Darren Fletcher’s Scotland return pleases Strachan

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan puts the squad through their paces at the National Stadium, Warsaw. Picture: SNS
Scotland manager Gordon Strachan puts the squad through their paces at the National Stadium, Warsaw. Picture: SNS
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SCOTLAND manager Gordon Strachan is enjoying witnessing another step on Darren Fletcher’s road back to the top of his game.

Fletcher is back in the Scotland squad for the first time since November 2012 after battling back from an operation to treat a chronic bowel condition and return to the Manchester United team.

His Scotland comeback could happen in the National Stadium in Warsaw as Strachan’s men take on Euro 2016 rivals Poland in a friendly, although it is unclear whether he will start or re-assume the captain’s armband from Scott Brown.

The 30-year-old missed almost the whole of 2013 but had endured previous spells of absence caused by ulcerative colitis.

And Strachan is just pleased to see him doing what he does best again.

“First of all it’s more important for him as an individual,” Strachan said.

“He has had a real tough time. That’s the most important thing, that there is a top, top player back playing at the top level.

“He plays for Manchester United, and if you do that, there is an automatic place in my squad.

“We are just delighted for him just now and we are enjoying watching him coming back and getting back to the player he was. I have no doubt that will happen.”

‘Friendly will make no difference’

Scotland were drawn alongside Poland - as well as Germany, Republic of Ireland, Georgia and Gibraltar - after Wednesday night’s match was scheduled.

But Strachan is not concerned about giving anything away ahead of their European Championship qualifier in Warsaw in October.

“It makes no difference at all,” Strachan said. “It’s a long way away before the first competitive game.

“We are at a stage in the season where there will maybe be some tired players. Having said that, the group is looking fantastic and hungry.

“But we could play the coaching staff in the middle of the park and they could play their coaching staff because it will make no real difference when the real game comes around.”

Strachan appears unlikely to make too many changes to the formula that helped his side win three of their last four World Cup qualifiers in an otherwise doomed campaign, despite winning in Norway in a November friendly with an experimental edge.

“We tinkered a wee bit at Norway for half an hour,” Strachan said. “It wasn’t really a good tinker. Between the tactics and giving the ball away, it became a problem in the first half.

“It’s always nice to have a system to fall back on but we are still looking for that, and I’m sure we’ll do that in the next couple of months.”

Bannan, Boruc

Scotland midfielder Barry Bannan backed the returning Fletcher, describing his return as a “big boost”.

The Crystal Palace midfielder, speaking from Glasgow Airport ahead of the squad’s departure, said: “He’s like the daddy of the team. You look up to him because of what he has done and just to have him back is a big, big boost for the whole country.

“I was young when I first broke through and he was one I was kind of in awe of and looked up to. He made it so easy for me. It’s good to have him back. He’s the captain and the leader.”

Meanwhile, Strachan provoked laughter among the Polish media as he recounted his memories of Artur Boruc during his spell as Celtic manager.

The Southampton goalkeeper is unlikely to start ahead of Wojciech Szczesny but Strachan is looking forward to a reunion with the colourful character.

Strachan jokingly slumped his head on the table when asked about Boruc and said: “He helped myself and the players he played with to be very successful at Celtic.

“He was an incredible character. I loved working with him every day. There was never a dull moment.”

That sparked laughter from the female interpreter and Strachan continued: “You’re laughing as well. You obviously know Artur. I had red hair when I met Artur, now I have white hair.

“In all seriousness, I think at one time he was one of the best goalkeepers in the world. It’s fantastic for me to see him back near the top of his profession again starring in the English Premier (League).”


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Lewandowski out for Poland

From the archives: Poland 1-0 Scotland, 29 May 1980