Monday evening cannot come soon enough for Connor Wickham, as the ex-Sunderland player faces his old club on what will be an important night for the striker.
Wickham, who has been out since August with a calf injury, is relishing the prospect of playing against the side where he began his Premier League career.
“It’s the one team I’ve wanted to play against since I came to Palace. I’ll be seeing some friendly faces again, but once I’ve crossed the line it’s me against them and there’s no friends on a football pitch.”
Starting his first game since Palace’s away win at Chelsea at the start of the season, Wickham says he is grateful for the faith and continued support from his teammates and most importantly the manager, in his recovery back to full-fitness.
“I’ve managed to come to a club working with a manager who believes in me and the boys believe in me too. I don’t have a point to prove because I know what I can do, and I’ll show the people here what I can do.
“I feel my game’s developed massively at Palace and I’m a million times a happier player when I’m playing down the middle. When I’m working with two natural wide men in Wilf and Yannick, then there’s Puncheon, Yohan and Joel Ledley who are going to run beyond me, I don’t have to worry about what goes on behind me because they’re going to be there and working their socks off.”
With a place in the starting line-up, Palace fans will want to see Wickham do his talking on the pitch and add some much needed firepower upfront.
“The position is mine to lose now and hopefully I’ll bring something to the team that’s been missing for a couple of months, someone to hold the ball up, create more chances and score more goals and get more points.”
Wickham isn't fazed by the reception he may receive from visiting Sunderland fans, confident the Palace faithful will drown out any boos.
“The reaction from fans doesn’t bother me, it’s part and parcel of the game and you learn to ignore it. At Palace we’ve got a set of fans who back us through thick and thin. Selhurst Park is a horrible place to play if you’re an away player.”
Wickham is relishing the opportunity to put a run of games together and couldn’t be happier at the south London club.
“I’m now around all my friends and family and it’s made a massive difference in my self-confidence. I’ve managed to settle and I feel I’m at home being down south again. I wake up in the morning looking forward to coming to work and that’s the most important thing. I’m motivated to put all my effort into Palace and I’ve got the right manager who speaks to me every day as well as the coaches who have been fantastic with me. I’m in the perfect set-up to get the best out of myself.”