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Levein: Fletch desperate to return
Published : 02 Oct 2012 16:33:00
Craig Levein described Steven Fletcher's Scotland return as "a no-brainer" after the player indicated a desire to end his international exile. The Sunderland striker was a shock inclusion in the 25-man squad named at Hampden today for this month's World Cup qualifiers against Wales and Belgium. Until now, Fletcher had not been considered for the national team since informing the Scottish Football Association by text message that he did not wish to be selected for a game against Northern Ireland in February 2011. Levein made it clear the door was closed to the 25-year-old at the start of this qualifying campaign, before Fletcher indicated last month 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 boss eventually "bit the bullet" and picked up the phone to end the stand-off for the sake of the nation's qualification hopes. 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." Scotland endured a stuttering start to the campaign after taking just two points from their opening two games at home to Serbia and Macedonia. But Levein refused to dwell on what might have been had the situation with Fletcher been resolved earlier. He added: "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 sparkling form this season, following his switch from Wolves to Sunderland, and has netted five goals in four Premier League outings 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." The manager has no fears about Fletcher's return being over-hyped ahead of the next double-header. He said: "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." As for gaining favour with the Tartan Army for opening the door to the striker again, Levein said: "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 skipper Scott Brown returns following a hip injury. Levein 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." Next up for the Scots is the clash in Cardiff against a Wales side smarting from an emphatic 6-1 defeat against Serbia in their last outing. 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."