Darren Fletcher on spell at United, illness and West Brom dream

Discussion in 'Football Forum' started by top1whoisman, Jan 12, 2017.

  1. Jan 12, 2017

    top1whoisman Meet the press(conference)

    May 18, 2016
    Darren Fletcher on spell at Manchester United, illness and West Brom dream: I've been moulded by two greats... Sir Alex Ferguson and Roy Keane

    • West Brom star Darren Fletcher has opened up on his Manchester United spell
    • Fletcher's career had been threatened by the bowel condition ulcerative colitis
    • The Scottish midfielder overcame illness and is now starring at the Hawthorns
    • Since joining, he has started every one of his team's 73 Premier League games
    • He describes life playing under Sir Alex Ferguson and alongside Roy Keane

    First of all, the telling of a story that doesn't sound very much like Darren Fletcher at all. May 1999 and 15-year-old Fletcher is on his way home from the Scottish Schools Cup final with his father.

    'I set up loads of goals and had all my mates watching in the crowd,' Fletcher recalled. 'I was showing off and trying to nutmeg people. My dad was on at me. He said I hadn't run back or worked.

    'He said, "You are never going to be a footballer playing like that. Just get the ball and pass it. You are a team player". That has stuck with me. Winning 5-0 and going home with a medal while your dad calls you a show pony in the car. He was right, of course.'

    Get the ball and pass it. When Fletcher winds down his career, it would be a suitable epitaph. Now 32, he has been doing it for years.

    'Here at West Brom the manager wants me to be disciplined,' he said, smiling. 'I am feeling like I want to run all over the pitch but he wants me to use my experience, reining me in. But it's all good. I've been here before, haven't I?'

    Fletcher's debut at his first club Manchester United was delayed by two years because of injuries. When it came in 2003, it set a tone.

    'I was thrown in on the right wing but it was the same,' he said. 'Ronaldo doing tricks and not running back and frustrating everyone. And I am there running back, working, doing what I am told.

    'But I was playing with amazing players like Paul Scholes and Roy Keane and you realise you have to find a niche for yourself. So that's what I did. I worked.

    'Roy said to me once, "I could play for 10 years with you doing all my running, Fletch". You can't understand how much that meant. For me, it's worked and I have loved it. I still love it.'

    Fletcher has been a West Brom player for two years. Since joining from United, he has started every one of his team's 73 Premier League games, some achievement for a player whose career had been threatened by the bowel condition ulcerative colitis.

    Fletcher drives 80 miles to training from the family home in Cheshire and often spends that time on the phone to sufferers of the illness that almost ruined him. Surgery to remove his large intestine in January 2013 allowed Fletcher to return to relatively normal life but many others still suffer.

    'It feels like a long time ago, like a blur,' he said. 'It's crazy looking back at how ill I was. I was scared at times but I always thought I would get back. Maybe it was stubbornness.

    'The lad I spoke to today is a footballer in non-League and I was trying to encourage him to think he could get through. They all think I have had some magic cure, special treatment for a wealthy footballer. But that's not the case.

    'I have suffered the same things as these people. It's an embarrassing subject but I speak openly. I want to help.

    'I am told people now associate the illness with my recovery and if that brings hope to people that's good. You can get your life back.'

    Fletcher wears the responsibility of a profile that now reaches outside sport very well. He is a natural captain and is encouraging people to set their sights high.

    'We are trying to get away from the mentality of just accepting survival every season,' he said.

    His years at United introduced him to different styles of leadership. Keane would confront poor attitudes head on. Scholes and Ryan Giggs did it on the training field.

    'I am not one to kick people in training if they have not been behaving,' he said. 'I used to leave that to Scholesy and I don't do it here.

    'I will try to lead by example, by my voice in the dressing room and then one-on-one if necessary. It's not top of my list to go flying in with verbals.

    'Sir Alex (Ferguson) always said, "Watch the first-team players. Listen to what they say". I believe in that.' Fletcher won five Premier League titles at United and played more than 350 games. Ferguson shaped his career. And then there was Keane. 'It frustrates me that some people think Roy didn't rate me because he probably moulded me more than any other player I have known,' he said.

    'He was hard on me but he was always fair. If he spoke to me 10 times, nine were compliments. If I was late, Roy would let me know. If my passing wasn't on in training then Roy would let me know.

    'People remember the controversial stories and the times he went mental. But the rest of the time he made me feel on top of the world.

    'What about the story where I've been out for two months and Roy says loudly, "I am glad this lad's back. We have missed him". That's not a great story. It's a better story to say, "Remember that time Roy nailed Fletch in the dressing room for looking at his phone".

    'That did happen, yeah. But it was rare and that was just about standards. It was his way of getting a message to everybody. That is what it was like at United.

    'I just watched Roy and learned, but above all of that I just liked him. I still like him. He was an unbelievable leader and a fantastic player, the best first touch I ever saw.

    'I walked on the pitch next to him and knew we would be fine. That is leadership. It's what I want to do for people at this club.'

    Football has changed since Fletcher's debut but he insists that basic principles haven't.

    'Players have grown up with phones and social media, so for us to ban them here would be a bit much,' he said. 'It's about doing the right thing. Phones are switched off at the right time, don't worry.

    'Sir Alex used to say he couldn't treat us like he used to treat his Aberdeen team simply because we were a different generation. We were no longer working class so had to be treated differently.

    'He used to deliver messages, then suddenly you find yourself thinking these things and acting differently. It's subtle, brilliant management. Not just changing us as players but also as people. He had an iPad, too, and all the apps. He had someone at the club following players on Twitter.

    'So he would say to a player, "Did you have a good day out yesterday?" and the player would be, "How the hell did he know I was there?" and I would be thinking, "Well obviously you have posted a picture of yourself on Twitter haven't you!"

    'He didn't need to have spies in nightclubs any more, he could do it all from his armchair!

    'It's funny to think back. He was an incredible man. Those two people shaped the person sitting in front of you today.'

    Fletcher has always been obsessed with European football and he believes Tony Pulis can bring it to West Brom.

    Ahead of Saturday's game at Tottenham, they are eighth and Fletcher said: 'I see giving fans a European night at the Hawthorns as something special to strive for.

    'I would love that. We may have to sign a couple of players and play every week on a Sunday, but big deal. Why not the Europa League next season?

    'Maybe it's the illness and the thrill of being back but I set myself new goals when I came here. To get into Europe would be like winning the Premier League. I love it here. It excites me.'

    Fletcher grew up wanting to play in a Champions League final.

    He would watch Celtic as a boy, wore an Ajax away kit in 1995 and was inspired by Paul Lambert, a fellow Scot, winning it with Borussia Dortmund two years later.

    'Basile Boli scored the winner in the first final,' he said unprompted. 'My dad taped it for me.'

    He never played in a final and it irks him. He was twice an unused substitute and was unjustly suspended when he would have played, against Barcelona in Rome in 2009.

    Nevertheless, he believes he was part of an era of English football that left its mark.

    'People talk about teams pressing but we did that first and then Barcelona took it on,' he explained. 'Before that in Spain it was, "You have it, we have it and then let's see who is best with it". But they saw what United did and realised that was the way to go.

    'It's perfect. You don't even let the opposition have the chance to be in that lovely nice game. Barca eliminated that, but we did that first.

    'Get the ball back in quickly at throw-ins, don't let teams settle, get after them. That's what we did for years in Europe.'

    The man who refined the system is now in the Premier League. Pep Guardiola has not had it all his own way at Manchester City and Fletcher's take on that and his belief in Pulis's methods are fascinating.

    Fletcher said: 'I heard Guardiola speak about the English use of the 'second ball' and it was interesting. English teams recognise you can control a game without possession.

    'Turning teams round, playing a ball up and not caring if you win the first ball but ensuring you win the second or third ball. That's unique to British football.

    'I am not sure you get too many of those phrases in Spain, where your manager always talks about pass completion.

    'That's why stats don't always work. There are times when I can play a pass that's not complete, but it's what this team needs.

    'It can leave a good team facing its own goal. They have to put the ball out of play and then we have territory and a throw-in that we have worked at.

    'So now the ball is in their area and we get a chance or a corner. We are progressing but I haven't completed a pass have I?

    'So my stats are down but I have done my job.

    'At Man City or Barcelona, your passing stats will be off the charts but you have to look at football with your eyes as well. A pass that goes five yards isn't always that dangerous, is it?'

    To listen to the way Fletcher has broadened his understanding in two years is intriguing. He has designs on coaching and keeps thoughts and ideas in a notebook.

    What about 2009, though? People say he could have made the difference against Barcelona.

    'Some people say my reputation grew by not playing,' he said with a laugh. 'Look, we had a good thing going. I was pressing and getting after people and it was great.

    'But would it have worked against Xavi and Iniesta? Maybe not having to try got me a few more years at United…'

    Last October, as Manchester United drew at Liverpool, Fletcher was in the away end. It was not new to him. He did it sometimes when away from the game with illness.

    In 2004, he travelled to the European Championship with friends. He wore a kilt, a Timberland boot on his right foot and a pot protecting an injury on his left.

    'We had a great week watching the football,' he said, grinning. 'I didn't tell United about it...

    'You miss being a fan when you play. You miss the occasion and the tribalism. I see myself as normal, so I didn't see why I wouldn't go to Anfield or previously to City or to watch Celtic.

    'I went and sang songs and jumped around and supported my mates. I loved it.' Fletcher is still close to many at Old Trafford and Wayne Rooney used to send Fletcher's two sons England shirts. Now it's football boots.

    Last Saturday the two friends had dinner.

    'He was thrilled to score and equal Sir Bobby's record,' he said. 'It means the world to him.'

    I ask if Rooney feels under-appreciated by some.

    'Everybody wants recognition,' he said. 'You always think you should have more. But he's broken records, captained United and England, won everything.

    'He's up there with the best, every bit as influential as Ronaldo in his day.

    'Those two went toe to toe one year, but after that, to allow Ronaldo to go forwards, Wayne fell back and was a team player and that was what they needed.

    'People with good football intelligence will realise that. Others may not. Yeah, we had a bit of dinner. He is a great lad.'

    Fletcher will watch as United and Liverpool meet again on Sunday. He recognises familiar signs.

    'Playing against them the other week, they felt like a Jose Mourinho team,' he said. 'Like Chelsea of old. Game management, slowing the game down, tactical fouls, getting back to a shape, being measured.

    'I hear good things from the club. Jose is enjoying it and that's important. That will transmit itself to the players.

    'United could surprise people and win the league. They are working so hard for him.'

    A conversation that started with the virtues of hard work has come full circle, and as Fletcher prepares for consecutive West Brom league appearance No 74 at Spurs on Saturday, the scale of his recent journey once again becomes clear.

    'Since I have come back I have hardly missed a day's training, but don't think I have been flying fit every day because I haven't,' he said. 'Like most players, I have played sick, ill and injured.

    'I wish I was the player of my pre-illness days but I am not. I had all that strength, speed, power and stamina and that's not the same now.

    'It's not because of the surgery, more because I am 33 next month.

    'I missed three years of my prime career and that's a shame but that's just a part of my story. I am a footballer still. I am very lucky.'

  2. Jan 12, 2017

    MounchesterUtd Banned

    May 26, 2016
    Underrated cog of that last great SAF team. Really a shame that he was robbed of his prime.
  3. Jan 12, 2017

    lem8sh Banned

    Dec 30, 2006
    Martinez school of defending
    "Best first touch I ever saw" Some compliment considering who he has played alongside.
  4. Jan 12, 2017

    AndyJ1985 Full Member Verified Moaner

    Apr 11, 2016
    Had no idea he's played in every league game for West Brom since joining them. Goon on him, I'm pleased he's doing well and enjoying life.
  5. Jan 12, 2017

    Havak Pokemon master

    Dec 26, 2006
    Salford, Manchester
    Fletch is a favourite player of mine. Obvious soft spot since we suffer(ed) from the same medical condition, I'm so glad he got over it and is a huge success at West Brom. The fact he is playing Premier League football at all is amazing as you can easily have a bad couple of months and lose a couple of stone which takes so long to gain back and build up your strength. He's not just playing at Premier League level either, West Brom have something going on there and they're touching the level of teams like Everton, Southampton, and Stoke who are your typical top half sides striving for a spot in Europe.

    Clutching at the old straw again, but I really do believe that we could have nicked it against Barcelona if he was playing in the final, like he should have been. Wasn't meant to be, but a great lad and some of the things he says there show a lot of maturity. Probably got another three years in him at least in the Premier League and I hope he manages to get a European game for the West Brom fans.
  6. Jan 12, 2017

    rotherham_red Full Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    Used to love Fletch while he was here. Still do, in fact.

    Those European games during 2006-9, he was literally an unstoppable force. Was everywhere seemingly at once.
  7. Jan 12, 2017

    PepsiCola Full Member

    Jan 29, 2016
    Our most important midfielder between 2006-09 imho.

    The moment the arse Fabregas dived for the arsenal penalty in the cl semi and got Fletcher suspended, we had already lost the final vs Barcelona.
  8. Jan 12, 2017

    top1whoisman Meet the press(conference)

    May 18, 2016
    Agree with all of it, apart from having the illness. Hope you're doing better. Fletch is one of my absolute United favourites along with Cantona, Giggsy & Evra. The stick he got from our own fans only increases the value in my eyes.
  9. Jan 12, 2017

    Pexbo has never watched Star Wars

    Jun 2, 2009
    That's a great read. He's cut from the same cloth as Nicky Butt, straight talking, intelligent and completely down to earth. I've got a lot of time for players like him.
  10. Jan 12, 2017

    lem8sh Banned

    Dec 30, 2006
    Martinez school of defending
    He didn't dive in fairness, just a bad call by the referee.
  11. Jan 12, 2017

    ChaddyP Full Member

    Apr 29, 2011
    Banned from Pogba thread
    Fantastic read.
  12. Jan 12, 2017

    arthurka Full Member

    Jan 20, 2010
    Class our Fletch..
  13. Jan 12, 2017

    #07 makes new threads with tweets in the OP

    Oct 25, 2010
    It's still difficult to appreciate how good Fletch was in 2009/10.

    Everyone talks about 2008/09, because of the suspension in the semi final. To me though, even though we lost the league by a point, 2009/10 was Fletch's real highpoint.

    Him, Rooney, Valencia and Evra kept the train on the tracks after Ronaldo left. If not for that injury to Rooney, maybe Mou wouldn't have won the treble!?

    I loved Fletch in the last 16 of the European Cup against Milan. In both legs he was superb. In the away leg he totally changed the game for us, as he did so many times that year.

    The people who talk about his rep growing in his absence have short memories.
  14. Jan 12, 2017

    Chorley1974 Lady Ole

    Nov 24, 2006
    Same here, glad he's got his fitness and consistency back. Great player for us, really pleased for him, and sounds like he has a great mentality, and attitude.
  15. Jan 12, 2017

    UnrelatedPsuedo I pity the poor fool who stinks like I do!

    Apr 15, 2015
    'But would it have worked against Xavi and Iniesta? Maybe not having to try got me a few more years at United…'

    Holy hell that's humble.
  16. Jan 12, 2017

    Unlikely lad Full Member

    Aug 5, 2010
    Used to be my favourite player. Sounds like he'll be another one of Fergie's players who'll take on a managing job.
  17. Jan 12, 2017

    OLLY ORANGE Full Member

    Jul 17, 2011
    Fair play to him he has not let his health set backs get him down or stop him having a great career.
    Felt he was underated and didn't get the credit he deserved before his illness by some fans and the media.
    Quality read and great to see him helping others.
  18. Jan 12, 2017

    simonhch Horrible boss

    Aug 17, 2010
    Sartorial Guru
    Urban Combat Preparedness
    Really great insights. Loved that. Thanks for posting.
  19. Jan 12, 2017

    Stack Leave Women's Football Alone!!!

    Sep 6, 2006
    Auckland New Zealand
    And people who forget just how much of a whipping boy he was on here for a while have just as short memories. He spent a decent amount of time on here being the scapegoat by an awful lot of people.
  20. Jan 12, 2017

    12OunceEpilogue Full Member

    Oct 2, 2016
    I loved how 'Darren Fletcher, football genius' was at first a bit of a pisstake then became genuinely true. Obviously not a genius of football in the way Ronaldo was for us in the same team but he really was extremely good at what he was doing, to the point where he was integral to our play.

    My admiration and esteem for him are sky high and I'm so happy how well it's going for him at West Brom.
  21. Jan 12, 2017

    red_devil83 Banned

    Mar 6, 2014
    I think he'll make a decent manager
  22. Jan 12, 2017

    Bwuk Full Member

    Feb 29, 2012
    Dunfermline, Fife
    It's a shame the injury took away his career as he was hitting his peak. Him and Carrick complimented each other so well.
  23. Jan 12, 2017

    #07 makes new threads with tweets in the OP

    Oct 25, 2010
    If I had a fiver for every time it was claimed he only plays cos he's Fergie's son...
  24. Jan 12, 2017

    El Zoido Full Member

    Jun 7, 2013
    Fletch is a top bloke and a true pro, I'm really happy for him, most of us thought he was finished after he got his illness but he's made of stronger stuff. That suspension he got in the semi final against Arsenal was a disgrace of a decision, it robbed him of a champions league final and he could have legitimately made a difference in that game.
  25. Jan 12, 2017

    Bojan11 Full Member

    May 16, 2010
    Honestly thought he was done as a footballer in his last season with us. Looked weak and had no composure on the ball.

    So happy that he has discovered some of his form at West Brom
  26. Jan 12, 2017

    rcoobc Not as crap as eferyone thinks

    Jul 28, 2010
    Free Speech
    One of fergies lot has to :lol:
  27. Jan 13, 2017

    Xeno Full Member

    Apr 9, 2012
    When I build my man cave this summer, Ole, Butty and Fletcherinho are the shirts I want on the wall.
  28. Jan 13, 2017

    moses control Staff

    Jul 28, 2006
    I have no idea either, yet.
    Super player. He overcame a lot of criticism to be almost indispensable for us.

    He took some hammering on here. Fergie's love child I think was the theme of how he ever got picked.

    Him and Carrick were vilified for not being Scholes and Keane.
  29. Jan 13, 2017

    Yagami Full Member

    Jan 27, 2013
    What a great interview. I'm so happy for him. I think how he's come back from that horrible illness, to still play week in week out at PL level, at the age of 32, whilst being one of West Broms best players and captain is incredible. Lovely words about Keane and how he still helps others with the same illness he had, too.
  30. Jan 13, 2017

    red_devil83 Banned

    Mar 6, 2014
    I think he's got a far better chance than Giggs or Neville
  31. Jan 13, 2017

    Carolina Red Moderator Staff

    Nov 7, 2015
    South Carolina
    Always liked Fletcher. His work ethic is something I really admire. Wish he could of had more time with us but glad to see him doing well at West Brom. Also interesting to read his praise of Keane and how he brushes off the controversial moment that got Keane in hot water.
  32. Jan 13, 2017

    PeteReDevil iPete

    Dec 31, 2007
    Can't not love him! Glad he got through his illness
  33. Jan 13, 2017

    Toad Full Member

    May 11, 2013
    He will make a fantastic manager one day.
  34. Jan 13, 2017

    ricky-romeo Full Member

    Jul 19, 2008
    kota bharu
    Sad to see him missing 3 years of his prime years to illness. Could have easily passed 500 appearances for united or even more if not for that. He could even still be playing for us if not for his poor form post illness.

    Glad to see him doing ever so well now. Playing week in week out, captaining his club now. Something you didnt expect 3 years ago.
  35. Jan 13, 2017

    Maroo Full Member

    Jul 16, 2013
    "Next time you pass"
    Thanks so much for posting the interview. Fantastic read about an inspiring man
  36. Jan 13, 2017

    11101 Full Member

    Aug 26, 2014
    I was always split with him and Carrick. Great player for us without doubt and sadly robbed of his best by illness, but at the time it was so frustrating replacing Keane and Scholes with those two.
  37. Jan 13, 2017

    LLMU Full Member

    Apr 6, 2004
    currently unknown
    Love this man especially with him getting on Wenger's nerves. Covers so much ground for us during his time with us. And to hear SAF mentioning him during his retirement speech after that game against WBA, shows how much respect he has for Fletcher.
  38. Jan 13, 2017

    reelworld Full Member

    Sep 29, 2001
    Mexico City, Mexico
    Big fan of Fletcher at United. Another performance that stood out for me but rarely got mentioned was when he and Giggs played central midfield against Chelsea and they completely dominated the midfield that day. One of his best performance IMO
  39. Jan 13, 2017

    InfiniteBoredom Full Member

    Jun 10, 2013
    A lesser version of Gattuso. Can't question his commitment and effort for the club, certainly.

    The 'reputation grows in absence' part is quite true though :lol:, the Caf lamented every time he's in and out of the team post 2010. How I miss the myriad of zombie football and 'stop playing Carrick and Fletcher together' threads.
  40. Jan 13, 2017

    flappyjay Full Member

    Feb 12, 2016
    Great to hear him talk about his real relationship with Roy. I am also impressed by how he described the English game about how hoofing it forward can be more important than a 5 yard pass