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Fletcher provides a welcome threat to Morrison's place

SUCH is the feeling of goodwill towards Darren Fletcher that even those most in peril of losing their place to him are glad to see him back.

The Manchester United midfielder will fly out to Poland with the rest of the Scotland squad today, looking to earn his first cap since battling back from a debilitating bowel condition. Fletcher seems to be one of those universally popular players among his peers, someone who was already well respected for both his ability and leadership before he demonstrated character in abundance to bounce back from the chronic illness ulcerative colitis.

All being well he will earn his 62nd cap in the friendly in Warsaw tomorrow, his first under manager Gordon Strachan.

His return augments the one area of the field where Strachan is already spoilt for choice. Scott Brown and Charlie Mulgrew have linked well over the past year as the two deeper-lying midfielders, but Charlie Adam, James McArthur and James Morrison have all performed there at different times, too.

Morrison, though, insisted that Fletcher's return to the fold far outweighed any personal considerations. "It's a big boost for everyone having Darren back, and having his aura around the place," said the West Bromwich Albion player. "We are happy to have him back in the squad - we can't imagine what he has gone through.

"Darren is a player I look up to. He's a Manchester United player so we all look up to him. He was a big influence on me when I first came into the Scotland squad and he's a joy to be around. I'm happy to have him back but it means I have another fight on my hands for a place in the team too.

"You have Darren, Scott Brown, Charlie Mulgrew and Charlie Adam, who has been playing well at Stoke [City]. It's really good for competition at the minute."

In Fletcher's enforced absence, Morrison captained Scotland to the away victory in Croatia last year, a result often pinpointed as the one that kickstarted Strachan's time in charge. Even despite his own difficult personal circumstances at that time, Fletcher was still thinking of others.

"Darren got in touch before the Croatia game," revealed Morrison. "He sent me a little text. It was nice of him to do that. I speak to him quite regularly but it was good for someone like Darren, who has so much experience, to wish me all the best. He had so much going on at that time but we didn't know the extent of it all, because he'd kept it private.

"We were all shocked when we found out but it shows what kind of character Darren is that he got through it. Darren had it even when we played Cyprus away and we didn't know about it. It's great to see him back now."

It has been an unusual domestic season for Morrison. West Brom manager Steve Clarke was sacked at the end of last year and replaced by Spaniard Pepe Mel, whose own future is already in doubt.

On top of that there has been the hoopla over striker Nicolas Anelka's controversial 'quenelle' gesture that earned the Frenchman a five-game ban and an indefinite suspension from the club. "It's been a mixed season for me," added Morrison. "I wasn't playing at the start and there just seems to have been a lot of s*** going on at the club really.

"It's been one thing after another with managers changing and people getting suspended. It's probably hassle that we didn't need.

"It's not been ideal and there was talk of the new manager going last week. It's good to come away and join up with the Scotland squad. It's a different mindset - a different environment. It's good for you trying to get a bit of confidence."

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