From “Playboy model” to relegation saviour.
It would appear Connor Wickham is finally starting to fulfil his potential.
Since rejoining Sheffield Wednesday on loan from Sunderland, the England Under-21 international has notched four goals in five starts, including a fine brace in their midweek victory over Championship league leaders Leicester City.
Back in May, former Sunderland manager and ex-Owls striker Paolo Di Canio likened Wickham to a “Playboy model” and said the young striker needed a slap in the face to improve his approach on the training ground.
Although Wickham has struggled to hold down a regular spot in Sunderland’s starting eleven following his big money move from Ipswich Town two and a half years ago, the 20-year-old has sparkled on two separate occasions at Hillsborough. He admits he is enjoying his football again.
“I came here to do my best, score goals and get games,” he said. “I have started and finished every game since coming back.
“I feel sharp, strong and the goals are coming. I feel up there with the best I have ever felt.”
If there was an element of good fortune about his second goal against the Foxes, Wickham’s opener oozed class and confidence as he drilled an unstoppable right shot past Kasper Schmeichel.
First-team coach Stuart Gray took charge of the Owls match on Tuesday following manager Dave Jones’ sacking last Sunday.
“We have all been in this situation before where we have lost a manager,” said Wickham, who is set to remain with Wednesday until the New Year. “We have to get over it quickly.
“For me personally, I have the utmost respect for the gaffer. He brought me in, he showed belief in me when maybe nobody else did last year. Sadly, he has gone but we have to move on now. I wish him all the best for the future. But we had to get over what happened as we had a game 48 hours later and I think the reaction we showed was top class.”
Despite beating Leicester, the Owls remain in the bottom three, three points adrift of safety.
Wickham said: “Our performances this season maybe have not been up to scratch and it probably wasn’t down to the manager. All the manager does is pick the team. It’s the players that go out on to the pitch.”