Steven Fletcher is not being ushered towards the Sunderland exit and remains an 'important' player in the club's plans, insists Gus Poyet.
Fletcher has been the subject of transfer speculation linking him with a move all month, with Celtic, Stoke and Hull particularly said to be interested in taking the Scotland international. That transfer talk, especially from Stoke, has incensed Poyet, though.
Instead, he plans on ensuring the striker sticks around. He told reporters:
With Steve, we know each other a lot better now. He knows us as a staff, and myself as a head coach, better. He knows how we deal with situations, and how we trust the players. I think everything is clearer.
There is no doubt about how important he is for us, how much we care about him. When we need to give him an extra day's rest for whatever reason, he's been great.
Now we need him just to score a few goals for us. That would be perfect for him.
It is difficult to predict how things are going to go once you get into the final few days of any transfer window, especially the January one. You would be well-advised to not rule anything out at this stage.
However, it is nice to see Poyet speaking so positively about Fletcher. He hasn't played well this season and, as the manager alluded to, I think a lot of that is down to him struggling to adapt to the fresh ideas and system since the Uruguayan was appointed.
Some players, such as Ki Sung-Yueng, Jack Colback and Wes Brown have slotted into it without missing a beat. Others, such as Lee Cattermole for instance, can be said to be coping with it but little more. But Fletcher and a couple others are finding it tough. You can see it every time they play.
But that doesn't suddenly make him a bad footballer. You always sense with Fletcher that he is capable of going off on a mad scoring run for a few games at any given moment. It could be that which keeps us up. It's important not to give up on him.
Seeing where Ignacio Scocco fits in will be fascinating. Hopefully though, we will see Fletcher deliver a lot more this season. He is certainly capable of it.