Can Steven Fletcher’s return be the difference for Sunderland?

The Scotland international striker is closing in on a return to action, in what will be a massive boost for the Stadium of Light outfit.

Gus Poyet takes charge of his first game as Sunderland boss this weekend, as his inherited side travel to take on Swansea at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday.

The Uruguayan has taken over from Paolo Di Canio and finds his team bottom of the Premier League with only one point this season from seven games.

However, the Black Cats boss has been handed some positive news, with striker Steven Fletcher making solid progress from injury.

It was believed that Fletcher could be out for up to six weeks after suffering a shoulder injury against West Brom in Di Canio’s last game in charge, but the ex-Burnley forward has used the international break to recoup.

The Sunderland boss has stated that Fletcher’s recovery is important for his side and that the Scot could even feature this weekend in Wales.

“There is a big possibility. It's some of the very good news from this week,” Poyet said.

"Every player is important, but we know in football that there are a few positions that are key - the goalkeeper, the spine of the team and the main man up front scoring goals.

"We need goals, we need players who have got the ability and Fletcher is one of those players."

Poyet’s first concern must be to plug the gaping holes in his defence, as Sunderland have conceded too many soft goals this term. The former Chelsea midfielder needs to make his team more compact and solid in defensive areas, as they have let in 16 goals in seven games already.

One of the major obstacles that Poyet will have to overcome is the fact that, like himself, many of the players are new to the club. Di Canio’s mad spending spree over the summer brought a host of foreigners to the North East that are still adjusting to the English game and are yet to prove their worth at the club.

However, familiar face Fletcher could well be the difference between relegation and staying up for the Black Cats. The Scotland international is certainly Sunderland’s biggest attacking threat, and has proven that he can consistently hit the back of the net.

Fletcher netted 11 important Premier League goals last season, and of his last six seasons at Sunderland, Wolves, Burnley and Hibs has scored over 10 goals in them all, bar one. Getting Fletcher back on the pitch will be critical for the side, as his presence will give Sunderland a focal point in their attack, inspire others with confidence and give the team a predatory threat in the final third.

The Stadium of Light side are in for a tough match this Saturday in Wales, and getting something from the game would be a good result. If Poyet can sort out his questionable defence, Fletcher can get the goals to keep the side in contention.

image: © Ben Sutherland

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