Bruce in no rush with Wickham
Steve Bruce will play the waiting game with his new young star and has vowed to ease him into top-flight action.
Last Updated: 13/08/11 1:23pm
Sunderland manager Steve Bruce has vowed to ease summer signing Connor Wickham into the Premier League.
Wickham has been Bruce's big-money summer buy after joining the Black Cats from Ipswich Town for £8.5million.
But Wickham, at only 18, will not be thrown into first-team action immediately and may start off watching Premier League football from the bench.
Bruce is keen to look after the teenager and use him as a substitute until he is ready to feature in the starting line-up.
"It's important that we protect him," said the Sunderland manager. "It's not going to be easy, because of all the expectation he's surrounded by up here.
"He's a big money signing, but he's 18 - he could play in the youth team on Saturday if I wanted him to!
"Yes, he's an exceptional talent, but you don't get many 18-year-olds playing week in, week out in the Premier League, so we must develop him.
"We've got one of the most outstanding youngsters in the country, but we have to protect him. He'll come into the team, no doubt about that, but I wouldn't expect him to play 38 games."
He added: "He's got the talent to cope with the expectation."