Steven Fletcher Isn’t Worthy Of Scots Starting Place


Scotland edged out Northern Ireland 1-0 in a friendly that was played out at Hampden on Wednesday night.

The game brought up a few talking points.

For me, one topic that has to be looked at is the continued presence of Steven Fletcher in the Scotland staring eleven.

Against the Northern Irish team, Fletcher picked up his nineteenth cap. Yet only once in those nineteen games has Fletcher managed to score for his country. That game came in a 2-1 win against Iceland… Back in 2009!

He’s shown good pedigree before with the Under-21’s and the Under-19s. Steven has also scored a decent amount in the English Premier League (EPL) but this season he only has four goals in twenty-eight appearances for Sunderland. He hasn’t hit double figures in the EPL since the 2012/13 season.

Yes the striker has been a bit unfortunate with injuries and managerial changes at his club. Plus when he was at his peak in the EPL he was in a self-imposed international exile during the Craig Levein years, so he wasn’t playing for Scotland never mind scoring for them during his time inform.

As the main striker, he needs to offer more of a goal threat. At the moment he’s not getting noticed by either winger and also seems to struggle to link-up with the player that’s playing off him. His runs aren’t intelligent enough and when he does get into decent areas inside the box he’s snatching at chances. Fletcher is also prone to hitting tame efforts from distance as the game carries on, mainly due to frustration.

The former Hibs striker does put in a shift but does it without doing enough in the right areas and he quickly fades away from games.

Now the fact he plays in England’s top flight shouldn’t make him an automatic starter. Steven Fletcher is out of form and out of ideas at the moment.

Unfortunately Scot’s boss Gordon Strachan hasn’t got much options.

He could start with Naismith up-top and have him make smart runs in between defenders. Then keep Shaun Maloney in behind the Everton man. But against Gibraltar it might be better to have a more prolific goalscorer lead the line and have Naismith in behind him.

So for me, Strachan should start with Blackburn’s Jordan Rhodes. 

The twenty-five year old already has more international goals, in fewer appearances, than Fletcher (Rhodes has 11 caps & 3 goals). In the Championship this term he has scored sixteen goals. In his last nine Blackburn Rovers outings, Rhodes has hit the net six times!

The forward is in form and surely given the right service he’ll be able to get a couple against Gibraltar, who are still finding their feet at international level.

Some in the Tartan Army will suggest that the Gibraltar game could be an ideal opportunity for Fletcher to rediscover his goalscoring touch but based on previous displays in a Scotland jersey, I just can’t say he merits a starting berth on Sunday.

I am not totally discounting Fletcher for Scotland, I just think he needs to start more for Sunderland and score there first. Against the likes of Gibraltar we need to play our form players.

What else did we learn from the Northern Ireland game? 

1. Matt Ritchie:

Well Matt Ritchie needs time to adapt to a step-up in terms of playing international football. His corner set-up the goal but he did little else during the ninety minutes. But it can be difficult on your debut, when you are learning everyones name and the teams formation/style.

I think playing with Steven Whittaker just behind him, did Ritchie no favours. Whittaker seemed to be confused by the Bournemouth man’s runs and the full-backs passing was pretty woeful, particularly in the first period. I’d imagine an Alan Hutton Matt Ritchie partnership would be more potent as Hutton thrives off of wingers that cut inside and give him plenty of space to overlap.

2. Craig Forsyth: 

The Derby County man is another player still learning the international ropes. But Craig did well when called upon in this game and seemed to offer a good working partnership with Ikechi Anya down the lefthand side.

A much better back up for that left-back role than Whittaker if Andrew Robertson is missing.

3. Christophe Berra: 

The central defender is still capable at this level. He is also a great target to have at set-pieces. Scored the winner tonight but has also impressed with his five goals for Ipswich Town this season.

Might offer more of a threat against Gibraltar than Gordon Greer if we are looking at set-pieces to get breakthroughs.

4. David Marshall is number one: 

With Craig Gordon and Allan McGregor getting a half each, it looks ever more likely that Cardiff City’s David Marshall is Strachan’s number one choice in between the sticks.

Marshall has started all of the qualifiers so far in this campaign and I would imagine that will continue this Sunday against the groups minnows.

5. Scotland have an embarrassment of riches in midfield: 

Any two of Scott Brown, Darren Fletcher, James McArthur or James Morrison could play in the heart of midfield for Scotland and we’d still do well.

All four are having fine seasons with their clubs and the competition for places is only a good thing for the Tartan Army. It’s great to see Darren Fletcher back in the Scotland side and dictating play, he never looked flustered against Northern Ireland.

2 Responses to “Steven Fletcher Isn’t Worthy Of Scots Starting Place”

  1. I agree that Steve Fetcher is struggling to score the goals we require but those who know better do not seem convinced by Rhodes even though stats would suggest he will score goals. My solution for the Gibraltar game is to play both S Fletcher and Rhodes up front. Naismith on right and Anya on left. Brown and Morrison centre midfield. Assuming availability Hutton and Robertson full backs. Centre backs Martin and Hanley. Against better teams leave out S Fletcher bring in another midfielder such as Ritchie or D Fletcher.

  2. Cheers for the comment Scot.

    I am not convinced Rhodes is the long term answer, but I do feel he deserves to play ahead of Fletcher against Gibraltar.

    Think Strachan will push Naismith further forward and have someone else on the right-wing.

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