Fletcher’s 12 goals for relegated Wolves persuaded Martin O’Neill to fork out £12m for the Scotland international in the summer, an outlay that has been rewarded with eight league strikes to date.
And though he might not be the most prolific Premier League marksman, Allardyce is adamant Fletcher has likely spared Sunderland from the relegation mire.
“He has been tremendous. You would see where Sunderland would be if he hadn’t scored the goals he has,” he said.
“His goals are like gold in terms of the results they’ve given Sunderland this season and without them they’d have struggled a bit more than they already have.
“The importance of a goalscorer is massive and you see that at the top end. Chelsea losing yesterday because they didn’t finish their chances and that man Michu scoring again for Swansea.
“If you’ve got that goal scorer – which we haven’t, but we’re sharing the goals out in all areas – then it’s a massive bonus for you.”
As for Saturday, Allardyce warned his players to expect a stern examination, with champions Manchester City having succumbed at the Stadium of Light as recently as Boxing Day.
“Sunderland have hit better form recently and over the Christmas period that has given the team a lot more confidence,” he added.
“The results haven’t always come because they’ve not converted enough of the chances that they’ve created. I don’t think they’ve had too many goal scorers apart from the magnificent start Fletcher has had.
“They’ve paid the price for that in terms of results but performances, particularly at Sunderland, according to our reports, have always been very good.
“So it will be a tough game as always away from home and we want to be playing as well as we did against Manchester United to achieve a result there. Anything less than that will make life difficult for us.”
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