Prodigal Son Returns

02 October 2012 08:53
The two Fletcher boys are back in the Scotland squad but the only story in town is about Steven's return

Craig Levein managed to surprise the assembled press for the squad announcement of his squad for the qualifying games against Wales and Belgium. One Steven Fletcher was included in the squad after he indicated a desire to end his international exile. The Scotland manager described his return as "a no-brainer". For the past 20 months, Fletcher had been excluded from any Scotland squad since informing the SFA by text message that he did not wish to be selected for a game against Northern Ireland in February 2011. Levein was not minded to make the first move to bring him back to the Scotland scene. Things started to change when, last month, Fletcher indicated  via twitter his willingness to pull on the dark blue jersey again if wanted. And, following the intervention of an unnamed third party, the Scotland manager eventually "bit the bullet" and picked up the phone to end the stand-off for the sake of Scotland' shops of making the Brazil World Cup Finals in 2014.

Craig Levein relieved he can name Steven Fletcher in his sqaud again (c) Ger Harley |

Levein said: "I got a text saying he was willing to have a chat about it so I called him last night and, as he said to that person, he was desperate to come back and play. For me, then, it's a no-brainer. This was the right thing for Scotland and for our chances of winning the next match. That's why I did it. His willingness to come back and play, which I hadn't had indication of other than rumours - that was hugely important. And the fact is, the longer I thought about it, I thought we were in a situation where nobody was winning. So I bit the bullet, phoned him and had a chat and everything is resolved. Things happen and there is no point looking back on what might have been. The good thing for me is that Steven has indicated his willingness to play, we have resolved any issues we had and he will be in the squad the same as everybody else now." Fletcher has been in great form this season, following his move from Wolves to Sunderland, and has scored five goals in four Premier League games for the Black Cats so far. Levein said: "There is no doubt that his form just now is second to none. He would be the on-form striker in the Premiership and there is absolutely no doubt that is part of the thinking. He has certainly improved enormously since the last time he was in the squad. The longer I thought about it, I thought it was the best thing to do. It would give us the best chance possible to win this next match. All you can do is give yourself a better chance and, with Steven being in the team, his form just now would indicate that it gives us a better chance of scoring goals." After Scotland opening their World Cup Campaign with two draws at home, there were calls from the fans for Levein to leave his post. Some may think, bringing Steven Fletched back into the fold was to curry favour with the fans. No so says Levein. He went on: "It will all come down to results. I want to give us the best chance possible to get results in the next couple of matches. Steven is a top-quality player. He has proved that and he has improved enormously in the last couple of years and he'll help us. It's great to have him back." Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher is also back in the squad following a lengthy lay-off with a chronic bowel complaint, while Celtic captain Scott Brown is also back following a hip injury. evein said: "I do my best to try to pick the best team possible to win matches. That's my job and I'll continue to do that. Everything is about trying to win the next match. Steven coming back, along with Darren and Broony, will be a huge plus for us." Scotland play Wales on 12 October in Cardiff after the home suffered a 6-1 thrashing  against Serbia in their last game. Levein said: "In football, sometimes you don't want to play teams who have suffered a heavy defeat. They will be hurting, I'm sure they will, and they will be determined to put that right. It's a big game for both of us. I just want to have the best ammunition possible going into this game and, with this group of players, I feel more comfortable."