WEST HAM UNITED have joined the growing list of clubs interested in landing Steven Fletcher this month despite Gus Poyet’s insistence that he wants the Scotland striker to stay at Sunderland.
Celtic and Hull City are both keeping an eye on the situation at the Stadium of Light, where Poyet is keen to make adjustments to his squad in the hope of leading a revival.
Fletcher represents one of Sunderland’s most saleable assets and the extra finance would certainly help the head coach when he makes his moves in the transfer market.
But Poyet indicated he wants to keep Fletcher, although did concede that every member of his squad would have a valuation and the £12m striker is no different.
“Of course I don’t want to sell Fletcher,” said Poyet. “He’s our top scorer and he’s the one who is going to score the goals and make the difference.
“I’m not going to talk about names but I remember when Chelsea were buying players under Claudio Ranieri and paying over the top by £10m ... we would sell. If someone comes with £25m or £30m then pick a name.”
He added: “I’m not the type of person to say ‘noone is for sale’ and then we sell one. Why? Because every single player has a price. That is the truth.
“Now I can come to the press conference and say ‘no-one will leave the football club’ and blah, blah, blah. But how will I come back if we sell one? It would be a lie.
“Am I going to say: ‘Oh well, it was the offer’. I don’t make it up, if someone comes with a crazy offer for a player he will go. I’m not talking about Fletcher, I’m talking about every player.”
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce is looking to bring in a new target-man this month to try to boost his own side’s bid to avoid relegation to the Championship.
Southampton’s Rickie Lambert and Fletcher are among those under serious consideration. Former Sunderland boss Steve Bruce is also an admirer, while Neil Lennon has admitted he would love to take the former Hibernian man back north.
But if Sunderland do not lower their valuation then the Scottish champions are unlikely to be able to match both his valuation and his reputed £35,000-a-week pay packet.
“He’s obviously a fine player but he cost Sunderland £12m and I don’t have that type of money, believe me,” said Lennon.
“People are quoting £6m pounds, but he (Fletcher) was bought for £12m. I know transfer fees change over the years but he is a youngish player still so I would imagine it might not be £6m we are talking about.
"He is a player that I think most teams in Britain would like but affordability might be a problem for us though. Could we afford to spend £6m for one player? Yes, we could.”
The spotlight has turned on Fletcher after his frustrating performance in the New Year’s Day defeat to Aston Villa when he missed a fantastic chance.
While he scored in the previous draw at Cardiff City, it was only the 26-year-old’s third of a season and he has struggled for fitness and form after injury.
Poyet said: “Three days ago we were talking about how happy we were with him after he’d scored a great goal against Cardiff. He had a great chance the other day but did not score. It happens. It’s football.
“I’ve got no issues with Steven, that’s why he’s playing. If I had issues I wouldn’t be playing him. We need to use the squad because of the quantity of games.”
Fletcher arrived 18 months ago in a £12m move from Wolves following relegation and he is one of a healthy number of attacking options in the Sunderland squad.
But Poyet is keen to mix things up a bit this month and is on the look-out for a new forward, which paves the way for one or two departures.
Borussia Dortmund have been credited with an interest in Ji Dong-Won and Connor Wickham has enjoyed a successful loan spell in the Championship with Sheffield Wednesday.
“We are looking for options this month but we have five strikers,” said Poyet. “We have Fletch, Jozy Altidore, Fabio Borini, Ji and Connor Wickham. Five. So six?
“I will make the squad a little bit more balanced and that is one of the options in this transfer window – to balance the squad better and have better options, different players to play the game we want to play. January is not always right but we’ll try.”
Poyet has already added left-back Marcos Alonso to his squad on loan until the end of the season from Fiorentina. He has not received international clearance in time to face Carlisle tomorrow in the FA Cup.
The Sunderland boss is also interested in raiding former club Brighton for midfielder Liam Bridcutt and winger Will Buckley, both 24.
“The way we do business is to keep everything indoors,” said Poyet. “I have been given the names of a few players we are interested in and I don’t know who they are, where they play or whether they are blonde or have black hair. It’s too many and there will be many more.
“We’ve been offered 100 players - a few from different agencies and different agents. You don’t know who is in charge of who and how many people are going to get involved, which isn’t nice. So it’s confusion and the best way is for us to be quiet.”