Sunderland already making plans for life without promising striker - report

According to reports in the North East, Sunderland manager Gus Poyet is already making contingency plans in case Connor Wickham leaves the club.

Sunderland may have only won once this season, but they have also only lost once, drawing their other five games this season as Gus Poyet's men struggle to gain momentum.

With eight goals scored this term, Sunderland are far from one of the league's more prolific sides, but the recent return of Scottish international Steven Fletcher gave the Black Cats a big goal boost, scoring twice in their recent 3-1 win over Stoke City at the Stadium of Light.

The other scorer in that game was Fletcher's strike partner Connor Wickham, who finally seems to be justifying some of that £8m transfer fee paid by Sunderland to Ipswich over three years ago. After scoring just twice in 33 games for the Black Cats, Wickham's productive loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday sparked him into life at the end of last season, scoring five Premier League goals to keep Sunderland in the Premier League.

That left Sunderland fans with high hopes over the 21-year-old, who was long tipped for stardom during his time at Ipswich. His goal against Stoke was his first of the season, and it came after a summer which was filled with transfer speculation over his future. With his contract set to expire next summer, West Ham United had hoped to snare him away from Wearside, only for Sunderland to reject any approach.

Yet with no movement on a potential contract extension, questions over Wickham's future are arising again, and reports in the North East today suggest that manager Poyet is already planning for the possibility of Wickham's departure given that the club are worried about losing him for nothing, as they did with Phil Barsley and Jack Colback this summer.

Fellow striker Jozy Altidore could also leave in what The Evening Chronicle describe as a 'striking overhaul'. The American is a bit-part player for Sunderland and would hardly be missed given his woeful goalscoring record, but losing Wickham would be a big blow - particularly as it would almost certainly be to a Premier League rival.

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