STEVEN Fletcher has gone under the knife in a bid to make sure he is ready for the start of Sunderland’s pre-season campaign.
The Journal can reveal the Scotland striker underwent an operation on his injured ankle in London on Monday and is now feeling increasingly confident about his chances of making the start of pre-season.
Sunderland’s top scorer is said to be in “good spirits” after the procedure, which the club have decided he requires after a lengthy period of assessing the ligament damage. Fletcher was ruled out of the season at the end of March after suffering the injury during Scotland’s World Cup qualifying clash with Wales.
Such was the extent of the swelling it has taken several weeks to decide what the best course of action was, but he is now recovering with one eye on Sunderland’s pre-season campaign.
Of course there is plenty of work to be done in the meantime, Simon Mignolet warning the feel-good factor will be wiped out in an instant if they lose to Everton this weekend.
The mood in the Black Cats
camp has soared since the arrival of new boss Paolo Di Canio, who earned instant credit with the Sunderland supporters by leading the team to their first derby win on Tyneside soil for 13 years.
It has created the momentum that Sunderland were desperately lacking under former boss Martin O’Neill but the table tells a different tale, and their Premier League status is still in serious peril.
The visit of Champions League-chasing Everton is another major examination of the new regime but Mignolet feels that a repeat of the all-action displays in Di Canio’s first two games would give Sunderland another victory.
For the Belgian goalkeeper – again linked with Arsenal yesterday – it is a relief that the hard work put in on the training ground is finally paying off after a period of what he believes was bad fortune.
He said: “If you look at the last couple of weeks we were unlucky and we didn't get the points we would have wanted.
“The players have worked hard but without the points, it's been so frustrating, so when we won on Sunday it meant more on so many levels. To get three points, three goals away at Newcastle was a very good feeling for us all. But this feeling will go away rather quickly when you get defeated. That's why we have to enjoy the moment and then we have got an important game against Everton on Saturday. We need to repeat that and do the same again to keep the momentum going.”
The theme of the week from the red and white camp has been the amount of work still to do to extricate Sunderland from the relegation mire and Mignolet, a sober and rational character at both the best and worst of times, is preaching from the same hymn book.
With five games still to go, another slump would be unforgiveable.
“We have got another three points, that's all in terms of the league,” he said. “We could have lost three points, but we are still down there. There's a lot of work still to be done to make sure we are still in this division. We can enjoy the moment but we have to make sure we do not get carried away for the Everton game. There is still a lot to play for, 15 points, let's focus on that.”
Mignolet was party to the wild celebrations in the St James’ Park dressing room after the game and ranks the feeling as probably the best of his Sunderland career.
“We had games against Manchester City and Tottenham around Christmas time and they were very important games for us to get results and the points,” he said.