Will Connor Wickham shine at Stadium of Light?

Earlier this week, young English starlet Connor Wickham joined Sunderland for £8m. The 18 year old former Ipswich striker will now attempt to make the step up from Championship to Premier League football where many other youngsters fail.

Sunderland faced stiff competition to sign Wickham, with clubs such as Manchester United and Tottenham reportedly interested in having the striker on their books. However, one condition mentioned in conjunction with a move to a major club was Wickham being loaned back to the club he signed for aged 16 on a season long loan although this has not been agreed as part of the move to Sunderland.

Wickham, who was part of last months England U21 World Cup squad, follows in the footsteps of players like Theo Walcott, Arsenal and Gareth Bale, Tottenham who made the move to Premier League clubs at an early age. However, even these talented youngsters were not given an easy ride settling in at their respective North London clubs. Having made a considerable impression in his first season Bale was dropped in favour of Benoit Assou- Ekotto in the 2008-9 season after some lacklustre performances. As well being sidelined in favour of Assou- Ekotto, Bale also had injury woes to contend with.

Theo Walcott experienced a similar fate at Arsenal. Having been a surprise selection in the 2006 World Cup squad where he didn’t feature, Walcott made a series of appearance for Arsenal in his first season. However, it was only in the most recent 2010-11 season that he scored his career best of 9 goals in the Premier League.

Wickham, who first played for Ipswich aged 16 years 11 days, will hope to build on the platform of 65 appearances in the Championship as he begins Pre-season with Sunderland. In comparison, Bale only made a total of 45 appearances for Southampton before his big money move to Spurs.

One route Wickham will be hoping not to go down is that of Francis Jeffers. Already having the advantage of starting his career with Everton where he made a name for himself being a prolific striker before a fall out with manager Walter Smith. Arsene Wenger was quick to snap him up in 2001 for £8 million but Jeffers did not live up to the early potential he showed and has played for a string of clubs ever since, before becoming a free agent.

Having scored the winner in the England Under 17’s Euro 2010 triumph, Wickham will hope that his career path follows that of Walcott and Bale rather than Jeffers.

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