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Naysmith silences the Darren Fletcher naysayers

THE return of Darren Fletcher was greeted with a series of cheers inside Villa Park.

It was met with quiet satisfaction within Gary Naysmith's living room too, the new East Fife manager able to imagine Fletcher's first steps since undergoing surgery for ulcerative colitis leading the midfielder back into the Scotland team.

It might still seem a bit of a leap to get into Gordon Strachan's plans, but two substitute appearances against Aston Villa and Stoke City have at least given the Manchester United player a bit of a heads up.

Former Everton star Naysmith grew up in a village neighbouring Fletcher's hometown in Midlothian and the pair would later live near one another again in Manchester. The East Fife manager, who would earn 46 caps for Scotland, had felt just as close to his compatriot's recovery from illness, a journey which would take almost a year since Fletcher had last played a competitive match on Boxing Day.

Naysmith is hopeful the midfielder will now take part when the national team start on the path to the 2016 European Championships.

"Darren's return will be massive for Scotland," said Naysmith, who was appointed at New Bayview earlier this week.

"He's had a horrendous time with his illness and operations and it says a lot about him that he can get back to that level. It would have been easy for him to say, 'No, that's it'. He didn't and that shows he still has the determination and desire.

"Gordon has said he won't rush Darren back, but what a boost that is for the Scotland team. I think Darren got a lot of unfair stick from the fans when he first came through.

"Maybe they saw him as a Man United player and thought that he would carry the team and win us games - when it came to Scotland I think the fans expected him to be beating two and three players. But in the last few years the Scotland fans have started to realise what kind of player he is. His passion for the national team is unbelievable."

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