the then astronomical sum of £100,000 on a teenager from Wolves called Alun Evans. He spluttered brightly and then faded away, yet another youngster who failed to live up to great expectations. Some are already saying that Wickham will be the next one to crash and burn.
But he looks the part. Big and strong, he runs well with the ball and scores on a regular basis. Roy Keane rated him and gave him every chance to seize his place in the Ipswich line up, which he took. He played at 16 year, just out of school, books put away, dinner money replaced with a full time contract, and scored in his fourth game. Not bad for someone who was little more than a bairn.
So, why did he sign for us? Had he taken the advice of that professional gobs****, Adrian Durham on TalkSport, he wouldn’t even have spoken to Quinn and Bruce. Durham made it clear he thought that Sunderland was a dead end for players and that he (Wickham) would be much better signing for Liverpool and sitting on the bench and playing at Hetton, Southport and Morecambe in the Reserve League. Sunderland was a club with no ambition, he opined, and the crowd turned on young players. Evidence for this: Jordan Henderson was booed last year by his own fans, according to this London-based professional oaf.
Connor himself says it was the vision of Niall Quinn and Steve Bruce that sold the club to him. Their ambition matched his, he said. He thought the ground, the facilities and the players at the club were top notch and would help him progress. He sounds a very intelligent young man to me.
I am sure Grant Leadbitter and Carlos Edwards will have put a good word in and Jack Colback played with Wickham in his two loan spells. He is not coming to the club blind and as he moves from one provincial town to another, he will surely have little difficulty in adjusting. His background screams stability and discipline (father was an NCO in the army), so he should not have the problems Anthony Stokes had to face when re-locating from the flesh pots of London to the fleshpots of Gilley Law.
That is three players in, with Craig Gardner and the young Korean striker Ji Dong-wan to come. Larsson and Westwood are good players who will strengthen us in key positions. Gardner got 10 goals from midfield last season – more than our entire engine room has achieved in three seasons! Maybe two more to come in, another forward and possibly a defender, with some leaving. It is an interesting time.
That we have managed to sign a player described as a great prospect is a tribute to Niall Quinn, Steve(s) Bruce and Walton and the ever open wallet of Ellis Short. This deal has gone through smoothly as did the Larsson and Westwood deals – as indeed did the sale of Jordan Henderson to Liverpool. In the case of Henderson, we stated a price and stuck to it; if you want him, you pay what we think he is worth. Tom Cowie would have taken the first offer and thrown a set of car mats in as well.
Steve Bruce will regard this as a huge vote of confidence from the owner. The player is a potential game winner and if he does well, he will make money for the club with success on the field and with a huge transfer fee if (and probably when) he moves on. The manager probably realises that if he gets it wrong this summer window, he will not get another chance to spend the Man From Missouri’s money.
The first warm up game is now two weeks away. York City will be rubbing their hands together at the prospect of a couple of thousand Sunderland supporters descending on Bootham Crescent. The Wetherby Whaler Fish and Chip restaurant and the Minster pub near St Mary’s car park will give me excellent value – I’m hoping that Connor Wickham, Seb Larsson et al. do the same between July and May. I’m quietly confident …