Alan Pattullo: Scotland still need Steven Fletcher, particularly when Oli McBurnie is firing blanks

Steven Fletcher is considering his Scotland future. Picture: SNS
Steven Fletcher is considering his Scotland future. Picture: SNS
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It says everything about the uncertainty over Oli McBurnie’s quality that news Steven Fletcher is considering his international future has caused some disquiet.

McBurnie is the country’s second most expensive player and should be an automatic candidate to fill the role of Scotland 
target man.

But, while there’s hope he can live up to the expectation created by a £20 million price tag, it’s still a matter of some regret if Fletcher decides to call it a day nine months after he returned to the international arena with impressive effect under Alex McLeish to help Scotland secure top spot in their Nations League group.

McLeish’s successor Steve Clarke will name his squad for the tough Euro 2020 qualifying double header with Russia and Belgium on Tuesday. It’s understood he has spoken to Fletcher in recent days to establish his feelings after the player gave an interview to the Sheffield Star earlier this week where he revealed he is again considering ending his international career. This comes after that well-publicised interlude following a spat with Craig Levein nine years ago.

He was largely welcomed back on the basis that Scotland needed him. The same is true now even after he tested some fans’ patience by calling off from what turned out to be McLeish’s final squad because he wanted to “manage” an injury.

A measure of outage was sparked when he scored a goal for Sheffield Wednesday later the same day on which McLeish had delivered this news.

It is clear Fletcher, now 32, is being ultra-cautious out of respect for his club, where he says he has found contentment for the first time in a long while. Wednesday have won three of their opening four league games and look nicely placed to make a challenge for promotion to the Premier League.

Fletcher, too, is fit and in form and opened his account for the season against Barnsley a fortnight ago. McBurnie, meanwhile, is being used sparingly by Sheffield United in what’s become a tale of two strikers operating on opposing sides of the same city – a very relevant tale as far as Scotland and Clarke are concerned.

The £20m man has yet to score for United – and Scotland. Fletcher’s international record of 10 goals in 33 matches is pretty reasonable although this haul does include two hat-tricks against Gibraltar and a strike against Malta. And yet there’s still a sense of what could have been.