SFA will not interfere in Craig Levein and Steven Fletcher feud
SFA president Campbell Ogilvie insists the governing body have no intention of trying to broker a peace deal between Scotland manager Craig Levein and exiled striker Steven Fletcher, while the player himself has said the “ice will have to be broken” before he can return.
Levein is due to name his squad today for the critical World Cup qualifying matches in Wales and Belgium this month and once again there will be no place for in-form £12 million Sunderland front man Fletcher. The 25-year-old has scored five goals in his first four Premier League appearances for Martin O’Neill’s team, underlining the quality Scotland have been missing out on since the player declined to be selected for a friendly against Northern Ireland in February 2011.
Fletcher recently indicated on his Twitter account that he would be willing to play for Scotland again if asked to do so, and expanded on the theme yesterday. “I have been asked if I would play if called up and I have answered yes,” said the former Hibernian forward. “However, the ice will have to be broken somewhere.”
However, Levein remains resolute in his decision to close the door on Fletcher. Now Ogilvie has made it clear there will be no move by the SFA hierarchy to bring Fletcher back into the international fold.
“There has been a lot of speculation about this,” said Ogilvie. “But to me, it is the manager’s prerogative.
“The manager is employed to pick the players he thinks should be in the squad.
“I don’t believe the SFA board should be interfering in that process at all.
“From my involvement at club level in football, when there has been speculation about boardroom involvement in team selection, I’m clear that it has to be down to the manager.”
Ogilvie also denied any knowledge of a meeting proposed by the SFA last September with Fletcher which the player’s agent, Scott Fisher, recently claimed was not followed up by anyone at Hampden.
“I wasn’t party to that,” added Ogilvie. “As far as I’m concerned, and I’m aware of the media comments, the international manager is employed to pick the team he believes can do the job for him. That’s it.”
Scrutiny of Levein’s stewardship of Scotland intensified last month when just two points were earned from the opening two Group A qualifying matches at home to Serbia and Macedonia.
But Ogilvie, while admitting the first two results did not meet expectations, declared that Levein continues to enjoy the total support of the SFA board ahead of the games in Cardiff and Brussels on 12 and 16 October.
“The manager absolutely has our backing,” said Ogilvie. “We are two games into the campaign and there are still eight games to go. So we’ve all got to get behind the manager and get behind the squad.
“We have had two home games and we would have wanted more points from them if I’m being completely honest. When the draw came out, it was apparent that this was one of the hardest sections, if not the hardest section, in the European sector.
“We want to see an improvement over a period of time but, setting out on this campaign, our aim as a Board is to get to the finals. Any time Scotland has entered a qualifying section our aim has been to reach the finals. I’m not going to start speculating about ‘what if?’ scenarios after two matches.
“We’re totally behind the manager and the team going into the third game and we want to take this forward in a positive way with everyone pulling together.
“I think there’s been disappointment. When you have two home games there’s an expectation that you’re going to pick up full points. But most teams are very competent, Serbia in particular. You saw the result they had against Wales. We’d rather have picked up more points from Macedonia, but they were a well-organised team and their squad was drawn from 15 different professional leagues throughout Europe.
“These countries have all improved and we need to improve along with them. That’s one of the reasons we brought in our performance strategy and Mark Wotte.
“I understand that everyone wants to win the next game at international level but you need to put building blocks in place for the future so we can improve as quickly as some of the other countries.
“But we’re under no misapprehension – everybody wants us to qualify for Brazil so the pressure is on us to take enough points from the remaining games.”
Scott Brown is ready to return to the Scotland squad for the double-header against Wales and Belgium.
The Celtic captain missed the Scots’ opening two games against at Hampden with a hip problem which has needed careful management this season.
However, speaking ahead of the Hoops’ Champions League Group G clash with Spartak Moscow tomorrow night, Brown said: “Hopefully I can make the Scotland squad.
“I am feeling good just now, I have played four or five games in the last couple of weeks and everything feels good.
“So I think the rest has definitely done me good, that’s for sure.”
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