SCOTLAND boss Gordon Strachan admits he is relishing the international return of Steven Fletcher, five months after the Sunderland striker was injured representing his country.
Strachan bowed to the good sense of not calling up the 26-year-old up for international duty in the current round of World Cup qualifiers against Belgium and Macedonia, with Fletcher (pictured) having only 45 minutes first-team football under his belt after returning from the ankle injury sustained against Wales in March.
But Strachan, who watched his side lose 2-0 to the impressive Belgians on Friday with Wolves striker Leigh Griffiths leading the line, is coveting the Sunderland forward’s return.
If Griffiths does not get the nod again, he is likely to turn to either Jamie Mackie or Ross McCormack for the lone striker’s slot against Macedonia, with McCormack the favourite following Jordan Rhodes’ withdrawal because of a hand injury.
But Fletcher continues to occupy Strachan’s thoughts.
“When Steven returns it will be a big boost,” he said. “There is absolutely no doubt of that.
“He is a top player and can play any system.
“Steven’s game all round is top-class.
“We have to try different people, but we are not blessed at the moment with strikers saying they must play.
“Jamie Mackie has only played a couple of games for Nottingham Forest and didn’t play much last year for QPR.
“You have Jordan, whose Blackburn team were fourth bottom of the Championship last year, and Leigh, who is in League One.
“You look at that and you think it is hard work to go from where they are playing to play against a team like Belgium.”
Scotland are bottom of their section and desperately need a boost in Macedonia tomorrow, if only to help their future seedings.
Rhodes and Charlie Adam (back) are out of the reckoning, while winger Robert Snodgrass is suspended.
Defender Steven Whittaker is desperate to get a result to match the Scots’ last away qualifier, a fine win in Croatia.
The Norwich man, an ex-Hibs team-mate of Fletcher, said: “Obviously Macedonia is going to be a tough game, but we believe we can go there and get a result and we have Croatia at home and hopefully again we can get momentum going into that game.
“We’ve played some good stuff the last few games, we are getting more positive and hopefully we can start creating chances and getting goals and results to match. We keep working to progress, we feel that we have done that under this new manager.”
Ex-Sunderland loan signing Alan Hutton is keeping Whittaker out of his usual right-back role for Scotland as he continues on the opposite side of defence.
“It is obviously not my favoured position, but if I am picked there I will try my best,” he said. “I always do that. It is not ideal being a right-footer on the left side of the park but I will adapt to that as best I can.”