Pearce happy with Wickham

Redditch Advertiser: Stuart Pearce had no reservations about Connor Wickham, pictured, despite his lack of playing time Stuart Pearce had no reservations about Connor Wickham, pictured, despite his lack of playing time

England Under-21s boss Stuart Pearce has been delighted to see Connor Wickham enjoying himself with the national set-up during a frustrating period with his club Sunderland.

Wickham is in good form for Pearce's side, taking his tally to three goals in his last four appearances for the team with the opener in the 2-0 friendly victory Northern Ireland at Bloomfield Road. At club level, though, he has barely had a chance to showcase his ability this term.

Pearce has been happy to give Wickham - who had a considerable reputation when he joined Sunderland for around £8million from Ipswich in 2011 - an opportunity, and he feels it is something the player is relishing. Pearce said: "He did well at Ipswich and obviously he got his move and then it has been a little bit start-stop for him at Sunderland."

The Young Lions boss went on: "I always draw a comparison with Theo Walcott moving from Southampton to Arsenal. He is not playing regularly and we need to make sure we supplement his confidence and fitness, and that we get to see his ability on occasions at under-21 level.

"I think he showed that and he looks as though he is enjoying himself out there. I see his demeanour around the place and he is enjoying meeting up with us."

Tuesday night's match was England Under-21s' first since their controversial Euro 2013 play-off victory in Serbia last month and Pearce took the opportunity to experiment ahead of next summer's finals in Israel, making eight changes to his starting line-up.

That included bringing two under-21 debutants in to the first XI, while a further five made their bows from the bench. One of those substitutes, Benik Afobe, won and converted a penalty in the 77th minute to wrap up what was the England's sixth straight victory, and Pearce admitted things had gone even better than he might have hoped.

"In all honesty, it was beyond my expectations, having brought a group of players together with five or six who were fresh to the squad," Pearce said.

"I was very pleased with the way we played.

"The idea with this game is to help develop a pool of players who will be in competition with each other when I come to pick a squad for the summer. I think it served exactly the purpose we needed it to."

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