Hands off Wickham

ROY Keane has a message for Sunderland boss Steve Bruce - star striker Connor Wickham is not for sale.

In fact, Keane insisted that he wouldn’t trade teenage sensation Wickham, even for 20 Sunderland players!

There were reports, filtering down from the north-east last weekend, suggesting that Bruce would like to sign Ipswich Town whizzkid Wickham, and would be prepared to include David Healy, Daryl Murphy plus some cash in a swap deal.

But Town boss Keane blew that possible exchange out of the water, in no uncertain terms, during yesterday’s press conference.

“We shouldn’t talk about Connor Wickham like a piece of meat, like we’re trying to sell him to the highest bidder,” insisted Keane.

“We’re under no pressure to sell and Sunderland wouldn’t be able to afford him anyway!

“They could swap 20 of their players, and Brucey knows that.

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“And if he has said it, he shouldn’t be talking about our players. I think he was just asked whether he was aware of Connor Wickham, and Brucey well knows that, because I’ll be on the phone to Brucey later!

“If he’s not aware of Connor, then he must be living on a different planet, not least because of the speculation of the last few months, before his contract was signed,” added Keane.

Wickham ended speculation about his long-term future by signing his first professional contract with Town at the start of this month, having celebrated his 17th birthday on March 31.

All the leading clubs in the Premier League, including Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Aston Villa, had sent scouts to watch Wickham in action this season.

But the ex-Academy star has since insisted that he was always going to sign for Ipswich.

Keane, tongue-in-cheek, continued: “I’m pretty sure Connor signed a contract a few weeks ago, I’m sure he did!

“I think our club is well run, and that Connor is happy here, and we’re happy here.

“I’d be lynched by the supporters if I thought about selling him. Connor’s learning his trade and is doing well.

“He has got a great chance of being a great player, and he’s learning fast, I’ll give him that. The good players do,” added Keane.

Last weekend, Bruce had said of Wickham: “We’re aware of the lad, he’s a very talented boy.

“But if he became available, I’m sure there would be plenty of clubs, not just us, who would like to be kept in the picture.”

The question arose because the Sunderland duo of Murphy and Healy, both strikers, have been plying their trade on loan at Ipswich for the last three months and are seen to be surplus to requirements at the Stadium of Light.

Murphy bagged six goals in his first 11 appearances for Town, but has not scored in his last six outings, while Healy is currently nursing a knee injury.

By contrast, an in-form Wickham has caught the eye with three goals in his last seven appearances.

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