- Premier League
Fletcher undergoes surgery
Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher has undergone surgery on the injured ankle that has ruled him out for the rest of this season.
Fletcher, 26, a £12 million summer signing from Wolves, suffered the injury in the early stages of Scotland's World Cup qualifier against Wales last month.
The Black Cats hope this season's top scorer will be fit to return at the start of next season, with new manager Paolo Di Canio having voiced concerns about a dearth of striking options.
"I don't want to be critical, but if you're a team who wants to stay up, or a team who wants to win the league, I think you need five strikers," Di Canio said.
"You can't afford to be short on strikers. Wherever you are in the league, you need to score goals."
The situation was highlighted in Sunderland's win over Newcastle at the weekend, when academy player Mikael Mandron was the only striking back-up to Danny Graham after a late drop-out by Connor Wickham.
Di Canio has warned his Sunderland players that his training sessions will become even tougher next season.
Di Canio, 44, who has spoken of his intention to instil a strong work ethic at the Stadium of Light, often undertakes 16-hour working days at the club's training facility.
The manager said he was currently unable to implement all the methods he devised at Swindon because of the limited amount of time he has had to work with the players since arriving in the North-East.
"The sessions are obviously a different way of working. But it's a short period, so we have to be careful," he told the Sunderland Echo. "We're doing more with them, but we don't want to do damage, otherwise we'd have problems.
"We have to be intelligent. We're not bringing in all the methodology we used at Swindon because we had them since the beginning of the season and in pre-season. We did the tests and knew exactly what athletes we had among the group."
The Black Cats are currently 15th in the Premier League table, three points above the relegation zone and Di Canio, set to welcome David Moyes and Everton for his first home game on Saturday, thanked the physios for preparing the players for what will be a stern test.
"In here, we've received a fantastic help from the physios," he said. "But they don't know our methods. We've started to test them with a little more than they used to do before.
"Our work is hard, but we are more than happy. If the challenge is tough, we enjoy it more because, if we do the right job, it will be fantastic for the future."