Wickham sale: Reason to be cheerful

HISTORY suggests that selling Connor Wickham might just be the key to the Blues returning to the Premier League.

In July 1999 – having just lost out in the play-off semi-finals for the second successive year – Blues boss George Burley reluctantly sold the club’s fast-rising homegrown English star Kieron Dyer to Newcastle.

The �6m club-record fee was deemed simply too good to turn down, while Burley knew he couldn’t stand in the way of his exciting young midfielder stepping up a level.

The mood was deflated around Portman Road – but it didn’t last for long.

With Jim Magilton having been signed just four months previous, Burley was still able to go out and add John McGreal, Jermaine Wright and Gary Croft to his squad that summer.

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And there were still funds to go out and make the crucial additions of Marcus Stewart and Martijn Reuser for the final run-in.

The rest, as they say, is history. With the aforementioned six all making significant contributions, Town made it third time lucky by sealing their place back in the Premier League via a third-place finish and a memorable play-off final win over Barnsley.

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“If I hadn’t sold Kieron Dyer that summer then there is no way I would have been able to build that promotion winning side – without a question of a doubt,” said Burley.

“Of course you want to keep the best young players you produce, but when you’re a Championship side and you get a massive offer from a Premier League club you have no choice but to look at it.”

This time around Town could net a cool �9m, rising to �12m on appearances, for Wickham, leaving manager Paul Jewell with the potential to go on a significant spending spree.

Burley continued: “At Ipswich I knew I was always in a position where I had to sell in order to buy. However, at least I knew that any money I brought in I would be able to use again.

“When I was at Southampton and I had to sell Gareth Bale and Theo Walcott, the circumstances where different. We had just gone down and – with parachute payments not as they are these days – the money was soaked up into the costs of relegation.

“It’s different at Ipswich though. With Marcus Evans seemingly committed to getting the club back into the Premier League, it appears as though any money brought in through a potential sale of Connor Wickham would go straight to Paul Jewell.

“And while supporters may be disappointed if he does go, there is always opportunity in situations like this. Paul will now be able to really utilise his scouting network and contacts in the game to build his own squad and – who knows – maybe even repeat what we did in 2000.”

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