Wales v Scotland: Darren Fletcher always confident he would play again
DARREN Fletcher believes his return from a career-threatening illness will be validated in full tonight when he leads Scotland into World Cup battle against Wales in Cardiff.
The Manchester United midfielder will line up for his country for the first time since last November, having spent seven months with no involvement in football as he battled against the effects of the chronic bowel disorder ulcerative colitis.
Fletcher has successfully made his way back into Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, playing in two Champions League ties this season, and insists even his darkest moments could not subdue his determination or optimism over a comeback.
“I didn’t doubt it, I always felt I would be back,” said Fletcher. “I think I needed to have that kind of attitude. There were other people who doubted it but, for me to be here today I always needed to believe. I couldn’t let myself think I might not make it. I always told myself I’d be back one day and fortunately that’s the case.
“But it’s not been plain sailing along the way by any stretch of the imagination. The reason I stopped in the first place was because I had to find out if it was playing football that was making me worse.
“When I realised that wasn’t the case it was a good barrier to break down. I knew then that playing and training wasn’t making me worse, it was just the illness in general. I was just as ill not playing in those six months as I had been when I was playing.
“That was significant, because I knew for sure then that I wasn’t pushing myself too hard to play football. That had always been the doubt. Some people were even saying I was silly to be playing because I was making myself ill.
“But deep down I knew that wasn’t the case. The doctors just needed to find out if not playing would make me healthier. Then I would have been left with a decision to make. Do I want to play football or do I want to live a healthy life?
“But deep down I was always confident it wasn’t going to end that way. I always felt we would find a medication that would work. I just had to stay positive even though many people, maybe even the doctors, didn’t think I’d ever be back.
“When I played in my first reserve game the excitement levels were unbelievable. Then obviously, it went up a few notches when I made my return to the Manchester United first team.
“But to be back in a Scotland shirt? That’s another thing again. Just to be sitting here in the team hotel the night before the game, it almost feels like I’m starting out all over again.
“Yes, I’ve got a lot more experience and there are things I know how to handle now but, in terms of my excitement levels, it feels like I’m about to win my first cap all over again. Because I was out for such a long time, because there was doubt that I would ever be back, it just feels amazing to be a part of it all again.”
Fletcher knows his fight against the illness may never truly be won, but he has reached a stage where he feels able to manage it to such a degree that his playing career can flourish once more.
“The condition never goes away and that’s the thing I have to live with now,” he added. “Every day is a battle for me. I have to watch my diet and take certain medication or it could come back again.”
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