Star quality! Fletcher has improved every team he's ever played in, claims Strachan

By John Greechan

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Gordon Strachan has backed Steven Fletcher to live up to his billing as Scotland’s Great White Hope — because he has improved every single team he has ever played in.

The Sunderland striker’s contribution to the Strachan era has been severely curtailed by an ankle injury sustained just two minutes into the manager’s competitive debut, a 2-1 home loss to Wales back in March.

But the national team boss insisted he has no doubts about starting Fletcher in Friday’s Hampden clash with a USA side ranked 13th in the world.

Main man: Scotland star Steven Fletcher has been backed by Gordon Strachan

Main man: Scotland star Steven Fletcher has been backed by Gordon Strachan

Speaking about a player whose  previous international exile has contributed to a fairly shocking record of just a dozen caps and a single goal — the winner against  Iceland back in 2009 — Strachan declared: ‘Wherever Steven has gone, he has made teams better.

‘When he was at Hibs he made them a  better side — and it’s been the same at Burnley, Wolves, Sunderland; he had a  terrific season for Sunderland last season until he got injured playing for us.

‘He has that quality to make a squad and a team better. No, I haven’t had much of a chance to work with him.

‘But listen, I know he can do it. There’s no question about that. It’s great working with good players. It is fantastic as a coach to see really good players working. When you see class players training, it’s great. And Steven has added to that.

‘You watch him today and the way he comes to the ball and glides with it when he has got it. He is comfortable with the ball and is at one with the ball when it comes to him. It’s great.’

Steven Naismith has been a revelation in the lone striker role in his last couple of outings, including scoring in last month’s 2-0 home win over Croatia, but his versatility gives Strachan an opportunity to chop and change with the No 9 jersey.

Improvement: Strachan said that wherever Fletcher has gone he has raised that team's level

Improvement: Strachan said that wherever Fletcher has gone he has raised that team's level

‘Steven Fletcher can do it, so can Steven Naismith,’ said the former Celtic boss. ‘We’re fine with that. We have competition there now — but I want more.

‘We do play a system now with one up there, one round about him and two wider players if we can.

‘So it’s not two strikers, it’s two guys who know how to play striker but can play midfield if required. That’s what we’re after.

‘They are two good point men but can play in other positions as well. I would like to find another one, that would be brilliant — and other people will be given their opportunity.’

One player denied the chance to impress is QPR’s Matt Phillips, who has been sent home with a hamstring injury. Strachan said: ‘Matt felt his hamstring was tight earlier in the week and on Wednesday it got worse.

All together now: (left-right) Lee Wallace, Scott Brown, Gordon Greer, Grant Hanley and Christophe Berra

All together now: (left-right) Lee Wallace, Scott Brown, Gordon Greer, Grant Hanley and Christophe Berra

‘As a precaution, we just told him that was enough, get yourself back. It’s unfortunate because I wanted to see him.

‘Hopefully he will be fit for the next game.’

The unlucky Phillips, who has two caps, had been recalled to the squad after missing the finale to Scotland’s World Cup qualifying campaign following a broken arm.

Strachan called up  in-form Leeds forward Ross McCormack on Wednesday night after Blackburn striker Jordan Rhodes withdrew with an ankle injury picked up in training.

McCormack has scored six goals in two games for Leeds and was initially omitted as Strachan sought to have a look at the likes of Phillips.

‘Ross is excited to get back in the squad,’ said Strachan. ‘I spoke to his manager (Brian McDermott) and they are very pleased with him.’

 

The comments below have not been moderated.

even fletcher cant improve this shower of losers

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