CHRIS COLEMAN has challenged Ashley Fletcher to take his career to the next level following his loan move to Sunderland, and has promised the striker an extended run in the first team in the final three-and-a-half months of the season.

Fletcher will make his Black Cats debut in this afternoon’s home game with Ipswich Town, having made the short trip north from Middlesbrough on transfer deadline day.

He was expected to make a major impression when he joined Boro in a £6.5m switch from West Ham United in the summer, but has found himself on the periphery of things at the Riverside.

He started just three Championship matches under Garry Monk, and was restricted to a solitary substitute appearance in the league after Tony Pulis was appointed as Boro’s new manager on Boxing Day.

Now 22, it is time for him to start turning the youthful potential that was evident in his academy career at Manchester United into a series of effective performances on the senior stage.

Coleman is confident he is capable of starring in the second tier, and feels he will benefit from a lengthy run in the team, something he is likely to get at Sunderland following the departure of Lewis Grabban and James Vaughan last month.

“He’s hungry to get a chance, and he’s going to get loads of game time with us, that’s for sure,” said the Sunderland boss, who will also name deadline-day arrivals Lee Camp and Ovie Ejaria in his squad for today’s game. “When you join a new club, you’re trying to find your feet, you’re excited, and you want to hit the ground running. You want to impress, and he’s going to get a chance to do that.

“He’s still relatively young really. Although he’s been at Manchester United and West Ham, and he had a big move to Boro, he’s still a young lad. He’s got experience though, and he did well at Barnsley, and I think there’s a lot in front of him, I really do.

“He’ll benefit from having a run of games, because it’s been quite a while since he had that. When you’ve been out of it for a while, then it’s nice to get back into it where you’re training Monday to Friday, and when Saturday comes around you know you’re going to be involved. That does help psychologically, and I think it will do him good.”

Coleman talked to a number of different strikers as he attempted to make a transfer breakthrough last month, but Fletcher was always high on his list of targets.

A proposed move for Jon Walters broke down when the Stoke City striker suffered a knee injury that required surgery, and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp pulled the plug on a potential deal for Ben Woodburn when he became concerned about a lack of attacking cover following Phillipe Coutinho’s departure from Anfield.

Coleman thought he was close to completing a loan deal for Manchester City youngster Lukas Nmecha on a number of occasions, and spent most of Wednesday morning trying to sign Swansea’s Oli McBurnie, only for the youngster to choose Barnsley instead.

At that stage, it still looked as though Boro would refuse to allow Fletcher to leave on loan, with Pulis having ruled out any temporary departures earlier in the month. The situation changed on Wednesday afternoon, though, with Coleman crediting Pulis for playing a major role in Fletcher’s eventual switch to Wearside.

“Things started to move once Fletch became available, because I didn’t he would be,” said Coleman. “That’s when I spoke to Tony Pulis, who was fantastic. That’s how I think you should work.

“Once he was available, it was a case of, ‘Let’s go and get him’, but of course you know with deals that you can’t just go for one because there’s always a chance you might not get him. So you have lots of things running at the same time, and whichever one is best for you and ticks all the boxes, that’s what you go for.

“Once we knew Fletch was available, it was all about trying to get him here. With the help on Tony, and with a chat with Ash himself, we were able to make things work. It’s a good deal for us.”

Having been manager of Wales for six seasons, last month provided Coleman with his first transfer-window experience for quite some time. The Sunderland boss always knew things would be difficult without a budget to spend, but he did not envisage things being quite as traumatic as they proved.

“I’d forgotten what a farce it is really,” he said. “You start remembering how it was where you simply can’t trust anybody. You get told loads of lies, and to get any type of a deal across the line is so tough.

“It’s credit to Martin (Bain) and all the staff that we were able to do what we did. Deadline day itself was absolutely crackers, it really was. It was probably 15 or 16 hours where we were just hammering at it to try to get things done. I’m happy it’s over, but I’m also really thankful for all the hard work that went in.”