Scotland’s Darren Fletcher has always been one to spark debate within the footballing community. Whether it be surrounding his former role in Manchester United’s team, the surprising level of responsibility given to him by Ferguson, or the question marks over his life as a footballer after suffering serious stomach illness in 2011, the hearty box-to-box midfielder always provides something to talk about.
In light of such context, the 31-year-old became one of the more prominent names in this season’s winter transfer window, with his time as an Old Trafford player seemingly coming to an end. The Scot had become a somewhat recognisable face with Manchester United, and after winning numerous domestic league titles, cups and the Champions League back in 2008, his time with the Red Devils can be considered nothing less than a resounding success.
Despite being touted as a major target for West Ham this January, it seems the Baggies, under the new management of Tony Pulis, have eventually succeeded in landing the former United man on a two-year deal. West Brom’s new no. 24 arrives on a free transfer and could end up extending his spell with the midlands based club should all parties concur.
Now that this season’s transfer shenanigans are all said and done, could this deal be a strong move for West Brom in their attempts to successfully stave of relegation once again, or does Darren Fletcher simply represent the biggest gamble of the window?
Whatever your opinion of the man, West Brom’s latest signing will bring bags of experience, know-how and gamesmanship to the table for Pulis in the remainder of the season. His experience at top-flight level will have little competition within the Baggies ranks, giving Fletcher a very commanding role at his new club. The Scottish enforcer has the ability to pick out a fine pass, hold the defensive midfield position with great style and somewhat boss proceedings in the middle of the park on his day.
However, the problem with Darren Fletcher is that ‘his day’ doesn’t always arrive. The 31-year-old faced his fair share of critics at United, with Sir Alex Ferguson also the feeling the brunt of negativity for placing so much trust in the midfielder. It was felt that Manchester United could simply do better than Fletcher. They may have won a great deal with him on board, which somewhat puts this particular argument to bed already, but at the time, you just couldn’t imagine the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich ever walking out the tunnel with someone of Fletcher’s calibre among their ranks.
With all things considered though, if Darren Fletcher just about made the grade for Manchester United in their heyday, then the 31-year-old could certainly still do a job for West Brom in 2014/15. Things are rarely that simple however…
The Dalkieth born midfielder’s injury record was never strong at the best of times with United, but since he has only made five starts for Louis van Gaal since the Dutchman took over at Old Trafford, surely some warning signs should be ringing for the Hawthorns faithful. The former United man’s move to West Ham reportedly broke down over injury concerns earlier this winter, with rumours of a failed medical doing little to ease West Brom’s worries over the saga. All of Fletcher’s ability and experience will count for nothing if most of his time is spent in the recovery room.
While fears over the Scot suffering another bout of ulcerative colitis will also remain high in the minds of many Baggies fans, Darren Fletcher’s lack of game time in recent weeks has been down to footballing and fitness reasons, rather than the illness. In that department, while nothing is guaranteed, West Brom can remain relatively calm.
All in all then, on paper Darren Fletcher’s move to the Hawthorns looks like it really could work out for everyone involved. West Brom want the player, Manchester United want him off their books, and Darren Fletcher himself is just after game time. However, with a lack of fitness and a rumoured failed medical circling this deal on the horizon, perhaps the proposed success of the move will never quite see the light of day.