CANDID Connor Wickham has declared 2013 the season he kick-starts his Sunderland career after admitting it has been “really tough” for the first 18 months.
The Englandunder-21 striker arrived at the Stadium of Light with great expectations after his £8.1million move from Ipswich in 2011 – but he has struggled to fulfil them so far.
His goal in the second half on Saturday was only his second strike in red and white and last year was dominated by talk Sunderland might loan him out to gain more first team experience.
However, his contribution at the weekend – and in the latter months of 2012 – has finally prompted long-overdue optimism from the teenage forward.
He admitted|: “It has been really tough.
“I’ve moved 300 miles away from where I grew up and left my home behind, but it’s my dream and you have to follow your dream.
“I just want to play football and Sunderland are a Premier League club. They have given me the chance to play football.
“Maybe it didn’t get off to the perfect start, the start I’d hoped for or anticipated, but now I feel much fitter and stronger and feel as though I’m kicking on.
Hopefully, this can be a real kick-start to my season.”
Wickham will now be gunning to retain his place in the starting XI for the game against West Ham next weekend.
He added: “I hope the manager trusts me.
“I hope after my performances this season, Tottenham aside, he can trust me even more,.
“Hopefully, if he gives me the chance it’s down to me to take it.”
“It’s always my aim to be in there among the manager’s plans and hopefully the goal has put me in an even better position.
“ Steven Fletcher’s done fantastically this season and Stéphane Sessègnon has done great as well.
“That’s only my first goal but any chance I get I’m grateful for and I’ll just go out there and do what I can.”
The Cup replay gives Sunderland something to aim for and, while the fixture congestion is not ideal, the Black Cats did not want their campaign to be over before it started.
Wickham said: said: “The important thing is we are still in.
“It’s not ideal to be 2-0 down away from home but eventually we got back in the game.
“We found the first goal and that helped us generate some momentum.
“It started from there and thankfully we grabbed the equaliser ten minutes or so from the end.
“I thought if there was another ten minutes to play we’d have gone on to win it.”