STEVEN FLETCHER will need at least another fortnight before he is up to speed after being left breathless by Sunderland’s training regime.
Fletcher has been back in full training for almost three weeks now after missing the start of the season while he continued his rehabilitation from March’s ankle injury.
The Scotland international is now fit enough to start games and demonstrated that he has lost none of his goal-scoring prowess after netting in his comeback from the bench in Sunderland’s 3-1 defeat at Crystal Palace two weeks ago.
But head coach Paolo Di Canio admits Fletcher is still not in peak condition and has faced a chastening time at the Academy of Light after making the leap to joining in full training.
Di Canio said: “He’s worked so hard, but he gets tired, although that’s normal.
“In the last few days, we’ve reduced intensity and made the sessions more technical and tactical.
“He’s okay. But it’s obvious for him that it will take him another two or three weeks to see him fully fit.
“He had sessions with Claudio (Donatelli, Sunderland fitness coach) before, but they were not tactical or technical.
“In the last two weeks, he’s been full-time, a real full-time player in training with high intensity.
“But even if he can give us 100 per cent for 45 minutes, or 80 per cent for 65 minutes, it could be crucial.”
Di Canio has benefited from having Fletcher at his disposal during the international break, with Scotland boss Gordon Strachan opting not to call up the 26-year-old for the World Cup qualifiers against Belgium and Macedonia.
But Fletcher is expected to return to the international fold for next month’s clash against Croatia, with Strachan admitting Fletcher is a key part of his plans.
“When Steven returns it will be a big boost. There is absolutely no doubt of that,” said Strachan.
“He is a top player and can play any system. Steven’s game all round is top class.”