Darren Fletcher takes aim at absent Scottish players including Sheffield Wednesday's Steven Fletcher after humiliating Kazakhstan defeat

Stoke City midfielder Darren Fletcher has taken aim at players – including Sheffield Wednesday’s Steven Fletcher – who turn down the chance to represent their country because they might get injured while on international duty.

Friday, 22nd March 2019, 12:02 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd March 2019, 1:26 pm

The former Manchester United man criticised Fletcher and the likes of Matt Ritchie, Robert Snodgrass and Tom Cairney who have all dropped out of the international picture in recent months despite still starting for their clubs.

Fletcher revealed this week that he had decided against making the trip to Kazakhstan with Scotland as he looks to "manage" knee and ankle complaints that kept him sidelined for eight months last year.

But after Thursday’s humiliating 3-0 defeat to Kazakhstan, absent Scottish players have found themselves in the firing line for not putting their country first as they look to qualify for Euro 2020.

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When asked about those opting not to play on the plastic pitch, Stoke’s Fletcher told Radio 5 Live: "That was a frustration but if I'm perfectly honest I don't completely buy into that.

"Maybe if you were being asked to play on it every week, but that was a one-off game for your country.

"Yeah it's a slightly harder surface and it's not ideal, but at the end of the day it's not too dissimilar and for the sake of one game I'd like to have seen these players make themselves available if I'm perfectly honest.

"But it's probably clubs getting involved. There is a lot of money involved in players getting injured so I'm sure there are a lot of complications in that matter.

"At the same time, though, if a player wants to play for his country then he makes himself available.

"I never had that concern because it was never something that was applied to me from a club manager. I've always made myself available for my country.”

Five-time Premier League winning Fletcher, who joined Stoke from West Brom in July 2017, made 80 senior appearances for Scotland over the course of his international career.

"I don't want to sound like a hero, but you play when you're injured, you play when you're not 100 per cent week in, week out - especially for your country,” he said.

"So I find that one really difficult. At the same time if a player is being put under pressure by their club - and I'm not saying that's the case - but if he is then it puts them in a very difficult position.

"But players should be desperate to represent their country. We need to qualify and we need our best players on the pitch at all times."