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Wickham fires up England

Published: Saturday 29 May 2010, 10.25CET
In the latest in's series on Europe's rising stars, we look at Connor Wickham, whose goals have taken England to Sunday's UEFA European Under-17 Championship final.
by Paul Saffer
from Vaduz
Wickham fires up England
Connor Wickham celebrates scoring against France in the semi-finals ©Sportsfile
Published: Saturday 29 May 2010, 10.25CET

Wickham fires up England

In the latest in's series on Europe's rising stars, we look at Connor Wickham, whose goals have taken England to Sunday's UEFA European Under-17 Championship final.

Name: Connor Wickham
Ipswich Town FC
Debut: v Doncaster Rovers FC 11/04/2009 (English Championship)
Position: forward
Nationality: English
Date of birth: 31/03/1993

Two goals to help your country to a European final would be enough to put anyone in the spotlight, but teenage striker Wickham has been making headlines ever since becoming Ipswich's youngest-ever first-team player last year aged 16 years and 11 days. Now, having struck twice in England's 2-1 UEFA European Under-17 Championship semi-final defeat of France, Wickham is hoping to help his nation win that title for the first time on Sunday when they face Spain in Vaduz.

Standing 1.91m tall, Wickham has rare stature for one so young – he turned 17 less than two months ago – and is a towering presence for an adult defender, let alone other youth internationals in Liechtenstein. A 21-minute hat-trick in a 4-0 U17 qualifying round win against Azerbaijan in October announced his presence in the competition, while he also scored in March's elite round defeats of Sweden and Slovakia. Most important of all, he hit two first-half goals against France on Thursday, both times getting free of his marker on the left and sending an angled shot into the net.

Wickham, on the books of Reading FC before moving to Ipswich when he was 13, has been impressing all season. In his fourth senior Ipswich appearance he scored twice in an English League Cup tie against Shrewsbury Town FC, and converted in the shoot-out win for good measure. He opened his league account in March, striking deep in added time to clinch a 1-0 victory against Scunthope United FC.

That good timing continued the following month with a 90th-minute goal in a 3-1 win at Derby County FC, ending a week in which he turned 17 and signed a two-year professional contract. Strikes against Doncaster and Newcastle United FC swiftly followed, before his starring role with England here in Vaduz. But whatever happens on Sunday, Wickham still has one big date on the horizon: his driving test in June.

Breakthrough game:
Shrewsbury Town FC 3-3 Ipswich Town FC
(Ipswich win 4-2 on pens)
11/08/2009 English League Cup first round
Wickham's performance began an extraordinary season for him. He put the visitors 1-0 and 3-2 up on his first start, then converted their second penalty in a shoot-out victory. Within two games he was in the starting lineup for a league encounter with Crystal Palace FC and now has 31 senior appearances, and six goals, to his name.

He says:
"It's surreal. You've just got to take it in your stride and just deal with it, not get carried away."
Wickham reflects on his year after the U17 semi-final

"I definitely think from this time last season I've physically developed, and mentally as a player as well. I've experienced what it is like to play in the Championship, you have to be much stronger and hopefully I've brought that into England as well."
Wickham assesses his development

They say:
"Connor's a very level-headed young man. I think he's at the right club at Ipswich and Roy Keane has done a really good job with him, steadily developing him."
England U17 manager John Peacock

"We're here to help him, but ultimately it will come down the boy himself. There are pitfalls ahead, but the boy's got a chance."
Ipswich manager Roy Keane

Last updated: 29/05/10 18.53CET

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