Fletcher return allows Levein to make light of the pressure - International - Football - The Independent

Fletcher return allows Levein to make light of the pressure

 

Craig Levein is not weighed down by the pressure he will be under as Scotland host the Czech Republic at Hampden Park this afternoon. Scotland must win, and win again against Lithuania on Tuesday if they are to finish second in Group I and enter the qualification play-offs.

As they lie five points behind the Czechs, though with one game in hand, much rests on today's match.

Neither the importance of the occasion, nor the 52,000 sell-out crowd at Hampden worries the Scotland manager, though. Rather, he is excited by it.

"More than anything I am looking forward to walking out on the pitch at Hampden tomorrow," Levein said, "in front of a full house with the hopes and expectations of the Scottish people placed firmly on the shoulders of myself and the rest of the group.

"I can tell you that I am absolutely comfortable with those expectations and the players are absolutely ready to reward the Scottish fans for their support. We have Hampden full but we have people sitting at home who are glued to the television who are desperate for the national team to perform and win matches.

"If you want to play or manage at the top level then these are the expectations that you want to embrace. I can tell you every player involved in the squad is desperate to play. We will do absolutely everything in our power to win this match. I know how to prepare for matches and I recognise when teams are ready to play. And we are ready to play."

Levein was criticised after going to the reverse fixture with an ultra-defensive approach, playing without any strikers and losing 1-0. While he will play a forward this afternoon, Levein insisted that he was right to do what he did in Prague. "It was straightforward," he said yesterday. "It was the right decision to make and I will make decisions about tomorrow's team based on what I believe is the right thing to do. I always look at myself first and foremost after every match and see where thing have gone well and where things have not gone well."

Today, Kenny Miller will start up front, while Christophe Berra has been chosen ahead of Danny Wilson as Gary Caldwell's centre-back partner. Most importantly, though, captain Darren Fletcher returns to the team, having only played two competitive games since March due to a virus.

Fletcher admitted to his frustration with his surprise loss of fitness. "The biggest thing was the loss of weight," he said. "I am not the type of person who can afford to lose weight. The hardest thing was coming back to feeling physically strong enough to play and it took a long time to get back to that level."

Despite a lack of match practice, Fletcher insisted that his inclusion was not a risk. "Not at all because of the experience I have at this level," he said. "I have 53 caps so I know what to expect at this level. I'm the captain – I feel I bring a lot to the team in terms of communication. I feel as fit as I ever have, I feel strong. Players have had one or two more matches than me but I don't believe that's a problem."

"I feel as fit as I have done in more than a year. I've had a fantastic pre-season, it was more of a personal pre-season. I worked very hard and I've come through both reserve games without a problem."

Levein was delighted to have his captain back. "I have been assured by him and his club he is 100 per cent," said the manager. "On the evidence of training this week I can tell you that's true. He has not played for a while. But he has the experience. Is he going to be fazed by playing a game at this level? Certainly not. So for me it's an easy decision."

Group I Details

Scotland results so far

Lithuania 0-0 Scotland, Scotland 2-1 Liechtenstein, Czech Republic 1-0 Scotland, Scotland 2-3 Spain

Scotland remaining fixtures

Today Czech Republic (h); Tues Lithuania (h); 8 Oct Liechtenstein (a); 11 Oct Spain (a)

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Top conservatoire offers ‘groundbreaking’ arts degree

Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week