STEVEN Fletcher is on course to return in time for Sunder-land’s pre-season campaign after visiting a specialist last week.
The Scotland striker went under the knife in the middle of April to repair ligament damage around his ankle – and it is understood he is on track with his recovery from the injury.
After delaying a holiday to continue his rehabilitation, Fletcher has now been given the green light to go away.
That is good news for head coach Paolo Di Canio, who wants to make Fletcher the focal point of his frontline.
Sunderland are yet to announce their full pre-season programme but Fletcher could be ready to play some part in the Barclays Asia Trophy, which takes place between July 24 and 27.
Di Canio will wait until nearer the date before deciding whether the forward will be ready to return to action in a tournament which is a step up from the usual tune-ups around that time of year.
Fletcher is hopeful of making his return in time to be ready for the start of the Premier League campaign, which is due to kick off on Saturday, August 19.
Although there are still question marks surrounding Stephane Sessegnon’s role in the Di Canio revolution, there are no such doubts about frontman Fletcher’s position in the pecking order.
The Italian name-checked the Scotland striker several times before the end of the season and said he would like to help the former Wolves man improve his “all-round game” next year.
It is also worth pointing out Fletcher has just moved house, another indication Sunderland’s record signing is putting down firm roots in the area.
While Fletcher prepares to come back, Sunderland are ready to bid farewell to Simon Mignolet this week – provided Liverpool are prepared to up their offer of around £7million.
A further round of discussions has failed to finalise a deal but there is a confidence on both sides the move will be concluded soon.
The deal is expected to be structured with a lump sum up front with further payments if Liverpool – and Mignolet – achieve certain set targets.
The Journal understands Mignolet is out of the country but his representatives have his blessing to negotiate before any unveiling by the Reds.
As reported in The Journal yesterday, Keiren Westwood is set to be given the nod to take over from Mignolet as first-choice goalkeeper next season.
However, Sunderland do want to recruit another goalkeeper – with RKC Waalwijk’s Holland under-21 stopper Jeroen Zoet understood to be their number one target.
His parent club PSV Eindhoven would be prepared to sell a player who kept nine clean sheets in 33 Eredivisie games, and Sunderland have registered an interest.
The thinking behind that would be that Zoet – who has played 20 times for Holland’s under-21 side – could push Westwood in the same way the Republic of Ireland goalkeeper has kept Belgian ace Mignolet on his toes.
If a deal for Zoet is done, Sunderland will allow their promising young goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to go out on loan to obtain more first-team football next season.