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Poyet Explains Steven Fletcher Absence

Was the Scot dropped due to tabloid shame? Was there a row before the game?

Chris Brunskill

Gus Poyet has tried to cool rampant rumours regarding Steven Fletcher's strange absence from the Sunderland warm-up against Southampton.

The former-Wolves striker was a surprising omission from the side and then failed to appear for the pre-game warm-up, fueling speculation that there was some kind of row with the management before the game. Those rumours were intensified the following day when the tabloids printed some fairly naughty allegations about his private-life.

But was it all connected? Conspiracy theorists can stand down, insists Poyet. He told The Sunderland Echo:

We were trying not to play him at all because he had a problem, a little injury.

We would not have involved him if we had been doing well.

I asked him to take a risk for him and for his team-mates and, credit to him, he did. It's a tricky injury and he could have made it worse.

But he was happy in his warm-up and on the bike indoors before the game, and he gave us a very good 20 minutes.

Sometimes you have to think of the player and I did not want to be responsible for him getting injured by starting him in the game. But he came through it OK and we just have to assess how it will be in the next few days.

So, according to Poyet, quite the opposite of being sulky about not playing. To be fair to the player, he looked well up for it when he came on as well. Actually more energetic than usual.

May be he was aware of the imminent tabloid storm and was trying to make a preemptive show of defiance or may be it was just as simple as Poyet suggests.

Either way, a little credit to the player is probably due.