The recent praise handed down to Sunderland’s Connor Wickham for his goal scoring exploits are justified but his manager’s call for him to be included as part of the England squad for the World Cup is somewhat ironic. Wickham has been in fine form last month since his return from a loan move at Leeds and has helped spearhead Sunderland’s survival hopes with five goals in three games. England manager Roy Hodgson has been impressed by the young striker and even attended Saturdays’ stunning 1-0 victory over Manchester United but Wickham would be foolish to think that he needs to look out his passport. It’s still unsure who Hodgson will turn to in the striker options to fill the last remaining spot, with Rooney, Welbeck and Sturridge almost certain to be three of the four going to Brazil. But it would be a shocking twist if that man was Wickham despite his recent good form.
His inclusion, based on only the last month would destroy the credibility of Hodgson who needs a good showing at the World Cup. Taking a player who has only showing limited glimpses this season of his potential would be a major slap in the face to the likes of Southampton’s Rickie Lambert and Toronto’s Jermaine Defoe, both of which have had successful seasons. Lambert, who hit the winner against Swansea at the weekend to take his tally to 12, knows that this is his only chance of ever playing at a World Cup and has done enough to justify his inclusion. As an old fashion England number nine who is strong on the ground and powerful in the air, he offers something different to Rooney, Sturridge and Welbeck. His hopes looked dashed by the form of teammate Jay Rodriguez by an unfortunate cruciate ligament injury has ruled him out of contention and placed Lambert back in the frame. But Hodgson may turn to Jermaine Defoe as the former Spurs striker is a proven goal scorer for England and has experience at the highest level so taking him to Brazil would be less of a risk. His move to Toronto, whilst making him a regular starter, may deter the England boss who looks at the MLS as a much weaker league. West Ham’s Andy Carroll should have also been in the running but a troublesome season, riddled with injury and poor form means that he will likely miss out, despite being an opposing figure in and around the penalty box. All three men would be disappointed not to go but would likely be enraged if Wickham was given the nod over one of them. Hodgson could take five strikers but that would mean sacrificing either a midfielder or a defender, neither of which appeals to him.
Most of the calls for Wickham to be included are coming from his manager at Sunderland Gus Poyet but the calls may not be as genuine as intended. Poyet is doing what any manager would do by boosting the confidence of his now prolific young striker. He knows by feeding his ego, Wickham will push on into Sunderland’s last two games with a renewed confidence in the hopes of having him score the goals needed to secure Premiership survival. If Wickham can impress in the last two matches against West Bromwich Albion and Swansea, he could go a long way in cementing his first team place at Sunderland for next year’s campaign. Three points against West Brom should all but seal the fate of Norwich who currently lie in 18th place and ensure Sunderland will be playing the England’s top league next season. That incentive alone should be enough for Wickham without the added false hope of getting into Hodgsons team for Brazil. There is still time for the England Under 21 striker to go to a World Cup but Brazil 2014 shouldn’t be it. But first Wickham needs to develop as a Premiership striker and show that like Daniel Sturridge and Rickie Lambert he too can command a first team place and score into double figures for his club. After a season of disappointment for Sunderland, the focus will turn towards the future, which Wickham could play a major starring role in, as long as he doesn’t start to believe the hype.
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