O’Neill backs Sunderland new boy Fletcher’s chances against Swansea

Steven Fletcher

Steven Fletcher

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MARTIN O’Neill believes Steven Fletcher’s Sunderland bow will have boosted his chances of making a swift impression in the Premier League.

Fletcher played more than an hour for the Black Cats in Tuesday’s Capital One Cup victory over Morecambe after appearing just once for Wolves during pre-season.

While O’Neill knows it will take the £12million striker several outings to knock off the rust, the Sunderland boss believes the midweek run-out will have benefited the 25-year-old ahead of a potential league debut at Swansea tomorrow.

O’Neill told the Echo: “I think the game the other night will bring him on.

“Obviously, he’ll still need three or four games.

“But he’s training every day with us now and that week that he’s been here, plus the game the other night, will have stood him in good stead.”

O’Neill is full of praise for the way the Swans have begun the campaign under new manager Michael Laudrup after netting eight goals in wins over QPR and West Ham.

“Despite the change of manager and having one or two players leaving that you felt they might want to have kept, they have done exceptionally well,” he said.

“They’ve possibly even surprised people and their opening-day victory over QPR was just sensational.

“They’ve carried that on in beating West Ham and won in midweek again.

“They’re absolutely flying and it’s a difficult time to play them.

“Swansea were lauded last season for their style of play and quite rightly so. It was terrific.

“But it doesn’t seem on the face of it to have changed that much.

“Of course, every manager will tweak things to his own satisfaction, but eventually the proof is in the performances and results.

“They’ve been able to combine both brilliantly.”

Former Barcelona and Real Madrid midfielder Laudrup succeeded now Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers during the summer after spells in charge of Spartak Moscow and Real Mallorca.

O’Neill added: “It’s very early to make big assessments and big judgments. He was a fantastic footballer, one of the best.

“But, from all accounts, he’s a highly intelligent man who will know that not making sweeping changes is the way to go, particularly if it’s something that’s been working so well for the football club.

“The results seems to suggest that he knows what he’s doing.”

Sunderland will still be without injured trio Wes Brown, Phil Bardsley and David Vaughan for the long trip to the Liberty Stadium.

But Vaughan is now back in full training after recovering from a hernia operation and is expected to line up for Sunderland’s development squad in tomorrow’s clash at Spurs.