Having secured a deadline day loan move from Middlesbrough to Sunderland, Ashley Fletcher still believes he has a long term future at The Riverside.

Fletcher made 16 appearances in the Championship for Middlesbrough, scoring just one goal. He made his debut for The Black Cats in Saturdays defeat to Ipswich.

He has failed to make an impact since he returned to Manchester United from a successful loan spell at Barnsley. The forward secured promotion from League One and the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in his solitary season at the club, but has struggled at spells at West Ham United and Middlesbrough since.

“I haven’t really had the opportunities over the last couple of years,” he told the Evening Chronicle. “That’s not really through anyone’s fault at all, it’s just one of those things in football where you’re down the pecking order and it’s up to you to get your career back on track. That’s the way I’m approaching things.”

Fletcher will be looking for regular game-time, and Sunderland are a club that can certainly offer this. With the exit of Lewis Grabban from the club, their striking options were left short. Frantic bids and loan offers were made throughout the January window, and managed to secure Fletcher late on deadline day.

“For me, it’s all about playing games. I just want to play and score goals, and hopefully I can do that with Sunderland.

“The manager at Middlesbrough was very clear with me,” Fletcher admitted. “He said he wants me to go out and toughen up in a way. He wants to see me playing a run of games so he can get a better idea of what I can do.”

But Fletcher remains optimistic that his time on Teesside is not over.

“I need to get some good minutes, and I still believe I’ve got a future at Middlesbrough. It certainly wasn’t a case of the door being closed on me. But my sole focus at the moment is on Sunderland. This is my club for the rest of the season now, and I want to do everything I can to keep them up.”

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Lifelong Boro fan - from the highs of watching Juninho and the Carling Cup victory, to the lows of Gordon Strachan and Lee Dong Gook

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