JOHN O’SHEA says Sunderland’s dressing room has been boosted by the return to fitness of Steven Fletcher
Last season’s top scorer Fletcher returned to the Sunderland squad for Tuesday night’s Capital One Cup victory over MK Dons after five months on the sidelines with ankle ligament damage.
Fletcher will be involved again at Crystal Palace tomorrow, with the Scotland international due to travel with the rest of the Sunderland party to South London today.
And although the 26-year-old is expected to begin the game on the bench, skipper O’Shea believes the frontman’s team-mates have been buoyed by the sight of the former Wolves man being back in the fold.
“It’s a big boost to have Fletch back because we realize what a good player, what a special player he is, so fingers crossed,” said O’Shea.
“Let’s wait and see if he’s involved against Palace. If he is then great and if not, then he’ll have the chance during the international break to build up his fitness and hopefully be raring to go for the Arsenal match.
“It’ll just keep everyone on their toes as well, the new signings and the other lads, it’ll give everyone a boost to see him back.
“He’s a good lad and hopefully he can stay fully fit for the rest of the season.”
Sunderland head to newly-promoted Palace looking to savour success in the league at the third time of asking after losing on the opening day against Fulham and then being pegged back at the death at Southampton last weekend.
But at least the Black Cats tasted victory in the League Cup on Tuesday night, albeit it required a dramatic late comeback to spare their blushes.
And while skipper O’Shea acknowledges much improvement is needed at Selhurst Park this weekend, the Republic of Ireland international believes the late flurry against the League One Dons could hand Sunderland some momentum.
“It will be nice to get that win on the board as soon as possible,” added O’Shea.
“The key word is momentum and to give the confidence to everybody and to realize that when we are on song, we can be a threat.
“Obviously we were playing against a League One side but when you’re 2-0 down we had to show a bit of metal and bit of determination and a bit of fitness to come back.
“Although we hadn’t played up to standard, nowhere near our potential, MK Dons had played well and we overcame that well towards the end and showed a good attitude.
“Hopefully that will give confidence to some of the newer lads and with Jozy (Altidore) getting his first goal and hopefully we can go on a bit of a run.”