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Disaster looms as Sunderland consider letting star man leave

| 11.01.2014

For a club fully embroiled in a Premier League relegation scrap, four points adrift of safety and rooted to the foot of the table, selling their best striker halfway through the season doesn’t immediately conjure thoughts of a transfer masterstroke.

In these situations, clubs in peril can often have their hand forced by a big-hitter looking to siphon some talent at a reduced price, but when the names cropping up in the hunt to sign said frontman reside just a few places higher in the table, well, then alarm bells should be frenetic.

Sunderland fans are those preparing to press the panic button with Steven Fletcher believed to be the target of relegation battlers Hull and West Brom, as well as Celtic north of the border.

Injuries prevented the Scottish international from playing a full part in the early stages of the campaign, but since his return to the first team he’s had to share spearheading responsibilities with Jozy Altidore.

The American international’s goalscoring meekness isn’t going to haul the Black Cats clear of danger in a hurry though. His one league goal in 18 appearances won’t have the vultures circling in the same way they’re eyeing up Fletcher, who has ended each of the previous three top-flight campaigns in double digits and currently tops their scoring charts.

Each of the Wearsiders’ three league wins this term have come when Fletcher has been pitched in from the off, this is in stark contrast to the eight losses in the 12 top tier clashes they’ve suffered when Altidore has been selected to start.

Without him, Gus Poyet’s plans to beat the drop will be in severe jeopardy and it’s no wonder the club have come out to deny they’re looking to offload the former Wolves and Burnley man.

These reassuring words are important, but the reduced number of starts and strong links to other clubs suggest Sunderland – 6/4 to stay up this season – are not entirely adverse to the idea of letting Fletcher leave.

All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date

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James Middleton