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Forgotten man Connor Wickham bagged a derby day brace in the Under-21s draw at The Sports Direct Arena last night before revealing that he has been told by the club's coaching staff to get himself in the box more.
The former Ipswich man has largely struggled to make an impact on Wearside following a big-money move last summer, and has seen himself drop below Ji Dong-won and Fraizer Campbell in the Sunderland striker ranks already boosted by the signings of Steven Fletcher and Louis Saha.
But at just 19-years-old time is very much on the player's side and there is little indication that Martin O'Neill and his coaches are ready to give up on the youngster. Wickham told the Sunderland Echo:
I could have had about five, let alone a hat-trick. I haven’t played in a while, but it’s just nice to get on the scoresheet, even though they were less than a yard out.
Every goal counts and I’m obviously disappointed not to score more.
The last couple of weeks I’ve just been told to get in the box more and that’s what I did on both occasions. Thankfully it paid off and I stuck them away.
With his size and strength, it would definitely be good to see Wickham spending more time in the penalty area where he could really make it count. When Adam Johnson returns to fitness and has his creative talents fully aligned with those of Stephane Sessegnon and James McClean, delivery is unlikely to be a problem for the Black Cats, and Steven Fletcher has already proven the rewards are there for getting yourself in the box.
Perhaps most of all it is just nice to hear positive sounds coming from the player rather than frustration at a lack of first team opportunities. He obviously wants to improve and wants to listen to people. Lets hope he can channel that into some tangible development, because without question there is certainly potential there with which to work.