Steven Fletcher must rest as his Sunderland season stalls again

A BIG MISS: Steven Fletcher. Picture by FRANK REID
A BIG MISS: Steven Fletcher. Picture by FRANK REID

THE fate of Steven Fletcher’s 2013-14 campaign is hanging in the balance with the Scottish international ordered to rest for the next two weeks in a bid to save his season.

The striker has been troubled by a persistent Achilles tendon injury which has badly hampered both his training and his first-team football this year.

And despite all efforts to treat the problem, the 26-year-old has continued to struggle.

His last full game was the Capital One Cup semi-final second leg against Manchester United last month. He came on as a substitute in the Stoke game a week later but did not even make the bench for last Saturday’s Tyne-Wear derby.

And GusPoyet admits that Sunderland are in danger of running out of options other than surgery – a move which would obviously have big implications for the forwards’ season.

He told SportMail: “The plan is for Steven to rest and to receive specialist treatment.

“I really don’t know exactly what treatment he will have – I’m an expert on knees and ankles but not Achilles.

“The hope is that after a fortnight out, he will be able to return for the Arsenal game, towards the end of February.”

It looks like a last chance saloon moment for the Scot who has had a pretty miserable campaign so far.

Suffering from a long-term ankle injury at the start of it, he made a goal-scoring return in the 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace at the end of August but was soon on the sidelines again.

And although he returned, his 22 Sunderland appearances this season have yielded just three goals.

His situation has not been helped by the Achilles problem which has left him a shadow of his normal self up front but Poyet will hope that the enforced spell on the sidelines will cure the problem and make an operation unnecessary.

In the meantime Poyet has warned England Under 21 international Connor Wickham that he must seize the opportunity Fletcher’s unavailability presents.

“ I hope Connor is ready,” he said.

“He’s maybe not expecting to play but he must realise that he could be called on to play a big part for us.

“He needs to be prepared and I hope he is, because the way things are in the last few weeks, it has been a pleasure playing for Sunderland and this could be his chance to make his own impact.”