Cats eye Gardner after Wickham coup
Sunderland boss Steve Bruce was last night working to tie up a move for midfielder Craig Gardner after landing teenage striker Connor Wickham.
The Black Cats quickly put their delight at snatching the 18-year-old Ipswich frontman in an £8.1million swoop yesterday to one side to concentrate on a man they hope will be one of his team-mates next season.
Birmingham's Gardner was also on Wearside for talks, with Bruce keen to tie him up as quickly as possible as he closed in on a fifth summer signing following in the wake of Ahmed Elmohamady, Wickham and Bosman free transfers Keiren Westwood and Sebastian Larsson, who will formally complete their moves tomorrow.
In committing a sum which could eventually amount to £12m to secure Wickham's services, they managed to ward off the attentions of his fellow suitors to tie up a player regarded as one of the most promising home-grown prospects in the game.
Wickham, who had been linked with Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham, signed a four-year deal after heading for the north-east on Tuesday evening for a medical, and Bruce could hardly have been more delighted.
He said: "A number of top sides have been chasing Connor for some time now, so naturally we are absolutely delighted he has chosen to come to Sunderland."
Wickham insisted the speculation surrounding his future had not affected him adversely, but he admitted he was pleased to know where he will be playing his football next season.
He said: "Ever since the speculation, I have never felt pressured. But I am relieved to have everything done.
"I can get back to playing football."