Fletcher in line for return from injury
Gus Poyet has revealed there is a "possibility" that Steven Fletcher could make an early return from injury against Swansea this weekend.
Fletcher, 26, has made a return to full training this week after injuring his shoulder against Crystal Palace last month. With Poyet's side currently bottom of the Premier League after seven games, their need for points has become even more apparent.
Citing Fletcher as an important player for the Black Cats, the new Sunderland boss confirmed there is a chance the Scotland international could make his return ahead of schedule away to Swansea City.
"There is a big possibility [Fletcher will feature]," Poyet told the club's official website. "It's some of the very good news from this week. Every player is important but we know in football that there is a few positions that are key; the goalkeeper, the spine of the team and the main man up front scoring goals. We need goals; we need players who have got the ability and Fletcher is one of those players.
"It's funny because we are trying to make him train as much as we can but without breaking him. We are nearly there and I’m sure he’s also happy to be part of the team trying to get ready for Saturday.”
Meanwhile, the trip to Wales could also see the return of defender Phil Bardsley after almost six months away from the first team, with Craig Gardner believing his teammates would welcome him back into the fold.
Bardsley joined the Black Cats from Manchester United in 2008 and has previously won the club's Player of The Year award.
However, last season ended on a sour note for the defender after he was excluded from the squad by Paolo Di Canio for being pictured in the early hours of the morning lying on a casino floor surrounded by money.
With the Italian unable to relocate Bardsley during the summer transfer window, he remained on Wearside and may now be given a second chance by Di Canio's replacement Poyet.
The news has divided opinion amongst Sunderland fans, however midfielder Gardner feels the side can only benefit from the potential return of Bardsley -- whom he believes deserves a second chance.
"Bardo's a class player and, while it is the manager's decision, I think he deserves a second chance," Gardner told the Sunderland Echo. "He's a good player and it was only a couple of years ago that he was our player of the year. Hopefully Phil will get that chance again because there is no doubt about his ability."
The former Aston Villa midfielder was also full of praise for Poyet. Describing him as "brilliant", Gardner is equally optimistic that Bardsley's potential return may see him earn more action in his preferred role of central midfield.
"The new manager has been brilliant," Gardner added. "He has spoken to the lads -- or at least all the lads that have been here during the international break -- and he wants us to play in our natural positions where possible.
"I've played some games at right-back and Jack Colback has played at left-back, but we both prefer playing in central midfield and hopefully we'll get a chance to do that.
"Of course, when there are injuries it is good to have players who can play in other positions. But if Ondrej Celustka or Bardo is fit at right-back, and once Andrea Dossena is fit at left-back, it would allow the manager to use me and Jack in midfield."