Paolo Di Canio excited by partnership
Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio is confident that Steven Fletcher and Jozy Altidore can form a lethal partnership this season.
• Randall: Tale of four strikers
Fletcher was involved in the first-team squad for the first time since March on Tuesday after recovering from an ankle injury. The Scotland international remained on the substitutes' bench as the Black Cats came from behind to defeat MK Dons 4-2 in the Capital One Cup second round.
The evening also represented a breakthrough for summer signing Altidore as he scored his first goal for the club.
And with the pair edging nearer to partnering each other for the first time, Di Canio says he is excited about such a prospect.
"Fletcher is a player who give us another option," Di Canio told the Sunderland Echo. "Jozy and him are the two players in the squad who are natural goalscorers. The others, yes, everyone can score -- Ji [Dong-Won], Connor [Wickham] and Sess [Stephane Sessegnon] -- but they [Fletcher and Altidore] are the players who score goals on instinct, players who smell the goal.
"So he’s [Fletcher] important to us. You need players who can spot mistakes in the box and capitalise on them. We will be putting a lot of balls into the box this season and we need players like Fletcher, like Jozy, who will thrive on them. Together they can be a very good partnership I feel. And so, yes, I’m looking forward to it because, in my opinion, Fletcher is intelligent, he understands what you ask."
Fletcher has often found himself embroiled in relegation battles during his time in the Premier League with Sunderland, Wolves and Burnley.
However, Di Canio is hopeful that this season will prove to be a more enjoyable one for the striker.
"I am going to offer him the chance to feel important for all the right reasons and to enjoy his football," Di Canio said. "In the four seasons he has been in the Premier League, he has been important because his goals have been needed trying to keep a side in the division.
"For me, I want him to enjoy his football, not because his goals are needed to stop a side getting relegated -- not that sort of pressure. But that he is scoring goals for a club that is pushing higher up the table and is in a much more optimistic, positive frame of mind. He’s 26 and is still very young and can have some good seasons ahead playing good football and enjoy it in a team which has a very good future."