‘Improving’ Darren Fletcher to train with Scotland squad
ALTHOUGH he has not been included in the squad named by manager Craig Levein yesterday, Scotland skipper Darren Fletcher will train with his international team-mates ahead of next week’s friendly clash with Australia after what has been described as a “dramatic improvement” in his health.
• Darren Fletcher took indefinite break from football over chronic bowel illness
• Scotland take on Australia in a friendly
The Manchester United midfielder has not played a competitive match since starting a Champions League clash against Benfica in November last year. The following month it was revealed that the player would
be taking an extended break from football after confirmation he was suffering from a rare bowel condition called ulcerative colitis.
United had previously explained his absence from the team as being due to a mystery virus, although the skipper rallied to ensure that he featured in Scotland’s final two qualifying games for Euro 2012. He also played for an hour in a friendly against Cyprus in November, in what was his last appearance for Scotland.
Subsequent updates on the state of his health have not always been encouraging. Sir Alex Ferguson recently spoke of the “challenges” which the popular player still faced. He added that “if it doesn’t work out for him he knows he has a position at the club”. The comments were interpreted by many as preparing the way for the player’s announcement that he had retired.
However, Levein yesterday delivered news which will be welcomed by all football fans, no matter where their loyalties lie. He even contemplated the skipper returning for the start of the World Cup qualifying campaign next month, although he admitted this was “selfish” thinking.
Levein revealed that Fletcher had played for one half of a bounce game for Manchester United last week and would be joining up with the squad when they gather on Sunday.
Further illustrating the player’s commitment to the Scottish cause is his willingness to arrive in Scotland 24 hours earlier in order to brief a group of 12-year-olds who have been selected to attend seven regional performance schools as part of the Scottish Football Association’s elite talent development programme. “Imagine if you’re a kid, your parents are there and there’s the Scotland captain making the time to come up and speak to you,” said Levein.
“He is not in the squad because he has not played for Manchester United,” he continued. “But he played 45 minutes in a bounce game last week there. I have been back and forward with him every couple of weeks during this summer. There has been quite a dramatic improvement in the last three or four weeks.”
Levein was not prepared to go into any detail about the reasons for such signs of recovery.
However, he did hint at a possible return in time for Scotland’s first qualifying matches ahead of Brazil 2014, against Serbia and Macedonia in September.
“The fact he is coming up is brilliant, and he’s going to train with us in brilliant,” he said. “I’m now purely selfishly thinking, ‘he might be ready for September’.
“Is that possible? I don’t want to put any pressure on him,” continued Levein. “He’s had a helluva time. Let’s just see. For me it is a good story he is coming up. He was really bouncy when I spoke to him the other day and he is desperate to come up and train”.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east