Why Connor must stay Blue
IPSWICH Town fans will want home-grown Connor Wickham in their team when East Anglian derbies are revived next season.
After an absence of just one year, Norwich City secured their promotion back to the Championship on Saturday, thanks to a 1-0 win at Charlton Athletic.
Meanwhile, on the eve of Town’s 1-1 home draw against Doncaster Rovers, in which Wickham again hit the target, Sunderland boss Steve Bruce revealed that he would love to sign Town’s 17-year-old star.
Money talks, but Wickham is surely the future of Ipswich Town?
And it’s doubtful whether supporters would forgive manager Roy Keane if, following the previous summer’s controversial departure of fellow young striker Jordan Rhodes to Huddersfield, he also presided over the exit of Wickham from Portman Road.
Of course certain matters are outside Keane’s control, like financial constraints and the playing budget, but the Irishman will not want to be known as the manager who let prodigious young talent leave, before they had become household names in an Ipswich shirt.
The only successful defence for Keane would be to then go on to mastermind Town’s promotion to the Premier League.
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Wickham was Town’s best player against Doncaster. A strong second-half display was capped by a 72nd minute opening goal, his third league goal in his last seven appearances, before Rovers claimed a point via substitute Dean Shiels’ 83rd minute penalty.
Up in the north-east, Bruce warmed up for the weekend games by confirming his admiration for Wickham, if not revealing the level of his interest.
A possible swap deal has been mentioned, with the Sunderland loanee double act of Daryl Murphy and David Healy staying at Town on a permanent basis, with Wickham moving in the other direction. Town would also be set to receive a cash boost as well.
Would this be good business for Town, or even Wickham himself, who has only just signed his first professional contract, a two-year deal?
Northern Ireland international Healy has struggled to impress in his handful of appearances for Town, and missed Saturday’s game due to a knee injury, while target man Murphy has endured a barren run of six games without a goal after racing to six goals in his first 11 outings.
Keane has always insisted that the best move for Wickham’s career was for him to stay at Ipswich, and learn his trade as a regular in a Championship side, and the Town boss was again quick to praise him on Saturday.
“Connor was a plus for us,” enthused Keane.
“I keep saying that we can’t just be dependent on a 17-year-old. But he keeps doing really well when he’s up there on his own, or if he’s up there with two.
“It was a good goal for him, and he was unlucky not to get another with their lad getting a good block in.”
Keane has been mindful of the impact that Rhodes has had at Huddersfield, after letting the 20-year-old leave last summer. He has since bagged 22 league and cup goals for the Terriers, albeit in League One.
So Keane might not be so happy to let another product of the Academy leave, even for such high stakes, especially as Wickham has already showed signs of being capable of netting 15 to 20 goals next season.
At least securing Wickham’s signature, after his 17th birthday at the end of March, has put Town in a strong bargaining position. They have the possibility of moving him on and bolstering the squad.
But I don’t think that would wash with most Town fans - unless his old team was to follow him into the Premier League just a year later!