FREDERICIA, DENMARK - JUNE 09: Connor Wickham walks back to the dressing room after picking up an injury during the England under 21's training session at Monjasa Park stadium on June 9, 2011 in Fredericia, Denmark. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Connor Wickham is ace and Tottenham Hotspur don't have any good, young, up and coming out and out strikers. For the last year, Wickham has been linked to transfers to Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal FC, and much less often but occasionally Manchester United. He's widely considered to be the best U-18 striker in the home nations and he has all of the tools that you look for in a young striker. Size. Pace. Finishing ability. Touch. He's also improved steadily in the three seasons where he's made professional appearances. He's going to be a very good player for Sunderland, and I am bitter.
Real quick, if you missed it, we can backtrack a bit. Sunderland signed Connor Wickham. I wanted Connor Wickham. i'm about to act like a spoiled brat who didn't get the bike he wanted for Christmas. This is really ironic since I just bitched about Daniel Levy doing essentially the same thing, but I don't care. Waaaah. Waaaaah. If you don't like this post, have a Waaaaahmbulance sent to my house.
If we wanted Wickham, we should have been able to buy him. If we never wanted Wickham, I have to question Harry Redknapp's judgment. I think that he's going to be a class player for a long time, and I think that he's going to pay back his transfer fee very, very quickly. Why aren't we buying this player? Why aren't we buying this type of player? The last time we bought this type of player was when we bought Gareth Bale. Before that, Aaron Lennon and Tom Huddlestone. Buying these types of players is cost-effective both in getting talent at a cut-rate price and getting talent we can sell for profit. Buying top young English talent before they have extensive English Premier League experience (emphasis necessary) is a good policy.
The reason that emphasis was necessary is because once these top-rated youngsters get regular games in the Premier League, all best are off. Phil Jones and Jordan Henderson just moved in deals that could escalate their transfer fees up to £20 million with performance incentives. Andy Carroll moved for an insane £35 million. These players are all excellent young players who will help their teams going forward, but they were all overpriced.
A similar thing happened in the era before with Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick and Rio Ferdinand. Big teams didn't want to take a risk on younger, inexperienced players. They waited for these players to prove themselves in the Premier League. Then the price doubled.
This is why it's so important to identify youngsters like Wickham before they're playing regularly in the Premier League. Sure, £8m sounds like a ton of money for a player who hasn't played in the Premier League and whose Championship scoring record isn't prolific, but he's only 18 years old. He was playing regularly and competently at a high level when he was 16. This is not some random youngster Sunderland is taking a flier on. If he stays healthy, this guy's absolute floor is as some Europa League contending team's primary backup, scoring five or six goals per season. If that's his floor, then £8m isn't that big of a risk.
I know I'm going to come off like an entitled dick here, but Tottenham Hotspur are a bigger club than Sunderland, and if they were serious about buying Wickham, they would have gotten him. I do not intend any disrespect to Sunderland, who are a good club. I expect them to finish in the top half this season and they have excellent fan support. I really like our Sunderland blogger Simon Walsh, I really like his site Roker Report, and I think Sunderland are going to have a few very good years. But we're a bigger club. We just are.
Tottenham have a much better chance than Sunderland to challenge for the top four in the immediate future. Sunderland have the ambition (and talent) to challenge for a European place, while Tottenham should end up in sixth place if they have an entirely average season where they slightly under-perform. Spurs don't have a striker as good as Asamoah Gyan, so his prospects for playing time aren't better at Sunderland than they are at Spurs. Harry has been told he has to sell to buy, but if an 18-year-old with great potential is available at a reasonable price, we have the cash to go get him.
I don't think we should buy every top teenage English prospect that comes along, but a blind monkey can see that Wickham's floor is a respectable, serviceable Premier League level, while his ceiling is a 20 league goal striker. The fact that we haven't made a serious effort to buy players like this since buying Bale is a bit concerning. Sandro was a step in the right direction, but we need to up our efforts to buy players like him close to home as well.
Connor Wickham will be a success at Sunderland. I wish him and Sunderland good luck. I don't say this with a hint of bitterness in my voice. No, I say this with a lot of bitterness in my voice.