MARTIN O’Neill hopes Sunderland fans will start to see what he sees in Steven Fletcher after the striker scored twice on his debut, writes GRAEME ANDERSON.
Fletcher’s brace earned Sunderland their second away point in succession, as in-form Swansea were held 2-2 on Saturday.
And no-one was more pleased than O’Neill that the £12million man (pictured)should get all the headlines.
“I’m pleased for him to have got off the mark,” he said. “Because maybe with the euphoria surrounding Adam Johnson signing for us, his joining was cast into the shadows a bit.
“He’s a very good player and I’m hoping he’s going to be excellent for us.”
Hampered by an ankle injury and a disrupted pre-season over the course of the summer, Fletcher is some distance away from full match fitness and was substituted on Saturday, shortly after the hour mark.
O’Neill said: “We’ve got a few players who aren’t fully fit.
“I knew I would have to sub Steven and Stephane Sessegnon before the end of the game and that’s the reason I didn’t include Danny Rose in the squad.
“He’d signed in time the day before, but he hasn’t played much football of late and I just thought that playing two players who were not 100 per cent was a bit of a gamble. I couldn’t really afford to play three.
“Danny will go away to the England Under-21s and hopefully get some fitness in him. As for Steven Fletcher, I think he’ll do very well when he’s fit.
“It’s a good start for him and, when he gets properly wound up, I think he’ll be a real player for us.”
The manager winced a little at suggestions that in Fletcher, Sunderland have “the new Darren Bent”.
While O’Neill is convinced the new signing can better his previous highest Premier League haul of 12 goals in a season, he sees Fletcher as a completely different package to the ex-Sunderland hitman that he, in many ways, replaces.
“I’m hoping Steven Fletcher can score goals for us like Darren Bent used to,” said O’Neill. “And, yes, I’m sure he can score more than 12 goals in a season. But they are different sorts of players.
“One of the things I like about Fletcher is that he’s capable of doing a lot of good work outside the box. He’s got a good touch and he set things in motion, so he’s not in the side purely as a goalscorer.”