His only club appearance came on Saturday as an 89th-minute replacement against Everton, with the player Steve Bruce spent £8.1m on two summers ago yet to convince the current Sunderland manager, Martin O'Neill, he is worthy of a starting berth.
Following Wickham's display here Stuart Pearce, his England Under-21 manager, said: "He [did] well at Ipswich and got his move and it's been a little bit start-stoppy at Sunderland. I always draw a comparison with Theo [Walcott] moving from Southampton to Arsenal, not playing regularly [initially] – we need to make sure we supplement his confidence, his fitness, and get to see his ability at Under-21 level. He looks as though he's enjoying himself out there."
Before a modest 8,040 crowd the 19-year-old's goal – a third in his last four Under-21 appearances – was simple. After Andros Townsend was fouled, Jordan Henderson took a free-kick and Wickham finished beyond Conor Devlin, Northern Ireland's best performer, with his head – which had earlier required treatment to stem the flow of blood from a cut eye.
In an inaugural meeting at this level between the nations Pearce's side dominated throughout courtesy of a savvy midfield run by Henderson, the captain, and Manchester United's Nick Powell, who was making his debut. Other notable names in Pearce's XI included Josh McEachran and Tom Ince, who may be next in line to follow Wilfried Zaha into the senior squad.
One question now facing Zaha is whether he will get sufficient starting opportunities if he leaves Crystal Palace in January for a Premier League side. Both McEachran and Ince, son of Paul, have left top-flight clubs having experienced precisely that frustration. Chelsea's McEachran is on loan at Middlesbrough, while Ince made a permanent move to Blackpool last year from Liverpool.
At Anfield Ince was managed by Roy Hodgson, now in charge of England's senior team. The winger dazzled throughout England's fourth win in succession, equalling the best Under-21 run since 1991, and offered a fair argument to be considered the next time the manager fancies a look at rising talent.
The pick of Ince's audition was a mesmeric run at pace on 69 minutes that swept him into the visitors' area with the ball glued to his favoured left foot; from close range Devlin beat the ball away for a corner. There was also a dribble that was spoiled by the finish. Pearce said he was pleased with Ince but added: "Tom's just short of a goal for us at the moment. He's a very intelligent player. His movement's clever. He's been outstanding for us."
Ince also failed with a first-half penalty appeal but John Beaton, the referee, did award England a chance to score from the spot in the 77th minute. This was won and converted by the substitute Benik Afobe, who is currently on loan from Arsenal to Bolton.
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