Unsung Heroes #5: Darren Fletcher
Five entries into the series and it does worry me that so far they’ve all been either Arsenal players or utterly detestable players (and no, the categories do not overlap, you wiseacres) – but then again as the editor I’m not supposed to be putting readers off of the post ahead… so do read on about one charming, handsome young man who plays for just a delightful football club. Take it away, Brad Harper – also known as the Footy Lad, which is the title of his fine blog.
Darren Fletcher is a player that only reaches out to a supporter, connoisseur or neutral of a certain intellect. His ability to hide under the world-class radar has been something that has perplexed me for some time. His demeanour, grace and his ability to perform at the grandest stage is something that attracted Sir Alex Ferguson. Then again, it might have been a bit of nepotism. He is Scottish after all.
Back in the ’09-10 season, when Manchester United defeated rivals City in a memorable one for the neutral, Darren’s double all but secured a victory – but like so many of his performances, he just didn’t receive the rightful praise; and that’s why Fletcher is the unsung hero for Manchester United, of the modern generation anyway.
Michael Owen’s Fergie time winner took the headlines on that occasion – although Sky unusually, and rightfully, gave Fletcher the man-of-the match acclaim. (Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker didn’t win? Shocker.)
A commodity of Fletcher’s game is his engine. Unlike Park, who also shares this Fifa trait, Fletcher can actually match that with an ounce of technique; the consolation goal, ironically against Manchester City last season was a treat for the eye – but then City went and scored three more. Football isn’t fair, is it?
Football certainly isn’t fair on Fletcher; he may never play again, and with United’s midfield problems Fletcher’s contribution is priceless. Suffering from ulcerative colitis, a condition that’ll put you off your dinner, Fletcher is currently “fighting to save his Manchester United career” according to the Daily Telegraph. Such a sad state of affairs for a player enriched with passion, pride and a slice of pizzazz – attributes that are paramount for winning trophies – something Darren has got used to down the years.
Looking at the current side, its obvious Fletcher would fit right in – he’s no face for football (just ask Sam who beautifully made Fletcher look half-decent in the banner above.) The saying, more associated with Paul Scholes “go to work, get the job done, go home” seems just as applicable to Fletcher, who, just like Scholes, doesn’t thrive for personal gain. It’s this type of player that, at times, slips under the radar – the old saying of “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” sounds about right after a trophyless season.
Sir Alex Ferguson once said Darren “sacrifices everything for the game” – he’s a football man; someone who’ll give nothing but his best – the laxidasical approach from the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Dimitar Berbatov are at a complete contrast of the consistent, workman like performances that Fletcher has to offer.
Even though I’m making Fletcher sound like a football player that must have been awesome at cross-country, he was more than that. His vision wasn’t exactly Xavi-esque but it certainly wasn’t blinded by the Old Trafford lights. He did the simple things well, including passing a ball, an often understated asset to a player’s game; Michael Carrick is experiencing the same predicament.
Sadly, after just several appearances this season, Darren’s career may have been cut short. His brief punditry slot showed a figure of his former self – a skinny, borderline anorexic man now looking ill, pale and weak. Hopefully through sheer determination we see him return on the pitch again (and not in a charity match like Soccer Aid – I’m talking more about the Champions League final, or the Europa League final; actually, let’s be realistic, the Carling Cup final).