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Steven Fletcher: Management, Not Banishment, Required

It's fashionable to be outraged these days, but it's not a look that ever looks good on anyone for long.

Scott Heavey

I think that by now most fans have seen the stories in the Sunday press regarding Steven Fletcher's alleged indiscretions. If you haven't, and you are capable of finding this page, then they won't be difficult for you to find on your own.

It's a tough situation to comment on really. Some will say why bother discussing it at all, but it's sort of our raison d'etre to cover the big issues that Sunderland fans are talking about. Picking and choosing for ourselves would make us just as agenda-driven as the people who print this kind of story in the first place.

And that kind of brings us to the first key point in all of this. What allegedly happened is not something that we condone in any way. If it is true, then it is pretty lousy behaviour. However, we should always be mindful of the fact that the tabloid press exist for sensationalism.

If they were not masters at making a story appear a zillion times bigger than it actually is, then they probably wouldn't be about in the first place. I don't know if they simply tap into an existing culture for outrage or whether they did more than most to create it, but it's why their presence persists.

It is certainly interesting that for an alleged social media-related faux pas, no screenshots or anything have emerged.

However, the truthfulness behind such stories is almost secondary here. If he had no name value - that is to say if his name did not sell papers - no one would be outraged, least of all the papers. 'Man in 20s gets drunk, acts like a bit of a berk' isn't really going to send shockwaves through the world's newsrooms. If it did then half of us would probably be notorious. The male half, obviously.

The fact that he is a professional footballer is everything, so how it is reacted to, and dealt with, in football terms becomes the most prevalent point for me.

On that topic, there appears to be two concise points of view. Either manage the player or banish him.

Whilst I can appreciate the latter point of view, I personally can't see past the former. A lot of that is based on history - specifically that I judged the Phil Bardsley situation last summer completely wrong. I was just about ready to endorse a public hanging, but he knuckled down, rode out the storm, and used it to refocus himself to allow him to come back better than ever. Sometimes in life we all need a watershed moment.

There is also the fact, of course, that Steven Fletcher is a very talented footballer. Granted, he has struggled on the pitch of late but we all know his quality. When fit and firing, he is one of the biggest assets the club have. It stands to reason we will be better served by harnessing that than writing it off.

As a comparison you can look at Adam Johnson's recent form. Had the club written him off and sold him at the start of January, where would we be now? The chances are we'd be a crucial few points worse off for sure, whilst a rival was benefiting from his recent stunning form.

Adam Johnson and Phil Bardsley provide reminders to us all of the value of quality football management. That's why top managers are tough to find, and why you back one properly when you do get one and give him all the tools you possibly can.

Like just about anyone in the squad, if a big offer over the next 12 days is made then it will ask questions of the club. You'd think that the likes of Sam Allardyce could be looking at this and thinking it may be worth asking that question.

However, actively trying to banish Steven Fletcher based on this would, for me, be total folly. Deal with it internally, let this storm in a teacup blow itself out, and hope that if this represents his rock bottom then managing the player will help him make it the platform for a Bardsley-esque bounce.

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