GUS POYET insists Steven Fletcher has a crucial part to play in Sunderland’s fight for survival.
Fletcher has netted just three times this season, with his last goal coming in December’s draw at Cardiff, albeit the Scotland striker was on the treatment table for a month with an Achilles problem.
Despite admitting how severely that injury was affecting him, Fletcher has come under fire from supporters after struggling to hit the heights of his maiden campaign on Wearside.
But head coach Poyet believes Fletcher boasts the scoring pedigree needed to make the difference in the relegation battle, particularly as Sunderland can only average a goal per game in the Premier League this season.
And the Uruguayan is keen to see Fletcher get up to pace by getting minutes under his belt, whether that is on the international stage or for Sunderland after he started his first game since January in last Sunday’s defeat at Hull.
Poyet said: “We need him. A lot.
“I’m pleased that he played for Scotland last week. I know managers are always afraid of players going away on international duty and I understand why.
“If I was Arsene Wenger and I’d seen Jack Wilshere (injured in England’s friendly against Denmark) on the floor, I’d be thinking ‘Oh God, here we go again’.
“But you cannot plan when players are going to get injured.
“Playing for your national team is a great experience and you want to win.
“There are always consequences of playing games. If you’re a Formula One driver, you can crash. If you’re a footballer, you can get injured.
“We talk to the doctors of course to see if anyone comes back with any injuries, but it’s no worse than if you play in a reserve game.”
Neither Fletcher or striker partner Nacho Scocco made a convincing case for their inclusion in this weekend’s crunch clash with fifth bottom Crystal Palace, as Sunderland slumped to defeat at Hull last Sunday.
Fabio Borini, a second half substitute at the KC Stadium, is almost certain to return against Palace and Poyet must decide whether to continue with two strikers or revert to the lone frontman which has served Sunderland well this season.
Poyet added: “There’s going to be games when it is right to do that (play with two strikers). But it will depend on the game.
“We know what Fabio gives us, it’s clear, and depending on the game, we will play one way or the other.”