Sheffield United: Another commanding performance from John Fleck makes a mockery of his latest snub by Scotland

John Fleck was in commanding form again, this time against Aston Villa
John Fleck was in commanding form again, this time against Aston Villa

Tomorrow, when Sheffield United report for training at the Steelphalt Academy, John Fleck could be forgiven for glancing around the canteen and wondering what he is doing there.

While the likes of Conor Washington, Oliver Norwood and Ben Woodburn prepare for senior international duty, the Scottish midfielder has once again been left behind in South Yorkshire after being ignored by his country.

Hampden Park's refusal to recognise Fleck's talents has mystified some of the sharpest minds at Bramall Lane. Intelligent in possession and tenacious in the tackle, the 27-year-old would appear the perfect addition to a squad which, despite failing to qualify for this summer's World Cup. seems determined to persist with the same methods and personnel.

Fleck, having completed a degree in SFA politics during Rangers' implosion seven seasons ago, has wisely kept his own counsel after a series of snubs tracing back to his arrival at Bramall Lane. If his time at Ibrox taught him anything, it was that taking on the powers-that-be, regardless of your reasons, brings precious little other than trouble, angst and pain. But speaking before United's meeting with Aston Villa, which saw Fleck produce another accomplished performance, manager Chris Wilder did dip his toes into the debate. Albeit, with great diplomacy.

"I'm sure, if John keeps doing what he's doing, then he'll get noticed eventually," he said. "In fact, I'm sure he already has been because Alex (McLeish) is very knowledgeable about what's happening in the English game.
"They've got some good players up the road there and, if they've got better ones than Flecky, then fair enough I suppose. But if he keeps putting a shift in, playing the way he has been, then I'm sure he'll get his reward eventually."

Fleck's continued omission from the Scotland set-up has frustrated not only the player himself but his former team mates too. Stefan Scougall, who worked alongside the Glaswegian during United's League One title winning campaign, told a newspaper north of the border he was the ideal replacement for Scott Brown; the Celtic captain who, after several u-turns, has finally decided to put club before country.

"I'm not anti lads going away to represent their nations whatsoever," Wilder continued. "I know some people are but, for me, it's the biggest honour you can get. It reflects on how well the lads themselves are doing and, I like to think, what we're doing as a club."

Norwood and Washington, one of two new signings United made before Friday's transfer deadline, have both been selected by Northern Ireland for their forthcoming games against Bosnia & Herzegovina and Israel. Intriguingly, Enda Stevens and John Egan could find themselves facing their United colleague when the Republic of Ireland and Wales lock horns in Cardiff while Kieron Freeman has been placed on stand-by by the hosts' manager Ryan Giggs.

"Personally, I think it's great that Sheffield United have these lads involved at the highest level," Wilder said. "It shows they're good players, it shows how we are progressing on the the pitch and as a club."