Scotland veteran Darren Fletcher believes the exploits of Andy Murray on the tennis circuit can prove to be an inspiration to Gordon Strachan’s team.
Come Saturday evening, Scotland will take on France at a sold out, and pumped up, Stade Saint Symphorien in Metz for what will be the Euro 2016 hosts’ final game before the tournament begins.
After failing to register even a shot on target in a grim 1-0 defeat at the hands of Italy in Malta the other night, Scotland need a boost and Fletcher believes the two-time Grand Slam champion can provide it.
“When you see Scots operating at the highest level it can inspire you,” said the 31-year-old. “I always remember watching Barry Ferguson play at a high level in the Champions league with Rangers and being man of the match and dominating games. My mindset then became if he can do it why can’t I?
“I think you’ve always got to try and do that. The manager here has spoken to the lads about the Italians.
“He told the young ones to look and see how strong they were, how fit they were and how good they were on the ball. They work hard in the gym away from football and the manager is telling the young players not to put a ceiling on performance levels.
“The Murrays are the perfect example of that and when you speak to them you realise how much work they put into things. They are a credit to Scotland and to their sport. I wish Andy all the best this week in Paris and hope that we can end the season with a good result in Metz.”
Murray might be worth a punt. As for Scotland, well...money isn’t for chucking away. Andy Murray has made oodles of it but only because of his dedication in making a life’s vocation of the constant striving to raise his standards as a tennis player. He seems to have a similarly admirable attitude to being an upright fella away from court, as is true too of Jamie. With Fletcher another prince of a person in these respects, it is little wonder they all seem to have get on swimmingly. His near two decades on the books at Manchester United didn’t do any harm either.
“I met Jamie in America on a trip with Manchester United and he did a tennis exhibition. We hit it off,” Fletcher said. “That was a couple of summers ago and when the Davis Cup was in Birmingham I went down to see Jamie and he sprung a surprise on me by getting me to chat and play a bit with Andy.
“I’m good friends with Jamie and even if you look at him you see how dedicated and professional he is and how he goes about his business. They are two world class Scots performing at the very peak of their sport.”
Even though it was a desperate showing in Malta’s national stadium from Scotland, and an evening when nothing much came off for Fletcher himself, the fixture still provided him a landmark that the fiercely patriotic football-loving Murrays would no doubt consider worthy of good wishes to the midfielder. In earning his 72nd cap he moves on to the same total as Tom Boyd. Only four players – Paul McStay with 76, Alex McLeish with 77, Jim Leighton with 91 and Kenny Dalglish as the one century-maker in making 102 appearances – have now represented the country on more occasions. Consider he lost two years of playing time to a career-threatening bowel disease, Fletcher’s tally is testament to his willingness to serve his country in all circumstances.
He probably only started against the Italians because regular captain Scott Brown’s unavailability, and indeed has made only five starts since his return following his health problems in late 2013 following his health problems.
He keeps plugging away because, alas, what sets him apart from the other Scots in the upper echelons in the all-time appearances list is that none of his games have come in major finals.
“It was a tough game against a high class side,” Fletcher said of the outclassing by Italy. “They are used to that Juventus formation with the three centre-halves and they work the ball well.”