Black Cats purring as Connor Wickham pens new contract

Sunderland (3/1 to be relegated) have been given a massive boost as young English striker Connor Wickham has put pen to paper on a new four-year deal with the club, keeping him at the Stadium of Light until 2019.

The new long-term contract shows the Black Cat’s great faith in Wickham, an England under-21 international, who is yet to convince Roy Hodgson that he deserves a call up to the England first team set-up.

The 21-year-old frontman arrived on Wearside as a highly-sought-after 18-year-old in 2011, and after struggling massively to find his feet, has since become an established first team player under Gus Poyet.

Fan favourite, Wickham, has played in all 15 Premier League games so far this term and was a key part of the club’s run-in at the end of the 2013-14 campaign, helping his side avoid relegation and winning the Barclays Player of the Month Award for April, netting five goals in four games.

Despite his recent club form, the young forward has not succeeded in gaining the attention of the England manager, failing to earn even a single cap to date.

However, Wickham’s performances this season could put the Black Cat’s centre forward in contention for a potential call-up, with important European Championship qualifiers coming up in the New Year. There are also international friendlies against Italy and Republic of Ireland next year, a platform on which Hodgson may choose to expose Wickham for some valuable first-team experience.

Hodgson already has record-chasing Wayne Rooney and internationally in-form Danny Welbeck at his disposal, but with several injuries to Daniel Sturridge and Rickie Lambert seeming to be a bit-part player, Wickham could prove to be an ace in the pack for his country.

Wickham’s new £60,000-a -week deal will end the uncertainty surrounding his future, as the £8m signing’s previous contract was due to expire at the end of this season, meaning a move abroad in January for a reduced fee was feasible. Fellow Premier League sides West Ham United and Crystal Palace apparently expressed an interest in his services, with the Hammers failing in a reported £4m bid last summer for the forward

Poyet was delighted after securing his star man on a new deal, declaring his admiration for the hopeful England starlet.

“He keeps learning, he is able to adapt to different positions up front and he is enjoying our philosophy of play so I’m really looking forward to keep working with him for the benefit of our club,” he said.

“I think it was very important to tie down a young English centre forward as there are not many around, this shows clearly the way this football club wants to progress.”

Fresh after signing a new long-term contract, can Wickham help fire his side to Premier League safety?

The Black Cats are currently 14th in the league table and are odds-on 1/5 with Coral to avoid relegation.