Big weekend for Wickham

SUPER confident Connor Wickham predicts that England Under-17s can win the European Under-17 Champion-ships for the first ever time, and he is personally in the market for more goals in tomorrow’s final.

SUPER confident Connor Wickham predicts that England Under-17s can win the European Under-17 Champion-ships for the first ever time, and he is personally in the market for more goals in tomorrow’s final.

The Ipswich Town teenager, on the back of a fine finish to the season at Portman Road, will again be leading Eng-land’s front-line in tomorrow’s clash with Spain.

Wickham has rarely been out of the headlines in recent months, with all the top clubs in the Premier League hav-ing been linked with the big centre forward.

Even though he chose to sign his first professional contract with Ipswich, a two-year deal he rubber-stamped on his 17th birthday at the end of March, the speculation has not stopped regarding his future.

But Town boss Roy Keane is adamant that Wickham will be a key player in his squad for next season, regardless of the interest shown elsewhere.

And his value will certainly be increasing by the day, on the basis of his performances at international level.

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Wickham’s brace of goals sunk France 2-1 in Thursday’s semi-final in Liechtenstein. Earlier in the competition, he had set up the first two goals in the opening group match against Czech Republic, which ended in a 3-1 win.

“It’s an amazing feeling, to score two goals as well,” insisted Wickham after his double blast against France, and on the eve of the final.

“To do it for your country is a great honour, and I’m really happy.

“I’ve played in two games before and I hadn’t scored. I wanted to score, I was desperate to score and I’ve got the two goals I needed. Confidence is high going into the final,” added Wickham.

Whereas most members of the England Under-17 squad have only played a handful of games, if any at all, for their club sides, Wickham is an exception to the norm.

He banged home four league goals during the last two months of the season, to add to his brace in the opening week at Shrewsbury in the Carling Cup, although Keane was careful not to over-play his promising youngster on the Championship stage.

“I’ve experienced what it is like to play in the Championship,” continued Wickham.

“You have to be much stronger and hopefully I’ve brought that to England as well, and can help the boys with what I’ve experienced myself.”

Wickham, who has scored seven goals in 11 appearances for England Under-17s, has been playing alongside Arsenal’s Benik Afobe in the current tournament.

And Afobe admitted, on the UEFA web-site, that he loves playing alongside the Ipswich star.

“I really like playing up front with him. We get on well on and off the pitch,” confirmed Afobe.

“And with Connor going away with the first team (Ipswich), he’s matured a bit earlier than other players, so when they look up to him they can see that’s the way to act.”

Meanwhile, Ipswich Town will play a pre-season friendly against Southend United at Roots Hall on Friday, July 9 (kick-off 7.45pm).

n Town midfielder Colin Healy, who looks set to leave Portman Road this summer, could continue to play his football in Scotland next season.

Healy played the second half of last term on loan at Falkirk, and although Hartlepool United are interested in recruiting the Irishman, a number of Scottish clubs could also join the race, including Aberdeen,

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