Time, place, luck: John Fleck's Scotland Covid situation draws sympathy

Stuart Armstrong is the one man in the Scotland camp who knows how John Fleck is feeling right now.
Scotland team-mates Stuart Armstrong and John Fleck challenge for the ball during a Southampton v Sheffield United match.Scotland team-mates Stuart Armstrong and John Fleck challenge for the ball during a Southampton v Sheffield United match.
Scotland team-mates Stuart Armstrong and John Fleck challenge for the ball during a Southampton v Sheffield United match.

Fleck is continuing to isolate at Scotland’s La Finca training base after testing positive for Covid-19 at the start of the week. Confined to his room with the company of an exercise bike, the Sheffield United midfielder missed Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with the Netherlands and will be absent this evening for the final pre-tournament away in Luxembourg. It would be fair to state that Fleck has been dealt a rough hand.

Armstrong was given similar cards back in October. The Southampton attacking midfielder caught the virus ahead of the Euro 2020 play-of semi-final against Israel and had to miss that match, plus Nations League ties against Slovakia and Czech Republic. He initially tested negative when arriving for Scotland training, but then saw a supplementary UEFA test return a positive result on Wednesday morning. Kieran Tierney and Ryan Christie – deemed close contacts of Armstrong – also had to isolate.

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So it’s no surprise that Armstrong has a fair amount of sympathy for Fleck, with the tournament beginning next Friday and Scotland preparing to face the Czechs on Monday, June 14.

“You could talk for hours about it but sometimes it just comes down to time and place, and luck,” said Armstrong on catching Covid-19. “I know from my own experience the knock-on effect it can have for other players.

“Luckily it seems to be contained at the moment, but it is uncertain times and you just have to try and make the best of the situation. You go through all the protocols and try to make sure everyone is safe. These things happen and you can't really counter them.

“The good thing is the isolation with John will hopefully come to an end just when the tournament is beginning.

“It is tough for him at the moment and I do feel for him. I have been there myself.”

Armstrong is competing with Fleck and others for a midfield starting berth at Hampden in eight days time and the Southampton man did his chances no harm with an assured performance against the Dutch.

While there was a smidgen of disappointment at conceding a controversial late goal to draw 2-2 in Faro, Armstrong took heart from the display and had his own personal milestone to celebrate after winning his 25th cap.

"We got off to a very good start [against the Dutch] and went ahead early, and in the first half we defended well apart from being too loose at the goal,” said Armstrong.

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“In the second half we upped our tempo a bit, pressed them higher up and we didn't have to retreat so much.

“Our second was a great counter-attacking goal and unfortunately the free-kick decision for their equaliser was really soft but we are not that concerned about that.”

And on the subject of earning his 25th cap, the 29-year-old added: “It is a great achievement for myself and to play for your country is a special honour.

“Every time you come away it is special and reaching 25 is something you don’t really think about.

“They just seem to tally up and there have been some very good games in there and some not so good.”

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