It’s just under two years since Connor Wickham last played in a competitive game for Crystal Palace but last week, the striker took his biggest step yet on the road to recovery, playing 45 minutes against Dulwich Hamlet and getting on the score-sheet in the process.
Speaking after the game, the frontman opened up on the hard graft he’s gone through to reach this point, speaking with the sort of sincerity and passion which makes you desperate to see him succeed in his battle to regain full fitness and reestablish himself as a key member of Crystal Palace’s first-team.
It may be a tad tricky for many to remember, given how long ago it was but just prior to the ACL injury Connor suffered, he was starting to look like a striker capable of bagging 15-20 goals in a season, having scored in rather impressive fashion away at Burnley and at home to Manchester City in successive games. The clash which saw him sustain ligament damage was the helter-skelter 5-4 defeat away at Swansea, with Connor having left the field in the 52nd minute with the scores delicately balanced at 1-1.
It’s impossible to know for sure but given the form he was in, I wouldn’t have bet against him popping up with a goal that day had he stayed healthy, potentially shifting the managerial future of Alan Pardew in the process. The then Palace boss lost his job just three weeks later to be replaced by Sam Allardyce, with everything that has happened to the club since having been missed by Wickham. Whilst speculation is ultimately futile, it is intriguing to wonder what might have been if the big man hadn’t gone down injured that day.
Now on the comeback trail and looking pleasingly sharp, the Palace faithful will be keen to know how much longer they’ll be waiting before he’s tentatively restored to the match-day squad. You can be sure that Wickham himself is raring to go but after so many niggles along his road to recovery, the club are quite rightly taking baby steps in managing his return.
As Connor himself has learned since November of 2016, patience is a virtue.