GUS Poyet is not expecting injury-jinxed striker Steven Fletcher to play again this season.
The Sunderland head coach had been keeping his fingers crossed ever since the Scottish international damaged his ankle against Crystal Palace on March 15, that the £12m signing would be able to return to the relegation battle.
The Uruguayan has been regularly revising his estimates downwards with each passing Press conference but up until last week was still hopeful that the forward might be involved.
“If we could get him back for the last week, that would still be three games, (Man Utd, West Brom and Swansea), and that would be something,” he told the Echo.
But yesterday he had reluctantly accepted that those hopes were too slim to cling on to, with Fletcher showing no obvious signs of a quick return.
Poyet said: “He’s still injured and I don’t think he is going to be a possibility now.
“I have been changing my mind about that because we were trying to push it. But now I think we need to be realistic as well.”
The 27-year-old Scotland international has missed the last four games with an ankle injury, since failing to re-emerge for the second half of the goalless draw against Palace at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland have lost all four of those games.
Now the injury looks set to end the forward’s 2013-14 season prematurely, bringing the curtain down on a dreadful season for him personally.
The former Burnley and Wolves striker missed the opening weeks of the current season while still recovering from a serious ankle injury sustained in mid-March last year.
He made a goalscoring return in the 3-1 defeat at Crystal Palace on August 31 but the 23 injury-punctuated appearances he has made this season have yield just three goals in total.
That has been a major disappointment after the Scot finished leading scorer last season and was expected to be Sunderland’s main striker in the current one.
Of course Fletcher’s season is not officially over yet, even though the chances of him being involved appear remote.
But if he does not play again, the prospect is that he will have played his last game in a Sunderland shirt, with the club set to embark on a summer of rebuilding and the striker unlikely to want to be playing Championship football next season.