Connor Wickham on his Owls return and why he turned down other clubs to re-join Sheffield Wednesday
Settling himself in front of the assembled media at their Middlewood Road training ground, it is clear that Connor Wickham is a very different man to the one that sat at his first press unveiling at Sheffield Wednesday.
And in many ways, it’s difficult to believe that he’s only 26. His two previous loan stints at Hillsborough – just months apart in 2013 and 2014 – saw him crash nine goals and three assists in 17 appearances and hopes are high for a similar return this time out.
What is clear is that this is a new Wickham, one not hoping to grab a few teenage kicks on his way to Premier League superstardom, but a determined, experienced pro on the comeback trail from a knee injury that blew his career at Crystal Palace off-track and has limited his game time since.
“I had a few other options but once I spoke to the manager, just speaking to him over the phone, it was always going to be the right club, with the right manager, the right staff and being in the right place to get myself back on track.
“I'm pleased to be back,” he continued, “I had a difficult time at Palace up until January, I had to try and find some game time. I spoke to the gaffer a few times and he really sold it to me to come back, not that I needed this place selling to me.
“It took it's time to be honest but I'm glad we got it done [the loan deal]. There was a bit of interest across December and January, but it ended up being quite a last minute deal. It was always in the pipeline something was going to happen, I'm just glad to worked out here.
“I'm glad to be back and I'm back with a different ambition. It's nice to come into a team that's doing well and is there or thereabouts. We have a target for the end of the season, so we're all aiming for that.”
The former England youth international scored for parent club Palace against Norwich on New Year’s Day in the midst of a mini-comeback into first team contention, claiming an assist against West Ham and playing a part in the Eagles’ equalising goal against Manchester City.
But his six appearances have all come from the bench this season and Wickham was clear with the club that he needed a change.
“I wasn't needed at Palace,” he said. “Fair play to the chairman, he has been supportive of me from day one when I did my knee. I always knew he was going to have my back no matter what the situation, so I'll always be grateful for that.
“I've worked so hard to come back from my injury and unfortunately there didn't seem to be a place in the Palace team for me. That's the manager's decision, but on a personal level I need to go out and play football and that's hopefully what I'll do here.”