Sunderland French international reveals what he told Steven Fletcher about Marseille move

Steven Fletcher

Steven Fletcher

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Steven Fletcher was in the Academy of Light gym when he was summoned to Sam Allardyce’s office to hear news of Marseille’s approach.

As the clock ticked on deadline day morning, the Sunderland frontman had no opportunity for careful consideration over a possible move to Ligue 1.

It was now or never if the Scot was to join one of the giants of French football by 11pm that night.

Fortuitously for Fletcher, there was no shortage of advice in the canteen after receiving the news.

The January arrival of Wahbi Khazri and Lamine Kone has increased the French-speaking contingent at Sunderland, with the pair joining Yann M’Vila and Younes Kaboul in the dressing room.

And it was M’Vila who urged Fletcher to jump at the proposal to join Marseille on loan until the end of the season, with the Scottish international making his debut as a late substitute in Sunday night’s defeat to PSG.

“We spoke before he went, he came and asked me about it,” said M’Vila.

“I said if you’re going to France, then PSG, Lyon and Marseille are the clubs to go and play for.

“Luckily, he had Marseille knocking at the door.

“I’ve seen a lot of people talking about it, but they had heard about him and knew he was a great striker before he went there.

“I watched him when he came on against PSG and I was willing him to score. Unfortunately he didn’t have a lot of time on the pitch.

“But I’m sure he’s going to do well there.

“He’s a hard-worker, with a great left foot, great with his head.”

M’Vila knows the challenge of moving to an overseas league, where there are the inevitable language, cultural and footballing barriers.

When he joined Russian club Ruben Kazan for around £10million in January 2013, it proved to be an ill-feted move for M’Vila, who was sent out on loan to Inter Milan 18 months later after just 24 appearances.

But from his very first competitive appearance in a Sunderland shirt in the defeat to Norwich City last August, M’Vila has looked completely at home in the Premier League.

The French international has thrived with the pace and physicality of English football. Even Sunderland’s dire troubles in the relegation battle have not dimmed the shining light of the side.

The 25-year-old said: “I knew from the outset that Sunderland and the Premier League was going to be the league for me.

“I knew I would love it here, that’s why I hope sincerely I will be able to stay with Sunderland and in the Premier League.”

M’Vila is eager to remain at the Stadium of Light if the Black Cats beat the drop, but before his future comes on the agenda in the summer, he wants to ensure the club is still in the Premier League.

Sunderland remain four points adrift of the safety mark ahead of Saturday’s visit of Manchester United after last weekend’s late comeback secured a 2-2 draw at Liverpool.

But M’Vila hopes Sunderland experience of escaping from the jaws of relegation will be a defining ingredient in the survival battle.

He added: “It’s fair to say it has been a tough season so far.

“We have been down the bottom of the league for the whole season, but Sunderland have a lot of experience of getting out of this position.

“We will all give 100 per cent to get out of this position and make people happy.

“Against Liverpool, although I don’t think we played our best, we managed to get a draw.

“That gives us confidence going into the game against Manchester United and hopefully we can get the three points.

“Every player in the squad has the mental strength to give 100% and that will help fight to stay in the Premier League.”