SCOTLAND boss Craig Levein has defended the continued exclusion of Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher from the international scene.
Levein and Fletcher suffered a fall-out after the then Wolves striker was left out of Euro 2012 qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Spain in October, 2010.
Fletcher then pulled out of Scotland’s Carling Cup clash with Northern Ireland last year after sending a text message to one of Levein’s backroom staff to say he wasn’t available.
The 25-year-old has not been included in a Scotland squad since, with Levein closing the door completely on the striker during the summer.
But after notching a double on his Premier League debut for Sunderland last weekend, the issue of the £12million frontman has again been raised.
Levein pre-empted any questioning over Fletcher yesterday when he took to radio station Talksport to clarify the situation ahead of Saturday’s tough World Cup qualifier against Serbia at Hampden.
“He indicated to me that he didn’t want to play international football and he has done nothing to say otherwise since,” said Levein.
“I’ve left the door open for a year – he made no attempt to get back into the squad. So I thought for the sake of the players, that there was no point in me, every time we have a press conference, going over and over the same thing.”
The fall-out over Fletcher has been softened by the emergence on the international scene of Blackburn’s £8m acquisition Jordan Rhodes.
And with QPR’s Jamie Mackie, Leeds frontman Ross McCormack and veteran Kenny Miller at his disposal, Levein insists he is well-served up front. “Jordan has appeared on the scene and he gets a big move to Blackburn,” said Levein.
“We’ve got Ross McCormack banging in goals. Jamie Mackie is another one playing regularly in the Premiership so we are starting to look a bit better in that area.
“Jordan scored on his debut, his starting debut, which is a dream for anyone. Of course, Steven Naismith can play through the middle, too. We’re very, very lucky in those attacking areas.”
Meanwhile, Norwich new boy Robert Snodgrass is eager to help Scotland win both their first two qualifiers – they also host Macedonia on Tuesday.
“Everyone is raring to go and there would be no better way than kicking off the campaign with a win at Hampden,” said the ex-Leeds striker.
“We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think we would get maximum points from both games and we will approach both games looking to win them. Brazil is what all the lads are driving towards and it will take hard work and endeavour.
“Saturday will be the massive test for us to see if all the hard work is paying off.”