This article is part of Football League World’s ‘The Verdict‘ series, which provides personal opinions from the FLW writers regarding the latest breaking news, teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Championship club Preston North End have secured the permanent signing of ex-Crystal Palace striker Connor Wickham on a free transfer, with the 28-year-old signing a four-month contract at Deepdale yesterday.
Despite the promise he showed early on in his playing career as a former England youth international and plying his trade in the Premier League, injuries over the years have held the forward back from flourishing.
These injuries limited him to just 50 competitive appearances for Wickham at Crystal Palace in his six years at Selhurst Park, arriving from Sunderland for a £7m fee in 2016 but failing to provide value for money.
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The Eagles were unable to get him off the books permanently until this summer after seeing him sign a five-year deal on his arrival, being shipped out on his only loan spell away from the English capital to Sheffield Wednesday at the start of the last calendar year.
He was released on the expiration of his deal a few months ago, but was taken on trial by Frankie McAvoy’s side last month and did enough during that period to earn himself a deal at Deepdale.
The 28-year-old will remain with the Lilywhites until the middle of January, giving the 28-year-old the chance to impress for the Lilywhites. But will he be a regular starter in for the second-tier side?
We asked three of our writers at Football League World for their verdict on this question.
It all depends on whether he can prove his fitness. The 28-year-old has greater pedigree at Championship level than Emil Riis and Ched Evans so will be first choice if he hits the ground running.
North End spent considerable money on Riis, in relative terms to their usual spending, therefore he is going to be one of the first names on the team sheet.
It looks to be a straight shoot-out between Wickham and Evans, who signed from Fleetwood Town last term, which is a good headache for Frankie McAvoy to have.
Injury woes have been a theme of the last few years for Wickham, who it seems incredible is still only 28, hopefully he can manage his body well and contribute for Preston this season.
If he can get back to the levels he has shown in the past, then he starts ahead of Evans more often than not.
It all depends upon which Connor Wickham we see in a Preston shirt and whether he can stay fit.
There’s no denying the striker has talent and if Frankie MacAvoy can help him return to somewhere near his best, he could be a fantastic addition for the North West club and cement a place in the starting XI.
The Preston boss has favoured a 3-5-2 formation this term and I could see Wickham sealing a spot alongside Emil Riis if he can get back near to his best.
That’s a big if, however, because we haven’t seen that regularly from him for a while.
Even if he can stay fit, you feel we’re likely to see Wickham used from the bench at first and if he can take those opportunities he may well force himself into regular contention.
There’s a lot of ifs involved but should things go right for Preston, the 28-year-old could become a regular fixture.
It would seem to make sense for Preston to use Wickham regularly when he is up to full fitness.
Preston have been lacking a goalscorer for some time now, and having been unable to bring in a striker during the summer transfer window, it does seem as though that is a role they have brought in Wickham to fill.
As a result, they will obviously have to use him if he is to make an impact in front of goal for Frankie McAvoy’s side, and given Emil Riis is the only Preston player with more than one league goal to his name this season, you imagine there will be an opportunity for Wickham to force his way into the starting XI at Deepdale.
Indeed, with Wickham only signing a short-term deal until January, Preston may also want to get a look at him to see if it will be worth extending his deal beyond that point, and the best way to do that is to play him competitively, so you would expect there to be opportunities for the 28-year-old in the next few months.