Skipper: Fletcher is key

Published:
by Stuart Vose

O'Shea backs team-mate after Nacional run-out.

John O'Shea has praised team-mate Steven Fletcher as the striker continues to work towards full fitness in pre-season.

Fletcher has played in three of Sunderland's five pre-season friendlies so far, scoring twice on his comeback from injury against Darlington 1883.

We've seen what he does for us when fully fit, scoring goals. He's a fantastic finisher with his left foot and a threat in the air as well

- O'Shea on Fletcher

The Scot also featured against Hartlepool, hitting the post, and again versus CD Nacional in Portugal on Wednesday evening.

He turned in an impressive performance against the Premeira Liga side and completed the full 90 minutes.

Fletcher saw his 2013-14 campaign disrupted by injuries and captain O'Shea says having the striker back fit and firing would be a big boost.

“Steven is a massive asset for us,” said the Irishman, who also posted 90 minutes against Nacional.

“We've seen what he does for us when fully fit, scoring goals. He's a fantastic finisher with his left foot and a threat in the air as well.

“Obviously we've got Jozy [Altidore] to come back too, and Connor [Wickham] with the way he finished last season, so hopefully there's plenty to look forward to.”

Fletcher started the game against Nacional up front, with Wickham deployed wide on the left.

The pair dovetailed well, with Wickham almost opening the scoring in the first half when he latched on a superb Fletcher through ball only to be denied by the goalkeeper.

And O'Shea, who is entering his fourth season at the Stadium of Light, felt the duo linked up effectively at the Estadio Municipal de Albufeira.

“When you have Fletch and Connor's ability they're more than capable of switching, with Fletch pulling wide and Connor going through the middle.

“Fletch maybe has more of a natural striker's instinct and Connor can drift to the right as well as left.

“It gives us a good option. We don't just need to keep the ball with short passing, we can go more direct if we need to."