Sunderland boss Gus Poyet backs Connor Wickham and Steven Fletcher partnership

Gus Poyet believes that Sunderland can hit the goal trial with Connor Wickham and Steven Fletcher

Sunderland's Steven Fletcher
Sunderland's Steven Fletcher

Sunderland boss Gus Poyet believes a fit-again Steven Fletcher can be the perfect partner for Connor Wickham.

The Black Cats are trying to tie up a deal for Liverpool forward Fabio Borini – but Poyet is making plans to go into the new campaign with the same strikers that were available to him during last season’s great escape.

That includes Wickham, who became a hero when he hit the goals that helped stave off the threat of relegation, and Fletcher – who has the benefit of a full pre-season behind him after the injury-jinxed campaign that saw some doubt him last year.

Fletcher returned to pre-season early in a bid to prove his fitness and illustrate that he was ready to go this year. And it seems to have paid off, with Poyet suitably impressed by the pair – who both scored against Real Betis in Thursday’s 2-0 win.

“If we hadn’t scored on Thursday and again on Saturday, yes I would say, ‘What is going on?’,” he said.

“It’s good for the strikers especially to score a goal.

“Fletch is a much happier person now he has been able to do a whole pre-season without any problems and be proper fit to play football. That makes a difference. We just need to be lucky to keep him fit.

“Connor showed us last year what he can do. I think he’s feeling better with Fletch next to him so it’s an option. These games have given me information to make decisions about how we’re going to play in the next few weeks.

“They both understand each other very well and they linked well in Portugal. A couple of times Connor has been one-on-one with the keeper.

“It’s important because the more times you play together, the more you understand each other.”

Sunderland kick off their Premier League season with a trip to West Brom next weekend, but there is a friendly clash with Udinese this weekend before the serious business begins.

As opposed to last summer – when Paolo Di Canio ensured that Sunderland’s pre-season consisted of only their participation in the Premier League Trophy before a trip to Denmark to take on FC Midtjylland – the Black Cats have had a thorough work-out during the summer.

He said: “I need my players to be fit enough but at the same time fresh.

“We were really stiff in the last three weeks, you can’t imagine how stiff. Sometimes we were getting into good positions but it looked like they couldn’t really move.

“The two strikers on Thursday showed their quality.

“We gave them a rest on Monday and Tuesday and prepared in a different way for the Betis game. Last week in Portugal we were running in the morning and playing in the evening.

“That was a situation we created.”

Sunderland boosted their global profile yesterday by inking a partnership deal with DC United which will see them share expertise and promotion.

“Interest in football is growing massively in the USA, and our partnership with DC United will provide both clubs with an excellent opportunity to grow and evolve in each other’s market,” Sunderland’s commercial director Gary Hutchinson said.

“This is a major step forward for Sunderland AFC and a really exciting development for us in the US marketplace. We are continually looking at new ways to develop our international profile and our partnership with DC United will help us to build closer links with this key territory.”

Meanwhile, 20-year-old goalkeeper Joel Dixon has joined Hartlepool United. Sunderland have an option to recall at any point.


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