Fresh injury blow for Scotland’s Steven Fletcher

Steven Fletcher challenges international team-mate James Morrison during Sunderland's 3-0 defeat to West Brom. Picture: AFP
Steven Fletcher challenges international team-mate James Morrison during Sunderland's 3-0 defeat to West Brom. Picture: AFP
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SCOTLAND striker Steven Fletcher sustained a suspected dislocated shoulder in Sunderland’s 3-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion yesterday.

The centre forward landed awkwardly after firing a volley over the bar during the second half at the Hawthorns. The injury is likely to rule him out of Scotland’s final World Cup qualifier, against Croatia at Hampden on 15 October.

It is a cruel blow for Fletcher, who only recently returned to action for his club following an ankle injury he picked up while playing for Scotland against Wales in March.

Paolo Di Canio, the Sunderland manager, said: “We have sent him to hospital. He came back very good from his ankle injury and quickly, and now he may have to stay out for more than two weeks. It was painful. The shoulder was still out and they couldn’t touch it. It is very bad at the moment, everything is negative.”

Sunderland were losing 1-0 at the time and, with all substitutes used, they had to play on with ten men and were further punished by goals from Liam Ridgewell and Morgan Amalfitano. The result keeps the Wearside team rooted to the bottom of the Barclays Premier League with just one point from their first five games. Some travelling supporters vented their frustration at Di Canio at the final whistle. Sunderland now face tough games against Liverpool and Manchester United and Di Canio accepts he may have limited time to turn things around. He said: “It is obvious if we keep going lose, lose, lose there will be a natural consequences, not only for Paolo di Canio.”

Fletcher, who was Sunderland’s top scorer last season with 11 goals, made a scoring return to the team last month when he came on as a substitute against Crystal Palace. Scotland assistant Mark McGhee wanted to recall him immediately to the national side but manager Gordon Strachan urged caution and left the striker out of the squad for the recent games against Belgium and Macedonia. Such is Fletcher’s importance to Scotland that Strachan said last week that Fletcher would be in his next squad as long “as he was breathing”. It now looks as if he will be missing for the foreseeable future.

There was an injury concern for another Scotland striker yesterday as Leigh Griffiths limped out of Wolves’ 1-0 win at Shrewsbury in the 66th minute with a damaged ankle.