CONNOR WICKHAM has a concrete place in Gus Poyet’s plans, rather than Sunderland looking to cash in on the hero of last season’s Great Escape.
Newly-promoted Leicester City have been linked with a £5million move for Wickham over recent days, with the England Under-21 striker entering the final year of his Sunderland contract.
The Echo understands that Leicester’s interest is genuine, although it is not thought that the Foxes have yet made a firm bid for Wickham’s services.
But despite Wickham’s precarious contract situation, Sunderland are not looking to sell the 21-year-old after he finally provided a return on the £8million invested in the summer of 2011.
Wickham’s five goals in the last six games of the campaign proved pivotal towards Sunderland beating the drop and the club immediately moved to tie the former Ipswich Town man down to a new contract.
Sunderland are confident that talks over a new deal will reach a successful conclusion in the next few weeks, although if Wickham did leave at the end of his current contract next summer, the Black Cats would be due compensation due to his age.
But news of Leicester’s interest will undoubtedly provide some leverage for Wickham’s camp in the contract negotiations, with last year’s Championship winners on the look-out for a new frontman.
Leicester have all but abandoned their interest in ex-Sunderland striker Fraizer Campbell, despite meeting the release clause in the Cardiff man’s contract.
It is thought that Campbell’s wage demands have scuppered the move, with Crystal Palace - who were interested in Wickham during the January transfer window - now at the front of the queue for the 26-year-old.
Wickham netted twice against Leicester last season during his loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday and is thought to have caught the eye of Nigel Pearson then, although the Foxes boss would not be drawn on the situation yesterday.