Fletcher joined Sunderland in January last year, and the move didn’t work out as hoped.
Fletcher struggled to find his shooting boots at the Stadium of Light, and only scored two goals, as Sunderland suffered relegation from the Championship.
The target-man forward received a great deal of criticism during his time on Wearside.
But Fletcher, who scored twice for Middlesbrough in midweek, believes that the loan spell actually helped him progress as a player.
“I think the experiences of last season have helped me, 100 per cent,” he said.
“In a strange way, I have to thank Sunderland. I went there as their number nine, and it’s a huge club. I hope to see them back in the Championship next season.”
Sunderland are in the thick of a promotion battle as things stand, and currently occupy a spot in the top two.
Jack Ross’ side have bounced back from relegation well, and their destiny now lies in their own hands, with just six games remaining this season.
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