Belfast Telegraph

Fletcher back on track at West Brom

Darren Fletcher feels he is getting his career back on track under the guidance of Tony Pulis at West Brom.

Scotland midfielder Fletcher ended a 20-year association with Manchester United to join the Baggies in January.

The 31-year-old had found opportunities limited over the previous year at Old Trafford after returning from a lengthy spell out of the game through illness.

Since moving to The Hawthorns he has been made captain and is relishing the chances he is now getting as one of the senior figures in the side.

Fletcher said: "I'm enjoying working with this manager and the club. It's a great club, a real family club. The players too. I can't speak highly enough of all aspects of it.

"The key for me was to play games and for a manager to want you and believe in you, and have high standards for you. As a player that's what you want - a manager who wants and puts trust in you. I think I've responded to that.

"Being captain was a surprise but a great honour. The manager threw it at me. It was a bit strange but all the lads have taken to me and been great.

"We've got good leaders in the dressing room, it's up to me to keep standards high and keep everyone at it."

Pulis himself is new to the club having been brought in as new head coach in January following a poor start to the season under previous boss Alan Irvine.

Under Pulis fortunes have improved but, after Saturday's comprehensive - albeit controversial - 3-0 defeat at Manchester City, there is still work to be done to guarantee safety.

Albion are eight points above the drop zone with eight games to play and nobody is taking anything for granted yet - although relegation battles are an alien concept to Fletcher.

He said: "Yes but it's winning football matches, so I relate to it. It's actually a bigger pressure - strange really - but it's still about winning.

"This season it's the aim to get 40 points but next season let's try to kick on and get up the league table. There are always challenges as a football player."

West Brom were soundly beaten at the Etihad Stadium but the game's crucial moment occurred in the second minute when Gareth McAuley was wrongly sent off for a foul committed by team-mate Craig Dawson.

Referee Neil Swarbrick later acknowledged and apologised for the incidence of mistaken identity but West Brom were still unhappy Dawson's challenge on Wilfried Bony was deemed a sending-off offence.

After that, City cruised to victory with goals from Bony, Fernando and David Silva.

Fletcher said: "It was the first minute of the game and you look at Bony's reaction - he tries to play on. So in that respect, it kills the game.

"You come here with a gameplan, you're really looking forward to it after them losing to Barcelona, an opportunity to get something. But it wasn't to be - a really uphill battle from then."


From Belfast Telegraph