STEVEN Fletcher’s fine goalscoring record will continue once the striker gets in the groove of playing games regularly.
That’s the view of Black Cats boss Gus Poyet, who is grateful to have the £12million hit-man back in harness after a lengthy lay-off.
Fletcher missed the last two months of last season and the start of the current one after suffering an ankle on international duty for Scotland.
He scored on his comeback game against Crystal Palace at the end of August but was sidelined for a further three weeks when he sustained a shoulder injury in the game against West Brom on September 21.
He subsequently scored on his return – getting the opener against Newcastle – and now has two goals in nine appearances.
But Poyet believes the 26-year-old can be the regular goalscorer of old one he gets a run of games.
“Steven Fletcher is a key player for us because he can score goals and we need to put him in a situation where he can give us that option,” said the Uruguayan.
“The more he plays, the more he is going to score us goals and the more he is going to enjoy it. He’s a real, natural goalscorer and all he needs is a run of regular games without injury.
“We have to remember that he was out for a long time, came back, got injured again and is only now coming back once more.
“It is unfair to put too much pressure on him too soon – it is only a matter of time before he starts scoring regularly for us if he stays injury-free.
Poyet spent his 46th birthday on Friday watching Fletcher’s Scotland go up against Jozy Altidore’s USA in what proved to be a goalless draw at Hampden Park.
But the head coach believes the two strikers could be a genuinely potent pairing if they develop a partnership.
“It will be interesting,” he said.”I would not fancy, as a defender, playing 80 or 90 minutes against those two. It’s about understandings as well.
“People enjoy playing around other people, learning how to link well and it is good to start trying different partners to see what might work best.
“Sometimes they used to say that when Michael Owen was at his very best, they included Emile Heskey in the national team, just because Owen played better with Heskey.
“I thought that was odd, interesting.
“But you learn from that because sometimes you look at only the individual and how many goals they have scored and that is not necessarily the right way.
“If Heskey is not scoring that many but Owen is scoring double what he might normally score, then there are obvious compensations from that selection.”
Fletcher has returned to the Academy of Light in the wake of Friday’s draw with the United States and will not be involved in Scotland’s game against Norway in the Aker Stadion, Molde tomorrow night.
Scotland boss Gordon Strachan agreed it would be asking too much for Fletcher to play two games in five days at this stage of his return from injury.