Crystal Palace confirmed the signing of Connor Wickham from Sunderland on Monday and they through the striker straight into action in their final pre-season game against Dagenham and Redbridge, which ended in a 1-0 defeat for the Eagles.
The game wasn’t important, but the fact Alan Pardew decided to throw the striker straight in to action perhaps gives us a bigger indication to the role the former Sunderland striker will have in South London this season.
The Palace boss has already enjoyed a productive summer, signing Yohan Cabaye, Alex McCarthy, Patrick Bamford and Bakary Sako.
Wickham, who reportedly cost Palace a fee in the region of £8m, struggled to set into life in the North East and hasn’t ever replicated the form he showed for Ipswich when he broke onto the scene in the 2010/11 season, which earned him his big money move to the Premier League.
Pardew said after Palace’s 1-1 draw in a pre-season friendly at Fulham before signing Wickham on Saturday: “Connor is somebody we feel will be great for the club.”
But will Wickham be great for Palace? He hasn’t scored prolifically in his Premier League career so far, though he has scored regularly in the Championship, highlighted by an impressive eight goals in eleven games during a loan spell with Sheffield Wednesday two years ago.
However, replicating that form into the Premier League has been a problem for Wickham.
That same season, he came back and scored five goals in the last eight games to keep the Black Cats up. Other than that, though, Wickham hasn’t delivered the goods in the Premier League and has struggled to find the back of the net on a regular basis, with five goals remaining his best Premier League goals tally to date.
But it is a bit of a mystery that he hasn’t been more of a success as he’s got all the attributes to do it. He is 6ft 4in tall, really strong in the air and on the deck and can bully defences with his size and power.
But he isn’t cumbersome by any stretch. He still has a decent turn of speed to get in behind defences and once there, he is a decent finisher in front of goal.
He is built to score goals at the top level and you can’t help but feel he is yet to deliver his best, and we’ve only seen glimpses of what he is capable of in small bursts of form for Sunderland. Given time and the right environment, he may well produce the form that warranted his big move up north so early on in his career.
And Selhurst Park could well be the perfect environment for Wickham to finally reach his potential. In Pardew he has a manager who will put his faith in the striker and play towards his strengths. Wickham will be the main striker at Palace as he is arguably the best striker at the club, which is something he didn’t always enjoy at the Stadium of Light, and he found himself forced to play out wide on the left on many occasions.
The move to Palace could well be the perfect thing for Wickham as he would be moving back down south where he is from, and it could be the fresh start he needs to kick start his career and start firing in the goals again.