Wednesday hope to keep Wickham on loan
Sheffield Wednesday boss Dave Jones has revealed he is keen to keep on-loan striker Connor Wickham.
Wickham, 19, moved to Wednesday on loan from Sunderland last month after a difficult start to his career on Wearside. With his temporary deal at the club set to expire on Sunday, Jones is hoping manager Martin O'Neill will allow Wickham to stay at Hillsborough and continue his development. That's despite the fact O'Neill was only able to name six substitutes for Saturday's 2-2 home draw with Fulham.
"I think he would like to stay. It will all depend on what Martin O'Neill feels about him," Jones told the Sunderland Echo. "He has not played a lot of football over the last year and that eventually does catch up with you.
"He will have his ups and his downs but people forget his age. He is still a baby in footballing terms and if you are not playing week-in, week-out, then you are not learning as much. It is game time that gives you the experience. It is not training. I think the kid has got an abundance of ability. It is just finding the switch which will enable him to go and push on for the rest of his career.
"He needs to get a smile on his face and start enjoying his football again. I think at the moment it is hard work for him. He just needs to relax and play because he is a very, very good player."
Having made his professional debut just days after his 16th birthday, Wickham has struggled to live up to the expectation that was placed on his shoulders at such a young age. It's a situation Jones is familiar with having managed a young Kevin Davies - who struggled following a big money move to Blackburn - and Jones believes that patience is the key to prospering with any young talent.
"He went from Southampton to Blackburn and people thought he was the finished article and he wasn't," Jones explained. "He was still a young boy and I got him back two years later because of the demands that were put on him. Kevin has gone on and had an unbelievable career. But that period was his learning process.
"When you pay £7.5 million for somebody, I know people expect the finished article and he was nowhere near. Look at Gareth Bale. How much did Spurs pay for him and how long did it take for him to develop? And Aaron Lennon. These are all young players who have gone for big money and are just expected to perform."
Wickham had a promising start to his Wednesday career, coming off the bench to be named man of the match as the Owls came from two down to draw 2-2 with Derby County. But he has struggled since then and was sacrificed at half-time in a change of formation in Saturday's 1-0 home loss to Nottingham Forest.