Talking Fletch with a Sunderland fan

With the Steven Fletcher transfer saga looking set to drag on for weeks to come, I took the opportunity to chat with Sunderland fan Steve from Salut! Sunderland.

Fletcher

Shall I stay or can I go?

Thomas: Hi Steve. I suppose the first obvious question is what do you think of the player? Are you as keen as Sunderland appear to be to see Fletcher arrive? Do you think he’s the man to replace Darren Bent’s goals?

Steve: I have admired Steven Fletcher for quite a while now. He’s one of these players, certainly from an outside perspective, where you maybe don’t notice him initially but then once you do you wonder how  he’s off the radar of most of the Premier League clubs. Since his double against us last year and the impressive work rate displayed, particularly for his second in that game, I have watched with admiration how he appears to finish most of the chances that come his way. With McClean and Larsson flanking him, I could see him become prolific here, absolutely. I was delighted when it became apparent we were after him.

Thomas: Yes, I think his goal/chance ratio must be right up there with the best. We put a lot of crosses into the box last year, but they weren’t always of the best quality and often when teams had chance to get man back and re-group. He scores all types of goals too, which is nice. A lot has been made of his heading ability, but he’s actually incredibly skillful and light on his feet. I don’t want to use the term ‘complete striker’ but he’s certainly got a bit of everything. Blimey, even I’m beginning to think he’s worth £15 million! Speaking of which, what about the fee? Looks like Wolves are holding out for the full 15 million smackers. That’s a massive slab of dosh isn’t it? I thought £10-12 million was a fair price myself.

Steve: It’s surprising and disappointing that Wolves had turned down £12m for him. People here have generally been split over that particular sum to start with, never mind anything more. A lot of people see a player from a relegated club and automatically associate that with the assumption that any of their players must be rubbish. All clubs possess these small minded fans, however, and the consensus amongst the rest of us is that he will change the whole dynamics of our side.  We have had a poor pre-season and  the main reason for that is that we appear to have played a system without the focal point necessary to make it work- i.e the centre forward who can hold and finish. A proven Premier League player providing this will always cost over £10m. Maybe Wolves know this and know how badly we need him.

Thomas: I think that’s exactly it. Wolves know how badly you want the player. They’ve set their stall out to get the full amount and don’t see a reason to budge. It’s now just a case of who blinks first. I would have been happy with £12 million. In fact, I wouldn’t have slated the club for selling at £10 million. What do you make of this tug-of-war between the two clubs? Fletcher handing in a transfer request? I suppose it’s just the way high-profile transfers are conducted nowadays?

Steve: It appears to be standard these days that clubs have to think of their own PR when conducting deals publicly. I always sensed Fletcher would hand in a request to force a move.  I thought Wolves may go for it then and devoid themselves of any blame. I feel O’Neill has done brilliantly in refusing to talk about it though, and I feel Wolves are simply trying to show their fans they won’t be pushed around. If this goes on any longer it will be even more counter productive, however. It is reflective of men in suits running football clubs that the board fail to see that the manager would rather have the cash in now so he can bed his own new players into the side. Moral and positivity can’t be underestimated in football. How we loved Niall Quinn being in charge here, a real football man.

Thomas: Definitely. I think it’s already been counter-productive. Our season starts on Saturday and we’re short in a few areas, despite having vast numbers of average players for most positions. Wolves as a club are definitely guilty, and not just in this instance, of trying to run it like any other business. Football is a business of course, but it’s a unique business where other factors come into play. Like you say, having a football man like Quinn at the top is never a bad idea. Still, while this is ongoing are you concerned another club might swoop in and pay the money?

Steve: I was, when figures of £9-10m were being floated around. I think he’d be a great foil for Darren B£nt at Aston Villa. The reason that Villa have B£nt however, makes me conclude that paying over £12m for another striker wouldn’t be in their best interests and I’m not sure they have that kind of money anyway. I feel we will sign him for around £13m and it well be after the season has started. As frustrating for both sets of fans as that is.

Thomas: That’s definitely the most likely conclusion. I suppose for both teams, the important long-term issue is that when the transfer window shuts, we’ve got our houses in order. Wolves still have plenty of business to do, so it promises to be a long month.  What did you make of the talk about Connor Wickham being part of the deal? Were you keen to offload him? Would he be a useful player at Wolves?

Steve: Wickham is another who has divided opinion with fans. He came with a big transfer fee and people have sometimes allowed that to cloud their judgement on him. We have some kids who have graduated from the academy who are the bee’s knees in some fans’ eyes but Connor is even younger than them. He was starting to look handy before he was injured last season and he looked very decent in our games when we played in South Korea a couple weeks back. He’s extremely raw but he’s an O’Neill kind of forward and i think he will come good. If you got him i feel it would be on loan only and he’d be more than capable in the Championship. More realistically, I feel Frazier Campbell may be one more mediocre performance away from being offered permantley in any deal. He could be a real star in the right environment and he probably needs a fresh start somewhere.

Thomas: Very interesting. We’ve of course got Doyle, Ebanks-Blake and two other new signings, so I think our reluctance to take on another striker is probably hampering the deal as much as anything else. Lets just hope it gets sorted out sooner rather than later. In the meantime. You’ve also been linked with our forward come left-back Stephen Ward. What do you think about that deal? He’s certainly a good outlet going forward from deep positions, but defensively he’s been found out on numerous occasions. Interested?

Steve: Reports today that appear to disregard any interest in Stephen Ward have been met with a huge sigh of relief. With all due respect to the player, we are surely in a position to attract better players than that standard. I couldn’t see any positive spin on the speculation that he was being chased by us, not by anybody. All the best for the season in an ever improving Championship. I hope the actions of your board aren’t to the detriment of both of our sides for much longer.

Thomas: Thanks Steve. Good luck for the season and in the remaining days/weeks of this saga.

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