Darren Fletcher captained Scotland during last night’s 1-0 friendly victory over Northern Ireland, with Scott Brown rested ahead of the nation’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Gibraltar on Sunday. Debate has sparked up in recent weeks over who should be Gordon Strachan’s captain, with Brown and Fletcher the two clear front runners for the position. Discussion on the actual importance of captaincy in football aside, Scottish Fans looked at both candidates and their merits on taking the armband.
Position: Central midfield
Club: West Bromwich Albion
Previous clubs: Manchester United
Notable honours: English Premier League (4), FA Cup (1), English League Cup (1), Champions League (1)
International caps/goals: 67 caps, 5 goals
The more experienced of the duo, Fletcher brought the curtain down on a extremely successful 12 year career at Manchester United to join West Bromwich Albion this January, seeking more playing time and a career reboot after struggling with serious injury at United and falling down Louis Van Gaal’s pecking order in midfield.
For Scotland, a consistently good performer, if maybe not scoring as much as would be expected from one of the more high profile players in the squad. He has experience of captaining at club level and was installed as Van Gaal’s deputy to Wayne Rooney before his move to the Midlands. His long-term fitness may be the greatest concern when deliberating over his candidacy as Scotland’s captain . Despite making a strong recovery from ulcerative colitis, Fletcher is the wrong side of 30 and hasn’t been playing regular football for several months. In fact, you would have to go back to the 2010/11 season for the last time Fletcher made over twenty appearances in all competitions. Gordon Strachan will be hoping that Fletcher’s initial good form for West Brom will carry on as the European Championship qualifying campaign reaches its climax.
Position: Central midfield
Previous clubs: Hibernian
Notable honours: Scottish Premiership (4), Scottish Cup (2), Scottish League Cup (2)
International caps/goals: 42 caps, 4 goals
Scott Brown is arguably in the form of his life just now. The champions’ captain is the first name on the team sheet for Ronny Deila, and one of the most talented individuals at Parkhead alongside midfield partner Stefan Johansen. The former Hibernian man has grown in stature year-on-year for Celtic and in turn has become a very valuable commodity for Gordon Strachan and the national team.
His experience is almost at the level of Darren Fletcher and, like Fletcher, is comfortable being a cog in a highly successful team. Brown’s role is slightly different to that of his Scottish compatriot, with energy and physicality two abilities that he is arguably without peer in Strachan’s squad. Although his temperament is often called into question, he has been able to curb his enthusiasm in recent seasons, leveraging his natural energy to complementing his not-insignificant technical skills.
One criticism however is that Brown doesn’t score enough goals for Scotland, a point also leveled at Fletcher. Four goals from forty-two caps is a poor return from a player who has regularly exceeded season-by-season at club level. This isn’t an issue at Celtic, where Brown has been fortunate enough to play with a myriad of high-quality goalscorers, but for Scotland, who have struggled for years to find a regular goalscorer, contributions from midfield become even more important.
Whoever Strachan decides to stick with long-term, be it Fletcher, Brown or any of the other respected candidates in the current Scotland set-up, the national team’s future is looking brighter than usual. Qualification for a first major tournament in nearly twenty years is within sight and the brand of football on the pitch has not only proved to be successful, but attractive too.
Who would you pick? Darren Fletcher? Scott Brown? Another individual perhaps?