Darren Fletcher wants Scotland place on merit

Darren Fletcher (right) has not played for Scotland since late 2012. Picture: Getty
Darren Fletcher (right) has not played for Scotland since late 2012. Picture: Getty
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Darren Fletcher has stressed that he wishes to return to the Scotland team on merit as he moves closer to an international comeback against Poland in Warsaw next month.

The international skipper has not played for Scotland since a friendly against Luxembourg in late 2012 after being struck down by a bowel condition called ulcerative colitis.

With manager Gordon Strachan preparing to name his squad for the Euro 2016 qualifying warm-up game, Fletcher’s return to the Manchester United line-up is timely as far as Scotland fans are concerned.

Fletcher has had to build a relationship with Strachan and, while promoting awareness of his condition at an event at the Manchester United Aon training complex yesterday, admitted he did not know Strachan well prior to his appointment to succeed Craig Levein.

However, a series of phone calls between the pair helped Fletcher warm to Strachan’s ways, as did a run of improved results. Now Fletcher is looking forward to re-establishing himself in the international side’s midfield, with Scotland set to learn the identity of their Euro 2016 qualifying rivals at the draw in Nice on 23 February.

“I don’t want it to be a token gesture,” said Fletcher yesterday, looking ahead to the clash with Poland which, if he plays, will be the midfielder’s 62nd cap.

“If I was hardly playing for Manchester United, then called up for Scotland. It wouldn’t be right. Hopefully, I feel like I have done well in the games I have played for my club and I will hopefully get a few more by the time the game in Poland comes around. Then I have got to impress in training.

“Even if it’s about waiting for my chance, if I am the squad or on the bench or whatever I have to impress the new manager like everyone else.”

Fletcher has made eight appearances for Manchester United since his comeback in December following surgery to relieve the symptoms of the condition. He has been in regular contact with Strachan.

“Every few weeks or couple of months I get the phone calls and they have been very interesting to say the least,” added Fletcher. “They’ve been very good, very inspirational and funny. I had met him a couple of times at matches but it wasn’t really a relationship. But that has definitely built up, albeit over the phone.”

Having lost nearly two years of his career to the debilitating condition, Fletcher turned 30 last weekend. He said: “I’m now definitely looking to add the time I missed on to the end of my career. The way I look at it, my joints, my ligaments and those things have had a rest.”