England Under-21s boss Stuart Pearce has been delighted to see Connor Wickham enjoying himself with the Young Lions during a frustrating period with his club Sunderland – and his likened him to ex-Saints starlet Theo Walcott.

Wickham is in good form for Pearce's side, taking his tally to three goals in his last four appearances for the team with the opener in last night’s 2-0 friendly victory Northern Ireland at Bloomfield Road, which featured a substitute appearance from Saints defender Nathaniel Clyne.

The 19-year-old striker looked a threat throughout the contest and had already hit the bar - and received stitches for a head injury - before he nodded home in the 45th minute.

At club level, though, he has barely had a chance to showcase his ability this term, only making his first Black Cats appearance of the campaign as an 89th-minute substitute in last weekend's 2-1 Barclays Premier League defeat at Everton.

Pearce has been happy to give Wickham - who had a considerable reputation when he joined Sunderland for around £8million from Ipswich in 2011 - an opportunity, and he feels it is something the player is relishing.

"He did well at Ipswich and obviously he got his move and then it has been a little bit start-stop for him at Sunderland," Pearce said.

"I always draw a comparison with Theo Walcott moving from Southampton to Arsenal.

"He is not playing regularly and we need to make sure we supplement his confidence and fitness, and that we get to see his ability on occasions at under-21 level.

"I think he showed that tonight and he looks as though he is enjoying himself out there.

"I see his demeanour around the place and he is enjoying meeting up with us."

Wickham has made just five Premier League starts in total for Sunderland, has only scored once for them and is reportedly set to go out on loan to an npower Championship side.

But Pearce hopes Black Cats manager Martin O'Neill might in the weeks to come be able to "reap the benefit" of the form the youngster has found with his country.