City striker is back in Scotland contention but McLeish wanted Fletcher's experience
PA Archive/PA Images
Jordan Rhodes is back on the Scotland radar but manager Alex McLeish has opted to pick Steven Fletcher instead for his latest squad - despite the Norwich striker scoring more goals this season.
McLeish has named Sheffield Wednesday forward Fletcher in his squad for Uefa Nations League games against Albania and Israel in the upcoming international break, after scoring three goals in 16 games for the Owls.
The Scots were in need of striker options with Steven Naismith, on loan at Hearts from Norwich, and Celtic’s Leight Griffiths both injured.
Rhodes’ seven goals in 18 games for City, on loan from Wednesday, put him in the mix but McLeish has gone for Fletcher, Oli McBurnie of Swansea, Matt Phillips of West Brom and former Derby striker Johnny Russell, now playing for Sporting Kansas City in the USA.
Fletcher’s experience of nine goals in 31 games for Scotland earned him a first call-up in over a year.
“That is why he stuck out like a sore thumb,” McLeish said. “It is good that he has been playing regularly for Wednesday. He has been managing his games and recovery. I’m sure he can make a big impression for us.
“There are a lot of names out there. We looked at Jordan Rhodes at Norwich as well. We have guys regularly out in the field looking at them and we have reports every single week. We just felt that at this moment in time Fletch was the right candidate.”
Rhodes was born in England, in Oldham, but spent five years in Scotland while his dad – former Dumfermilne and St Johnstone keeper, Andy – was playing north of the border so qualified to represent the Scots.
He scored eight goals in eight U21 games and has three goals from 14 senior caps since his debut seven years ago, but has been called up just once in the last three years.
“When I knew Steven and Leigh would be unavailable, I was thinking about alternatives – makeshift centre forwards, false centre forwards, all these modern positions and players who play in these positions,” McLeish added, speaking to The Scotsman newspaper. “But I thought it was right that we try to seek out an experienced striker.
“I left Steven (Fletcher) alone in the summer because I knew he was recuperating from injuries but I always had him in my mind. If there is pressure on him to deliver for Scotland, then he can handle it. He has been that kind of player all his career.”
Norwich also currently have defender Grant Hanley and midfielder Kenny McLean out of Scotland contention due to injuries, although Hanley is back in training after a thigh problem and former Aberdeen man McLean should return from ankle surgery after the international break.