Stoke City v Sunderland: Michael Kightly's old pal Steven Fletcher is Black Cats' main man
MICHAEL Kightly believes his old Wolves mucker Steven Fletcher could eventually be snapped up by one of the big boys.
Kightly says the 25-year-old Scotsman was worth every penny of his £12m move to Sunderland in the summer.
And at his current rate of knots, says Kightly, one of English football’s really big spenders could come knocking on his door.
“He’s very, very good,” says Kightly without hesitation. “He’s one of the best I’ve seen, to be honest.
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“A lot of people were asking ‘is he really worth that kind of money?’ But I was saying he was.
“He’s got so many strengths. He can head it, hold it up, bring others into play, he’s sharp, got a good brain and a great left foot.
“If he carries on the way he’s going, then other clubs will look at him.”
Kightly and Fletcher shared two seasons together at Molineux and, despite being injured and then on loan for much of the time, the former is well qualified to extol the virtues of the latter.
“The main thing you notice as a winger playing with him,” says Kightly, “is that when the ball goes up to him, nine times out of 10 he’s either flicking it on or holding it up and bringing you into play.
“So you can make runs off him and know you can get the ball. And if he gets the ball in the box, he doesn’t need two, three, four chances to get a goal.
“He got 12 goals in a struggling side at Wolves last season and already has five (in just six league games) this season, so he’s sure to score more than last year.”
Kightly is also pleased on a personal level to see his old team-mate settling his differences with Scotland boss Craig Levein and returning to their doomed World Cup qualifying campaign.
“Whatever happened with him and Levein was personal,” Kightly observes.
“But he’s one of Scotland’s best players and so it’s good for Scotland and good for him to be an international player again.”
Sunderland’s arrival this weekend signals a turn in Stoke’s fixture list after a distinctly testing start that was to culminate in last Saturday’s trip to Old Trafford.
Kightly marked the occasion with his second goal for the club to follow up his scrambled effort on debut at Reading back in mid-August.
“It was a nicer one than the goal at Reading, but to be fair, at Reading it got us a point, while at Old Trafford it didn’t get us anything.
“It was obviously nice to score at Old Trafford, but it would have been even nicer if it had counted for something.
“In the first half there I thought we were cruising really and if we could have got that second goal it might have been a different story.”
Stokies everywhere would certainly settle for a prolonged repeat of that first-half form against a Sunderland side almost mirroring Stoke’s start by winning one (home to Wigan) and losing one (away to Man City) so far this season.
“They are a good team with good players and they’ve had a decent enough start like ourselves,” Kightly warns.
“Martin O’Neil’s teams tend to be attacking and free-flowing, I think, and he likes his players to express themselves. So they are going to be coming to the Britannia trying to win rather than trying not to lose.”