Strachan calls for patience over Fletcher return

Darren Fletcher in action for Scotland against Poland. Picture: SNS
Darren Fletcher in action for Scotland against Poland. Picture: SNS
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SCOTLAND manager Gordon Strachan has urged caution over placing any expectations on Darren Fletcher after the Manchester United midfielder made his long-awaited international comeback in Wednesday’s 1-0 win away to Poland, the country’s fourth in an unbeaten sequence of five games.

Following a 15-month break from football subsequent to undergoing an operation to alleviate the career-threatening ulcerative colitis bowel condition that has dogged him for a number of years, Fletcher returned to the Manchester United first team in December. However, in the past seven weeks he has played only 64 minutes of senior football for his club. Against that backdrop, the 62nd appearance for his country the 30-year-old earned as a half-time replacement for James Morrison in Warsaw’s national stadium proved a quiet reintroduction to the Scotland scene he has been missing from since November 2012.

Fletcher has previously stated he does not wish “sympathy” to play a part in his selection for the team he captained for three years before succumbing to illness and, asked if patience was required in dealing with the player’s international rehabilitation, Strachan said: “I think so. I think we all need to be [patient]. I think we all say: ‘you’re back in there, get games with your club, and then that’ll help you’. It’s just wonderful to have him. It must be like Christmas for him.”

Strachan’s assessment echoes that of his assistant Mark McGhee, who maintained in the lead-up to the Poland friendly that there was no need to rush Fletcher back, with the country’s Euro 2016 qualifying campaign still six months away. “I don’t think we should be hanging all our hopes on Darren,” McGhee said. “He has plenty of time, He has another summer, another pre-season, to get back to his absolute best. So it’s not now that we need him. It is [in] September when the qualifiers start.”