Sunderland have been in the Premier League for seven consecutive seasons and at a certain point during this campaign it seemed that they were destined to end their stint up top and relegation looked eminent. By mid April, they seemed at their lowest point, and in fact they were. After losses against Tottenham and Everton, they earned a draw against Manchester City and then went on to beat Chelsea, Cardiff City and Ryan Giggs’ Manchester United.
Emanuele Giaccherini was being wrongly used and was playing out of position, he couldn’t add anything more Sunderland’s attack and Poyet seemed to be running out of tricks from his magic hat until he pulled out the last piece, Connor Wickham.
The young striker started playing up front despite his terrible record in the Premier League but then, it seemed that it was his time to shine. Along with him Sunderland returned to winning ways, ten points lifted them from the last position in the table and out of the relegation zone. They are still not officially safe, as Norwich are two points behind with a game in hand and although they are highly likely to drop points there, Sunderland must and they probably will grab at least a single point from their remaining two matches against West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City.
We can argue that Gus Poyet was influential and pivotal during this period especially that he gave Wickham playing time, but the actual hero is young striker himself. Connor played only nine games for Sunderland before Poyet was appointed and he scored a single goal only under three different managers, but with Poyet coming in, he was given more trust than any of the previous three. As Wickham started playing, he started scoring goals non-stop. In six games, he scored five goals. His performance and form inspired his team-mates on the pitch and he took the team that extra mile.
The story of this player is just like that of Lallana, they are young local talents who needed to be given the trust to perform well. Not every foreign player is better than the local one and teams don’t have to spend millions to add quality to their squad. Wickham is a story to be taught by Sunderland and a story to be learned by all the mid-table and small teams. Poyet made the right choice to trust the youngster as he was running out of options to save his club, he eventually did or will do in just less than a week and this might change his strategy and planning ahead of Sunderland’s eighth consecutive season in the Premier League.