Despite reports from Sky Sports News saying that West Ham have ended their interest in Sunderland striker Connor Wickham, many are claiming that we still remain in the hunt for the promising young forward.
When I first heard the news that the owners had tabled a bid of around £4million for Wickham I was excited at the prospect of signing a young English striker with bags of potential. His record in professional football so far has been far from prolific but, his five goal haul in three games towards the end of last season was something that made him explode onto the scene at Premier League level.
So is Wickham the missing striker that we need whilst Carroll remains on the sidelines for another four months?
When other rumoured targets such as Crouch and Sakho are in the mix, the answer appears to be a resounding ‘yes’. Although Crouch would be a viable option, the 33-year-old clearly has his best years behind him, while the unproven Sakho could turn out to be another Modibo Maiga.
Although Wickham has not been consistent at the highest level, he is still only 21-years-old and still has the potential to score on a regular basis.
If West Ham were to snap up Wickham, there are a number of attributes that would make him the perfect final attacking asset to provide competition for Enner Valencia, Carlton Cole, Mauro Zarate, Elliot Lee and even, when he’s fit, Andy Carroll.
Standing at 6”2, he conforms to Sam Allardyce’s desire to play a big man up front. However, unlike Cole and Carroll, Connor Wickham can actually run with the ball. Coupled with that, Wickham is no slouch and has a lot of pace about him. The prospect of Valencia and Wickham up front looks far more encouraging than the often desperate pairing of Cole and Carroll in the final ten minutes of games we were chasing last season.
Despite Wickham proving that he can score goals last season, he also showed a tremendous amount of work rate and effort for the rest of the Sunderland team as they went on to complete the great escape. With doubles against Manchester City and Cardiff, alongside a goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Wickham also provided the assist for Sebastien Larsson’s goal when Sunderland defeated Manchester United 1-0 at Old Trafford.
What is significant about Wickham is his work rate, he will happily run the channels to provide another option for the midfield and his built frame will mean that the move will be more unlikely to break down due to his ability to protect the ball. Also, his addition may encourage Big Sam to play more balls along the floor due to Wickham’s ability with the ball at his feet. At too many points last season, Carroll and Cole would often receive the ball and get it stuck under their feet, causing attacks to be slow and lethargic.
Although the acquisition of Enner Valencia could be our signing of the summer, there is also the possibility that the Ecuadorian could take a while to adapt to the demands of England’s top flight. Therefore, having Wickham as another option is clearly an advantage, as his Premier League experience could prove vital throughout the course of the season.
Ever since Gus Poyet put his faith in Wickham by providing him with a number of consecutive starts, the goals quickly followed. In fact, Wickham mustered up seven goals in 14 appearances for Sunderland in all competitions last season, a scoring rate that completely eclipses any individual record of a West Ham player last season.
It is also understood that attacking coach Teddy Sheringham is interested in working with Wickham, giving the former West Ham forward more variation in terms of the attacking players he will be working with.
Our initial first bid within the region of £4m was rejected almost immediately by Sunderland. Despite Sunderland appearing desperate to keep hold of their young striker, he has refused to sign a new contract as of yet. A bid of around £6m plus add-ons could prompt Sunderland to sell up.
There is also the added risk of losing Wickham on a free in the summer so, if the player does want to leave, it makes sense to cash in on the England U21 international this summer.
If a second bid is lodged for Wickham, West Ham fans should be excited as it shows an alteration in transfer approach from the owners, pursuing younger talent rather than emergency loan deals on older flops, which is something that has been all too familiar in previous transfer windows.
Wickham also grew up in Essex, so the attraction of moving closer to home and playing for a bigger club (as well as a pay rise) is something that is bound to catch the eye of the young striker.
Overall, the capture of a player like Wickham would round off a very successful summer transfer window for West Ham, providing fans with a sense of optimism for the forthcoming season, especially in the attacking department.