Sheffield United: Midfielder hopes to make his European Championship debut

John Fleck hopes to make his first appearance of this summer’s European Championships when Scotland face Croatia in a pivotal tie at Hampden Park.

Sunday, 20th June 2021, 8:00 pm

Steve Clarke’s side enter Tuesday’s clash bottom of Group D but still with a genuine chance of qualifying following Friday night’s goalless draw with England.

Fleck watched that match from the bench after being forced to miss his country’s opening match, against the Czech Republic in Glasgow, having tested positive for Covid-19 during a pre-tournament training camp.

Although the emergence of Chelsea’s Billy Gilmour has crowded his path into the team, Fleck’s fresh legs could prove an irresistible option for Clarke as he searches for a solution to the problems in front of goal which are threatening to undermine Scotland’s otherwise impressive work. Despite creating numerous chances in their opening two fixtures, Clarke’s men have yet to score in over three hours of football.

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DARLINGTON, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Billy Gilmour and John Fleck during a Scotland training session at Rockliffe Park, on June 17, 2021, in Darlington, England. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
DARLINGTON, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Billy Gilmour and John Fleck during a Scotland training session at Rockliffe Park, on June 17, 2021, in Darlington, England. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

“I’m sure, if we create enough against the Croatians, that we can score the goals we need,” Clarke said, after returning to Scotland’s base near Darlington following their trip to London. “It’s those little nuances you need - the ball spinning the right way or the goalkeeper not to make a world class save.”

“If you look at the key chances against England,” Clarke continued, “We hit some shots really well and Jordan Pickford, for England, probably made the save of the night. It’s just the small details and those are what we are looking to get right, and also a little bit to go our way.”

Although he again looks set to be named among the substitutes, Fleck’s prospects of winning his sixth cap for his country appear to have been boosted by Clarke’s admission that fatigue could force him to explore alternatives against Zlatko Dalic’s men.

Rather than work on set-pieces and play patterns, Scotland have spent most of the past 48 hours resting following their battle with the Auld Enemy.

“Now is almost two days of complete recovery,” Clarke said. “There’s not much we can do on the football pitch so it’s a little bit more in the classroom.

“The message for the next three days is recovery, recovery, recovery.”