As I’ve been detailing here for the last few weeks (or quite possibly more), Scottish international Darren Fletcher continues to work his way back into form after being out of football for almost a year due to a chronic bowel program. Real progress was noted this summer when he began training with Scotland prior to the beginning of their World Cup 2014 qualifying, and after that as he began to train regularly with his club, Manchester United. At this point Fletcher’s comeback seems to have been completely successful- he played the full 90 minutes for Manchester United in their Champions League victory over CFR Cluj yesterday and he has been selected for the next round of Scotland matches (against Belgium and Wales). All of this is great news considering only six months ago there was a chance that his career was going to be over at the age of 28.
Now comes news that the “other” Fletcher is back in the national team fold. Having opted out of national team duty since he was left out of the squad for matches against the Czech Republic and Spain during EURO 2012 by manager Craig Levein, Steven Fletcher will also be back for the matches against Belgium and Wales. After 18 months of openly feuding with Levein, Fletcher’s desire to play for his country finally outweighed his distaste for Levein and he, through a third party, indicated that he was ready to play for his country again. Levein responded by selecting Fletcher. Great news, right? Not so fast…
First of all, both men have conducted themselves like absolute asses during this entire ordeal. Whether Fletcher had a right to be angry at being left out of those two important matches in 2012 is beside the point- his reaction to it was entirely too thin-skinned and more problematic for this writer, he put himself before his country. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Levein’s handling of the situation was just as bad- if not worse. ”Shown up” in the press by Fletcher he played at being the diplomat and said only that he would not pick Fletcher again until Fletcher apologized to him. In short, “I’m in a position to make you grovel…and I’m going to make you do just that.” And I might add, the fortunes of the national team be damned! Levein needed to get over himself and pick a player who has been one of the top scorers in English football over the last three seasons- he has five goals in five matches so far this season- to be part of a national team that has been in desperate need of a reliable striker for at least that long.
Getting back to Fletcher, what’s the point of caving now?- the draws against Serbia and Macedonia (both at home!!) have effectively ended Scotland qualification! Let’s say he comes back and puts two or three goals past Belgium and Wales- great! That will leave Scotland exactly where they are now- trailing at least two nations in a competition where “Third place is first loser.” Maybe I’m wrong and with a reliable striker back in the team and the national captain back wearing the armband he so richly deserves, Scotland will go on a run that puts them in second place and on track to a spot in Brazil in two years?
More likely, however, this is yet another example of Scotland (the team and the nation) only putting up a good fight after the cause is already lost.
In the words of Principal Seymour Skinner, “Prove me wrong, kids. Prove me wrong.”