Steven Fletcher flew through his Stoke City medical and is hungry to play well for a long time to come, says Michael O’Neill.
The 33-year-old striker missed a chunk of last season with Sheffield Wednesday due to a knee injury and he only made one appearance after lockdown before leaving the club at the end of his contract.
Yet 2019/20 was still the best campaign of his career, certainly scoring wise, since leaving Hibernian back in 2009 thanks to 13 goals in 23 starts and four sub appearances.
And he joins a team which scored more goals than any other side in the Championship bar Leeds and Brentford after O’Neill took charge in November.
O’Neill said: “Steven’s fit, he’s gone through his medical. He had an injury in the second half of last season but his goal record was good; he still made 27 appearances and 13 goals in the league. He’s fit, the medical has been very positive and he’s in great shape for his age. We wouldn’t have taken him if that wasn’t the case.
“He’s got the right attitude, he’s hungry to play and he wants to play for as long as possible.”
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Fletcher’s arrival on a two-year deal plus the return of Benik Afobe from a season-long loan at Bristol City makes it five front line strikers at Stoke.
Sam Vokes, Tyrese Campbell and Lee Gregory had shared the responsibility during the re-start and Campbell was also used in a wide role, where he continued to be a menace.
But at least one exit from that department is probable and Gregory – who scored twice as he started the last three games – has already been linked with a move.
The hard-working 31-year-old had joined from Millwall in the summer of 2019 but was restricted to a bench role after the turn of the year until coming to the fore in that final fortnight.
Stoke will have to shift fringe men as well as the players who spent last year on loan to make sure they have the streamlined numbers O’Neill has made a priority.
Centre-back Liam Lindsay, who did not play after January, has suitors in the Championship too while other players could be open to departures as their position in the pecking order becomes clear over the next few weeks.
Moritz Bauer and Kevin Wimmer are back at Clayton Wood but their futures lie away.
O’Neill said: “We have to trim the squad. When the opportunity comes to sign players and you have an opportunity to bring a player who will make you better, you have to take it.
“Equally, the squad’s too big. We knew that with the players who have come back from loan anyway.
“We’ll see what happens. We’re in the window at the minute and it runs until October 5. Players are going to want to play and the more players you have then the more disappointed players you have.
“We’ll have to deal with that situation if and when it arises.”