Soapbox: gold to Ipswich, welcome to Wickham


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 …

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7 thoughts on “Soapbox: gold to Ipswich, welcome to Wickham”

  1. Rumours are that QPR are struggling to sign players following their promotion. We’ve been in that position, the same position all promoted teams find themselves in. Who wants to come? Ambitious Championship players and out of contract PL players. In between are the players looking for their last pay day. A one year contract isn’t enough for them because that is probably the residency in the PL of the promoted team. So two or three years is a minimum, on good money, leaving the club with players on top contracts in the Championship, following relegation.

    This season, a first for me, we’ve known the money available, identified the targets and got them in quickly. No waiting for the last days of the window when beggars can’t be choosers. We’ve been burnt there before. Those players waiting for better offers can ‘do one’ for me.

    No doubt there’s a couple more to come in but hats off to ES and NQ. We are getting better.

  2. I assume that having signed young Connor, N’Gog is no longer on our radar, but that we will sign at least one more experienced striker.(Robbie Keane, DJ Campbell anybody?) If we can get the Salford Three plus a left fullback then we are ready to rock. Looks like N’Zogbia is off to Villa. If I were SB I wouldn’t let anybody else go in this window aprt form Angeleri, Riveros, Kilgallen, McCcartney and Noz,nor would sign anybody on lone execpt Welbeck if he is available. Lets leave all that until Christmas.

  3. The most positive thing for me so far this close season is that players are being brought in early and on permanent contracts. Whilst we are still waiting on news of the Salford three and the Liverpool one (all gone quiet there!) there will be time for most of new players to settle in before the start of the season.

    Hopefully many of our injured players will be on the mend soon as well. The club seems to be moving in the right direction. It’s a pity Martin is now a Swansea fan – he would have enjoyed this!

  4. An exciting signing with a great future ahead of him.I hope we don’t expect too much too soon from him though.Pete, imagine my shame that despite seeing what 35 years teaching did to her dad one of my daughters is now a teacher.Must be the gold-plated pension!

  5. Sometimes you can just see when players are going to be class! Connor has got it all, tall and strong in the air, yet amazing with both feet. You cannot find a more complete striker his size around – they would be either small and quick or tall and clunky.

    Great deal for both clubs!

    Good Luck Connor!

  6. We’ve put down our marker and said to the world we have ambition, drive and sufficient funds to give it a full go. Geography has always been an impediment to attracting top class players but that is due to ignorance not fact. This young man seems very level headed and if he can fulfill his potential at Sunderland what better [lace is there. Many have failed in the past McCoist, West, etc but this one just feels different. TIME WILL TELL but what a coup. Well done Steve !!!!!!

  7. Pete you have hit the nail on the head mate – particularly about Adrian Gob***** Durham. I listened to him on the way home and he slated us Sunderland fans and I was so angry – then when he got one on the phone he wouldn’t listen to their opinion (Also brought up Darren Bent’s racially abused mother – relevant to this story – only because he said it!).

    All in all – Wickham is an excellent signing for us and a great statement of intent from the club… Let’s hope we can sort the defence out now eh!!

    PS – Say hi to Nigel B for me (I live opposite him – just mention my name when you see him)!!

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