Connor Wickham Comes Of Age

Paul AustinCorrespondent IJune 2, 2010

IPSWICH, ENGLAND - AUGUST 18:  Connor Wickham of Ipswich Town in action during the Coca-Cola Championship match between Ipswich Town and Crystal Palace at Portman Road on August 18, 2009 in Ipswich, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Weighing in at 6' 3" and 160 pounds, he's tall, he's fast, and he's English, and his name is Connor Wickham.

In the modern era of soccer, with it's focus on the premier leagues, it's easy to overlook the young stars making their way up the ladder, in the lower divisions, but Connor Wickham is determined to make it hard to overlook him.

Born in Hereford, England, the son of an Army officer, Wickham always had an eye for goal, and soon came to the attention of Reading football club, for whom he signed youth terms, from the age of 9 to 13.

At the age of 13, Conner transfered to Ipswich Town Football club, and made his debut for the Ipswich Town first team on 11 April 2009, aged 16 years and 11 days, making him the youngest player to have made an appearance for Ipswich Town, beating the previous record being held by Jason Dozzell by 46 days.

This on it's own would be a notable achievement, but it wasn't just his club that saw his potential, and it wasn't long before his country came calling.

On the 11th of August 2009 Wickham received a call-up to the England under-17 squad, for their three game FA International Tournament, which would take place later that month, and in May 2010, Wickham was included in the England under-17 squad for the UEFA European under-17 Championship in Liechtenstein.

The  tournament started brightly enough, for the young striker, and in the first match, against the Czech Republic, he was instrumental in a  3–1 victory, being personally involved in two of the goals.

In the second group stage match he continued to impress, as England continued to progress, with a comfortable 1-0 victory over the Greek under-17 side, before he was rested for the final group game, a 2-1 win against Turkey.

After the groups stages Wickham was brought back for the semi-final, where he shone against a very talented French team, scoring both goals in an impressive 2-1 victory, that advanced his side to the final.

Three days later, and the big day rolled around, this was the final of an important, and prestigious tournament, a tournament that has been graced by many a future superstar, including Wayne Rooney, and Cesc Fàbregas, who were the tournaments golden players in 2002, and 2004 respectively.

Before the game, England captain Conor Coady had said this final brought together the two best Under-17 sides in Europe, and, keen to observe the latest players to emerge from Spain's conveyor belt of talent, the Spanish senior squad, the current champions of Europe, were in the crowd to support their youngsters.

There was a nervous start to the game, in front of an expectant crowd, with both teams trying to impress, but both making a few early errors, before Spain broke the deadlock in the 22nd minute, courtesy of an own goal from England's Andre Wisdom, who deflected a cross into his own net.

England pressed forward, and within 8 minutes they'd got the parity that they deserved, as Wisdom, making amends for his earlier error, strode upfield to equalize for England in the 30th minute.

The first half was to prove to be the defining half, that separated these two talented squads when, three minutes before the break, Connor Wickham received the ball on the left, and then brushed off three Spanish defenders, before firing a 20-yard shot into the back of the net.

Wickham's star is truly rising.

As England's senior squad jets out today, to the world cup finals in South Africa, it's perhaps unsurprising that they are the faces in the spotlight, but whilst the successes of Connor Wickham, and the under-17's, may have passed the majority of people by unnoticed, there is no doubt that Fabio Capello, having just selected the oldest and most experienced set of players that England have ever taken to a World Cup, will be watching this next golden generation, with great anticipation, of things to come.