Darren Fletcher has revealed the full extent of his battle with ulcerative colitis, confessing he was forced to lie to his teammates to hide the true nature of his illness, reports the Telegraph.
Thirty-year-old Fletcher has overcome a four-year-batle with colitis, and has made a first-team comeback with Manchester United, featuring eight times since an emotional comeback against Aston Villa on December 15.
The Scotland captain was forced to miss more than two years of football, after undergoing lengthy medical treatment, including a series of operations.
However, speaking alongside former England rugby union international Lewis Moody – a fellow sufferer of the condition – Fletcher gave a frank and honest assessment of his journey back to fitness.
“I remember when I was first diagnosed, being very blasé about it,” Fletcher said. “Looking back now, that was quite immature, but I was a professional footballer, playing in the Premier League with Manchester United, and felt on top of the world, felt untouchable.
“At first my symptoms were very small it didn’t have any real impact on my life or career. It wasn’t until it came back, in 2010, that I started my real battle with ulcerative colitis, which, ultimately, I’ve had to undergo surgical procedures to be sitting here today and to continue my career.
“My close family and friends knew, and I didn’t hide it from the manager (Sir Alex Ferguson), but nobody else knew at the club.
“I stayed silent, but I found it very difficult making up stories for reasons why I wasn’t at training, why I was looking ill, why I was rushing off to the bathroom. I was basically lying to people’s faces.
“Once I started talking about it and made it public knowledge, it was such a relief, the best thing I did. I’ve been very fortunate in that respect. I don’t think I’ve endured too much ridicule.
“I didn’t want to be just happy to be back as a part of the squad because I thought that was a dangerous mind set to get into, where I would almost set myself a ceiling.
“It is something I have never done and I don’t see any reason why I should do that now. I would like to think I can get back to my best because there is nothing stopping me now.”