Given Connor Wickham’s recent form, Sheffield Wednesday will undoubtedly miss the striker’s prowess in front of goal at Macclesfield Town tomorrow.
The England under-21 international has notched seven goals in nine starts since returning to Hillsborough, including five goals in his last five outings.
“I am probably in the best form I have ever been in,” acknowledged Wickham after the Owls 2-0 victory over Blackpool on New Year’s Day.
However, Wickham, on a youth loan from Sunderland which Wednesday extended earlier this week, is ruled out of Saturday’s FA Cup third round clash at Moss Rose. The Black Cats have refused permission for him to play because the Premier League strugglers do not want him to be cup-tied.
Wickham said: “It’s just in case Sunderland need me. It happens with 95 per cent of other parent clubs.
“I think Wednesday were expecting it. It’s difficult for me to miss a game, but it’s just part of being on loan.” Brimming full of confidence and self belief, the Colchester-born player collected another man of the match award following his fine performance against the Tangerines.
When pressed on his superb form, Wickham said: “I put it down to confidence. In my first game against Reading, we won 5-2 and we absolutely smashed a team who were up there in the league at the time.
“For me, I scored on my second debut and since then it has just been one goal after another. I go out thinking and believing I can score. It is all about confidence as a striker. You can say that about any position but especially about a striker.”
Wickham is set to stay with Wednesday until January 28 but Sunderland can recall him at 24 hours’ notice.
“I was pushing for it to be extended,” he said. “I’m enjoying my time here. I want to be playing football and I was aware I was coming to the end of my loan.
“I’ve always enjoyed playing here and the chance came to extend, so I had no hesitation in signing the contract.”
A number of Championship clubs, including Nottingham Forest, are thought to have monitored Wickham’s situation in recent weeks.
The talented forward, who has a year and a half remaining on his contract at Sunderland, said: “I have not been involved [at Sunderland] as much as I would have liked.
“This is my second time at Wednesday. I have been here for almost a year now. I am happy. I am playing football and doing what I love to do. I am scoring goals so I am feeling on top of the world at the moment.
“Wednesday gave me a chance when no one else did. I could have gone on loan maybe a couple of months before I came here the first time.
“The gaffer [Dave Jones] and everyone else here showed faith in me and gave me the opportunity to play football.
“Last time, I felt I left too soon. I only scored once in six games. I wanted to come back because I knew the staff, the players. I felt like we had a lot of potential.
“We got out of a battle that season and we’re in a battle now but thankfully, we’re out of that relegation zone. We just want to keep pushing up that table.” When asked about his long-term future, Wickham said: “I just want to play football. That’s all I can do. What happens with contracts or moves, it’s not up to me. I can’t control what happens.
“All I can do is what I’m doing at the moment, playing games and scoring goals.”
Caretaker manager Stuart Gray took a giant step towards landing the Wednesday job on a permanent basis after overseeing their win over Blackpool, his third triumph in seven matches in charge.
“He [Stuart] deserves an incredible amount of credit,” said Wickham. “All the lads respect Stu. We know what he is about.
“I would like to see him getting the job permanently. I think most of the lads see it that way at the moment anyway. There has been no talk of managers in the changing room. It is up to us to do the business on the pitch and let the people upstairs deal with that. That is down to them but Stu has got the backing of the boys.
“You can’t predict football. We don’t pick the manager. That is for the people upstairs.”
Wednesday climbed out of the drop zone after beating Blackpool, a result which lifted them up to fifth from bottom and stretched their unbeaten run to three matches.
Wickham conceded: “It’s massive. We knew as soon as we got into the dressing room that we were out of it so the boys are delighted. Hopefully we’ll carry it on.
“We’ve got a great team that can create chances. When we go out, we believe we can beat anybody. When we played Leicester, they were top and we were second-bottom but we beat them 2-1. That sparked a comeback and since then we’ve been pushing onwards and upwards. The team’s now looking solid.
“We’ve all go to believe we’ve turned a corner. Five weeks ago, we were six points adrift and now we’re out of the relegation zone.
“We’ve got a great bunch of lads and plenty of players to come back from injury. We’ve got strength in different positions. It’s all about keeping the momentum.
“We need another result this weekend. We can’t think it’s an easy game. Then we need to get back, recover, and carry on with the league.”