GUS POYET has total confidence that striker Steven Fletcher can rediscover the form from his first season at Sunderland.
Fletcher endured a miserable campaign last year after a succession of injuries affected his performances and restricted him to just three goals.
That was a stark contrast to the Scotland international’s maiden season at the Stadium of Light, when he netted 11 times after joining in a £12million move from relegated Wolves.
Fletcher returned to training a week ahead of schedule earlier this summer after missing the final two months of last season with an ankle problem and he has come through Sunderland’s pre-season programme unscathed.
Head coach Poyet is now eager to see Fletcher in competitive action, but has every faith in the 27-year-old’s predatory abilities.
When asked whether Fletcher could return to form, Poyet told the Echo: “No doubt.
“He’s delighted. That’s a big thing for a manager to have a player who is so happy at being fit and able to train every day.
“I am really looking forward to seeing Fletch on the pitch when the season starts.”
Fletcher or fellow striker Connor Wickham are likely to lead the line for Sunderland’s Premier League opener at West Brom on Saturday week, with Jozy Altidore still making his way back from the hamstring injury which brought a premature end to his World Cup.
Altidore is due to make his first appearance of pre-season in Thursday night’s friendly against Real Betis, yet is unlikely to be fully fit to face the Baggies.
Wickham’s place in Poyet’s plans has been thrown into doubt after the Sunderland manager said last week that the England Under-21, who is in the final 12 months of his Black Cats contract, needed to sign a new deal or be sold.
Sunderland have been holding talks with Wickham’s agent throughout the summer after his five goals at the end of last season proved crucial towards the club remaining in the Premier League.
But the 21-year-old’s father hit back at Poyet’s ultimatum on social media over the weekend.
Sources close to Wickham have also indicated that while contract talks have been held, Sunderland are yet to make a formal offer.