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Bruce delighted to land Wickham
Published : 29 Jun 2011 17:25:00
Sunderland boss Steve Bruce could not hide his delight after snatching Connor Wickham from under the noses of his more illustrious suitors. Big-spending Liverpool, the club the 18-year-old Ipswich frontman has supported since he was a boy, as well as north London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham, have long been credited with an interest in the Hereford-born player. However, amid speculation that one of them might attempt to hijack the Black Cats' swoop for him after they showed their hand last night with an £8.1million bid, the Wearside club made sure their move was decisive by tying him up in a four-year deal to leave Bruce beaming. He said: "A number of top sides have been chasing Connor for some time now, so naturally we are absolutely delighted he has chosen to come to Sunderland. "He's still very young, but at 6'3", he's a physical presence. With his height and style of play, he will offer us a threat in front of goal and complement our existing strikers. "We have been watching him for a while now and he is improving and developing all the time. He's a great prospect and I'm sure our supporters will love watching him play." Wickham's fee could eventually rise to £12million depending on a series of add-ons, but Sunderland are confident they have got their hands on a player of genuine potential whose best days are ahead of him. The England Under-21 international made his senior debut for Ipswich at the age of just 16 years and 11 days back in April 2009, and scored nine npower Championship goals for the Suffolk club last season after establishing himself in the first team. He fits Bruce's profile for young, hungry players, but having arrived with such a relatively large price tag, will have much to prove as he attempts to make his way in the Premier League. Wickham's physical presence will give Sunderland something they have largely lacked in attack since Kenwyne Jones' switch to Stoke last summer, and he will provide a foil for record signing Asamoah Gyan. The Ghanaian was the club's only fit senior frontman at the end of last season and there is likely to be at least one more addition in that department with South Korea international Ji Dong-won close to completing his own move from Chunnam Dragons. The Black Cats have, of course, raked in more than £40million in transfer fees during this calendar year after selling striker Darren Bent to Aston Villa in January and midfielder Jordan Henderson to Liverpool earlier this month. But with loan signings Nedum Onuoha, John Mensah, Sulley Muntari and Danny Welbeck having returned to their clubs and Bolo Zenden having rejected the offer of a longer stay, they have holes to plug simply to stand still - and that is way short of their ambitions. Bruce's men secured a 10th-place Premier League finish last season despite having to contend with a seemingly endless injury crisis, and they will aim higher this time around. The manager has already secured Coventry goalkeeper Keiren Westwood and Birmingham winger Sebastian Larsson on free transfers - they will formally sign on Friday - and is awaiting developments after lodging a joint bid of more than £12million for Manchester United trio Darron Gibson, Wes Brown and John O'Shea. In addition, Larsson's former City team-mate was due on Wearside today to discuss his move to the Stadium of Light with Bruce, backed by chairman Niall Quinn and the chequebook of owner Ellis Short, wasting little time in launching his recruitment mission. Meanwhile, Wickham has admitted it did not take Bruce long to persuade him his future lay on Wearside. He told SAFC TV: "Once the fee was agreed and I met with the manager, he basically told me everything about the club and the ambitions, and it was sold. "Now everything is done and dusted, I just really can't wait to get started. "Ever since the speculation, I have never felt pressured. I have never felt intimidated by what has gone on off the pitch or who has come in or anything like that. "But now I am obviously relieved to have everything done. The weight has been lifted off my shoulders now. "I can get back to playing football, and I know where I am going to be next season. I just want to play now."