Wickham at 12 was like ‘Bambi on Ice’
Connor Wickham is now a �12m player – but at the age of 12 he was like ‘Bambi on ice’.
That’s according to the teen sensation’s first ever Ipswich Town coach Paul Cosson, who admits that the 18-year-old – whom Sunderland have just broken the bank for – caught the eye for all the wrong reasons when he first arrived in Suffolk.
“It’s strange to think now, but when Connor first came to us he was all over the show really,” said Cosson, who is now entering his 12th season as an Academy coach at Portman Road.
“It was only because he was going through a growth spurt at the time and was a little bit unco-ordinated, but we used to joke that he was like Bambi on ice!
“I remember we had to regularly stop training sessions mid flow so that one of us could go and get hold of his shirt and physically move him around the pitch to show him what runs he should be making.
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“At that moment in time it was difficult to see him going on to become a �12m player by the age of 18, but he grew into his body within the next two years and everything just clicked into place.
“It just shows that different children develop at different times.”
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Born in Hereford, Wickham moved house a lot as a youngster due to the fact his father Stefan was sent to various posts for his job in the army. While the family lived in Aldershot he was in Reading’s youth set-up, before a move to Colchester allowed Ipswich recruitment officer Malcolm Moore to bring him to Portman Road.
“Connor did suffer problems early on with his growth spurts, but you could see through that rawness that there was an innate ability to score goals,” said Ipswich academy manager Sammy Morgan, who himself joined the Blues in 2004 soon after Wickham’s recruitment.
“We had to get him to work very hard on his fitness and running so that he could utilise his physique. He used to come into training half an hour before the other boys and was very disciplined.
“We often played him up an age group but he didn’t care who he played for – he just loved playing. Sometimes we had to rein him in a bit to stop him playing too much.
“The best thing about him though was that there has never been any ‘big-time syndrome’.
A measure of his nature is that I don’t think a single boy he has played with at youth team level will resent his progress.
“We are all immensely proud of what Connor has achieved at Ipswich Town and I must stress that it has been a real team effort.
“There is a lot of work that goes into developing these young players behind the scenes from numerous academy coaches that look after them on the pitch to the likes of welfare officers that look after them off the pitch.”