Fletcher's big chance to flourish

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The Independent Football

Oslo is one of the most expensive cities in the world, so it is appropriate that Scotland's coach, Berti Vogts, has borrowed from the richest club on the planet to dress up his team on Wednesday. Darren Fletcher is not quite the jewel in Manchester United's crown, merely an uncut diamond kept mainly in the vault, but the teenager will wear his country's hopes for the future when he makes his debut in the friendly with Norway.

The promising 19-year-old from Edinburgh has been steadily groomed by Sir Alex Ferguson - with some impressive Champions' League outings last season - and could play a bigger role for his club this season. But Vogts is not willing to wait.

Vogts will hand Fletcher his first cap even though he has been used sparingly at Under-21 level for his country - and invoked the name of his great friend, Franz Beckenbauer, as the reason. "Franz did not play for the Under-19s in Germany, he just went straight into the full side - sometimes players are good enough to do that."

The game in the Ullevaal Stadium is an important work-out ahead of the Euro 2004 double-header with the Faroe Islands and Germany. Fletcher is unlikely to figure in the showdown in Dortmund; this is merely a marker for the future. "It is a test for Darren. Sir Alex has worked hard on him and he played well in the pre-season friendlies in the US. He is a special young player, but he needs international experience."

Vogts was pleading for cash from the Scottish FA last week to inject more money into a youth programme to ensure that more Fletchers are on the doorstep for clubs to use instead of recruiting foreign players.

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