Steven Naismith excited by Darren Fletcher return

STEVEN NAISMITH reckons Scotland do not need to worry about the absence of Scott Brown - because they have the perfect replacement in Darren Fletcher.
Scotland's Darren Fletcher. Picture: SNSScotland's Darren Fletcher. Picture: SNS
Scotland's Darren Fletcher. Picture: SNS

Brown took over the national side’s captaincy duties while Manchester United midfielder Fletcher was out for a year battling a chronic stomach complaint.

But now that the Celtic midfielder has been ruled out until mid-October after tearing his hamstring, Fletcher is ready to step back into the leadership role.

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He is likely to be handed Brown’s spot at the heart of the Dark Blues midfield when they kick off their Euro 2016 qualifying bid away to Germany on Sunday.

Naismith told Sky Sports News: “It’s great to have Darren back. He is a person who brings the best out in others. Without being a very loud character he leads by example and he makes everybody feel welcome. Young players coming into the squad, he is great with them as well.

“But as a player, he has had a great pre-season. He’s been playing week in, week out for Man United, and getting back to his best. For Scotland, that is a massive asset to have.

“It’s a blow missing Scott Brown but Darren is certainly a fantastic replacement for him.”

Everton striker Naismith has made an electric start to the new Barclays Premier League campaign, netting in each of the Toffees’ opening three fixtures.

The former Kilmarnock and Rangers forward puts that down to Roberto Martinez’s decision to play him in a more central role for the Goodison side.

But the 27-year-old insists he will have no complaints if Gordon Strachan decides to use in a different position when he names his Scotland side for Sunday’s clash in Dortmund.

“I’m feeling good,” said Naismith as he reflected on his recent flurry of goals. “I finished last season really well then had a good break.

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“I’ve come back strong through pre-season and scored a few goals. Now I’ve continued that into the season proper. Each game I play I feel confident that I’m going to be able to score or at least get chances to score.

“The players round about me are fantastic and they are creating chances. I’m making the right runs and getting on the end of balls where I know the quality is going to be.

“And I also have that confidence. The manager has started me centrally in a position where I’m able to get involved in play. That has definitely helped my game.

“It was something he spoke to me about last season. Over the course of working together and having various chats, he saw me playing more in the centre of the pitch than out wide.

“Especially with the system he plays, it definitely suits me much better. I was delighted the manager noticed that and has given me my chance.

“As for Scotland, though, if I’m in the team I’m happy and I will give everything I’ve got for the cause. The manager will know what way he wants to play and where he wants players to figure.

“For Scotland, I have mainly played through the middle as a lone striker but I can definitely play in other positions.”

Scotland will hope to end their wait for a first tournament appearance since 1998 during this qualifying bid and Naismith was bullishly confident as he declared: “I definitely believe this will be [Scotland’s campaign].

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“The work we have done has been great and the competition for places amongst the squad is very high.

“For every meet-up we have, everyone is turning up and there is nobody pulling out for no reason. In fact, players are playing through injuries because they want to be here and believe in the squad. There is a real buzz going round the squad.”