CROCKED forward Steven Fletcher has remained behind at Sunderland while his team-mates have jetted off on their summer holidays.
The Scotland international is on the comeback trail following an ankle injury which ended his season in mid-March.
And with his rehabilitation at a sensitive stage, coaching staff have delayed his departure until he gets to the next stage of his recovery.
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet revealed that the the 27-year-old, who suffered a season wrecked by injuries, is making decent progress.
But he says now is an important time to build the £12million man up further.
“Fletch has been out jogging,” Poyet told SportMail.
“He’s doing well, but, before he goes on holiday, he needs a minimum of two weeks training every day.
“He doesn’t have to do it all with us – he can do a lot of it on his own.
“But it will be a few weeks before he can go away, when he’s fully recovered.”
The big-money Martin O’Neill signing from Wolves just under two years ago managed to make 13 starts this season and was involved in 20 games overall, in which he scored three goals.
But much more was expected of a natural goalscorer who had an impressive first season in 2012-13, scoring 11 goals in 31 games before that campaign, too, was curtailed by injury.
The ankle injury which cut the former Burnley and Hibs striker’s first campaign short also extended through pre-season and he did not make his first-team return until the end of August – scoring in his comeback match at Crystal Palace.
He struggled to show his best form though and was regularly hampered by injuries, finally conceding defeat to a long-standing ankle injury when he limped out of the return game against Palace at the Stadium of Light on March 15.
The good news for Fletcher, though, is that, with the work he is doing now, and if his progress continues, there should be no long-term damage and he could he be real asset to the squad next season.
Poyet added: “He’s been out for a while.
“The ankle was in a boot first for some time and then he’s needed to start building up his strength, before he has even been able to train.
“He has recovered well, though.
“Normally these kind of injuries fully recover without any problems.
“He had a problem before with that ankle, but he’s going to be alright and he will continue to focus on his rehab work.”
Meanwhile, Jozy Altidore has told a TV station that he wants to remain at Sunderland – despite netting just once since his summer move to Wearside.
Whether the USA striker is still at the Stadium of Light at the start of next season is open to doubt.
Poyet has continued to support Altidore despite his troubles in front of goal, while the former Hull loanee himself insists he is happy to stay.
Sunderland would need to recoup the bulk of their investment in Altidore too if they were to let the striker leave this summer.
“I’m always a person that doesn’t give up easily,” added Altidore on ESPN.
“So, I’m looking forward to having the chance.
“And if not, if we come to the conclusion that’s not the best option and I go somewhere else, you know, so be it.
“As of right now my mind set is obviously on the World Cup, but as well as getting back to Sunderland and having a better season.”