Manchester United FC midfielder Darren Fletcher has declared himself fit for Scotland's 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Wales and Belgium. The 28-year-old has been sidelined for 11 months with a chronic bowel condition and while there were doubts about whether he would play again, Fletcher is now ready to lead Scotland into tonight's Group A fixture against Wales in Cardiff.
"I didn't doubt that I would play again," said Fletcher. "I always felt I would be back. There were other people who doubted it but, for me, to be here today I always needed to believe. I couldn't let myself think I might not make it. I always told myself I'd be back one day and fortunately that's the case.
"The condition never goes away and that's the thing I have to live with. Every day is a battle for me. I have to watch my diet and take certain medication or it could come back. It's a battle every day. I'm never going to be 100% and that's something I'm going to have to live with for the rest of my life. But the position I'm in now, compared to where I was? I'd gladly accept being like this for the rest of my life. It's not ideal, but it's manageable."
A complete break from the game was the only way to determine whether Fletcher's ulcerative colitis was aggravated by training and playing football. Fortunately, he was given the green light to return to first-team action with Manchester United in September. Having not kicked a ball between last December and July, he has made two UEFA Champions League appearances and another in the English League Cup. Now, barring a last-minute injury, Fletcher will earn his 69th cap tonight and admits it feels like he is making his international debut all over again.
"When I played in my first reserve game the excitement levels were unbelievable," Fletcher added. "Then obviously it went up a few notches when I made my return to the United first team, but to be back in a Scotland shirt – that's another thing again. Just to be sitting here in the team hotel the night before the game, it almost feels like I'm starting out all over again.
In terms of my excitement levels, it feels like I'm about to win my first cap. I'll probably take a minute before the game just to soak everything up but it will be great to be back and playing for my country."
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