Chris Coleman reveals what striker must do if he's to fulfill his potential

Ashley Fletcher
Ashley Fletcher

Chris Coleman admits that loanee Ashley Fletcher is struggling for confidence in front of goal, but has backed him to show his quality.

Fletcher emerged as an early target for Coleman in the January window but Middlesbrough boss Tony Pulis was initially reluctant to allow him to leave on loan.

That changed in the dying hours of deadline day as Pulis pursued a move for Newcastle United’s Aleksandar Mitrovic. Sunderland were also in talks with Swansea City’s Oli McBurnie, who moved to Barnsley and has scored three goals in four games since.

Coleman was thrilled to land Flecther but the former Manchester United youngster is still searching for his first goal.

After sitting out the 3-3 draw with his parent club last weekend, 22-year-old Fletcher is back in contention for the trip to Millwall and Coleman still believes he can handle the pressure of leading the line.

Coleman said: “We’re lacking confidence in front of goal.

"You look at Fletch, he’s really only had one full season at Barnsley, he’s learning his trade.

"When he became available we wanted him because he’s got great potential.

"I think he just needs to score to calm himself down in a way. He did some really good things in his play at Bolton. He was unlucky not to score at Bristol City and at Bolton he had the one-on-one but his second touch just took him too close to the goalkeeper.

“It’s a big thing to be Sunderland’s number nine, no disrespect to Barnsley but it is very different having that here. He is a terrific kid and we are here to help him.

“Generally we need the first goal in games, you see the stats, not just here but right across football, the first goal in games is huge.”

The Sunderland boss is hoping to have a stronger striking pool to select from for that trip to the New Den this weekend.

Josh Maja led the line in Fletcher’s absence and both will be in contention.

Kazenga LuaLua is also fighting to return from an ankle injury in time for the game.