Sunderland's Connor Wickham plays down 'Playboy model' jibe from Paolo Di Canio
Sunderland striker Connor Wickham has played down Paolo Di Canio's description of him as a 'Playboy model'.
Last Updated: 04/06/13 11:28pm
The 20-year-old striker arrived at Sunderland in an £8m move two years ago, but has struggled to live up to his price tag.
Wickham fell down the pecking order under previous boss Martin O'Neill, but Di Canio put his faith in the youngster at the end of last season, handing him a number of first-team appearances.
The Italian still warned Wickham that he is a 'Playboy model' who needs a slap in the face to reach his full potential, but Wickham laughed off these comments.
"I don't know (what to make of it)," he said. "I just saw it. It is just down to me to take on what I see in the papers.
"I don't really read the papers anyway but I am fine, I will get my head down, keep working and show him what I can do when I get back.
"Our relationship is fine. He has had words on the training pitch and helped me along.
"He said he will help me improve as a player so for me there is nothing but positive vibes from him.
"I can't wait to get back to Sunderland and just work hard again.
"I have played the two games that I have been fit for and come on for the other halves.
"I feel strong, I feel confident in the manager and that I will get a chance. Hopefully if I do get a chance, I will take it."
Wickham is part of the England Under-21 squad who start their European Championship campaign in Israel on Wednesday.
The former Ipswich player admits the Young Lions are in confident mood ahead of their Group A opener against Italy.
"All the boys are really looking forward to what is to come," Wickham said.
"We had a week in Turkey, which prepared us physically for the weather and the demands of the heat, the pitch and the surface.
"The vibe in the camp is good and we are all looking forward to Wednesday night.
"I don't think the belief has ever been stronger. Walking around the camp and at dinner - you can feel it everywhere you go.
"We've had the coaching staff and everyone drumming into us how the important tournament is.
"I don't think anyone has got any doubts in the team that we can't do well."