Levein said: “I decided going into this campaign I wanted guys with me who 100% wanted to play for Scotland. It had been a year that the door had been open. At the time I made the comparison between Steven Fletcher and Darren Fletcher, one who would do anything he could to play for his country and one who didn’t bother lifting the phone.”
Fletcher had criticised Levein for not playing him in the EURO 2012 qualifiers against the Czech Republic, when Levein instigated the infamous 4-6-0 formation, and also against Spain. Thereafter he sent a text message ahead of the Carling Nations Cup match against Northern Ireland that he would not be playing in the game.
While his international career is on hold while Levein is still Scotland manager, Fletcher’s club career is on fire. He has just signed a four-year deal to link up with Martin O’Neill to join Sunderland in what is a £12 million deal.
With Levein may not be selecting arguably one of Scotland’s top striker, the same cannot be said for former Celtic manager O’Neill who rates the former His striker as a vital cog for Sunderland.
The Sunderland manager said: “Steven’s underrated but not by me. I think he’s capable of scoring goals and linking play which is very important to us. Steven’s got a proven track record of scoring goals. He’s very good but, at 25, he’s got room to improve and really get better. It’s vital we got him.”
Despite Scotland beating Australia 3-1 in an international friendly earlier in the month at Easter Road, Fletcher could have been one of those key players that could have helped Scotland progress through the qualifiers and into the World Cup in Rio, 2014. A striker whose goals to game ratio is better than one goal for every three games is a huge loss, and could have provided added threat to Scotland’s World Cup opponents with Jordan Rhodes breaking through also.
For Scotland we need our best players available if we are to qualify for a major tournament for the first time since the World Cup in France 1998. Levein’s decision while using the issue to stamp his authority on the side, is harming Scotland’s chances of qualifying.
The saga somewhat mirrors that of former Rangers striker Kris Boyd who refused to play for George Burley, with many media pundits and fans rounding on the former Scotland manager for such a loss. Yet this time round it seems that Levein is untouchable when it comes to his Steven Fletcher decision.
Time will tell if it will do serious damage to our qualification chances or if it won’t matter one iota.