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Football: Art of the matter; ALBISTON WANTS ONLY ONE MAN U PLAYER TO SHINE IN PLAYOFF. IT'S NOT VAN NISTELROOY `If he's ready to play at Old Trafford, he's ready for anything'.


ARTHUR ALBISTON has spent more than half his life in England but his accent betrays his roots. It hasn't changed a bit in the 21 years since he won the first of his 14 Scotland caps.

And the former Manchester United left-back's passion for his country is as fierce as it ever was.

Arthur is now a football pundit for the BBC in Manchester and with United's own television station.

But he's praying only one Old Trafford star gets to strut his stuff during Scotland's play-off doubleheader with Holland.

And it's not Ruud van Nistelrooy. Arthur is desperate to see to see United youngster Darren Fletcher pull on the blue jersey at Hampden this Saturday and in the Amsterdam Aren A a week today for the 180 minutes that will determine whether we qualify for Euro 2004 in Portugal.

He believes Scotland will have a better chance of causing an upset if Fletcher whose goal against Lithuania took us to the play-off is given a starting role.

And if van Nistelrooy who has had a massive fall-out with Dutch national coach Dick Advocaat isn't.

Arthur said: ``When the draw was made I said I hoped Sir Alex Ferguson would join in training sessions at the club and have a kick at Ruud so he would miss the two games.

``I know Advocaat was at the Rangers game at Old Trafford and saw Ruud score two goals, but I also know they've had a fall-out and Advocaat has indicated he will go with Patrick Kluivert rather than Ruud.

``If that happens I will be like any other Scot delighted.

``Until the Rangers game Ruud hadn't scored from open play for six games.

``His only goal was a penalty and people down here were saying it was a crisis. But that just shows you thestandards he has set. ``When he got one against Rangers it gave him an enormous lift although it was scrappy and sure enough he got a second after the break. From Scotland's point of view let's hope Advocaat decides not to play him.''

As for Fletcher, Arthur believes the teenager has the maturity to handle being thrown into two games of such magnitude.

He added: ``You not only have to have ability to play for a club of Manchester United's stature, you also need to have the right temperament and that's one thing Darren has.

``He's already come through some bad times in his career because he has been unfortunate with injuries in his formative years.

``He had a broken bone in a foot which healed then broke again and he has shown great resolve to come back from that.

``Everyone knew Darren was a tremendous prospect and they were prepared to wait for him.

``I know all the big clubs in Scotland wanted him as did Newcastle United but he chose to come and learn at Old Trafford and he has looked excellent.

``Some young players panic when they get their first-team chance and they don't look as if they are quite ready but Darren looks as if he is.

``And if he is ready to play at Old Trafford he is ready for anything.''

Arthur is also convinced Fletcher can handle the pressure of suddenly being thrust into the spotlight for a country crying out for a new superstar. He said: ``Darren's not played many games but in each ofthose he has played in he's caught the eye and looked the part. He keeps things nice and simple.

``It's hard to get into the first 11 at Old Trafford. But with Veron and Beckham having left in the summer, he's been given a chance and he's taken it with both hands.

``Getting his chance for Scotland and scoring against Lithuania has been brilliant for him.

``I must admit I was off my settee and shouting and bawling when the ball hit the back of the net.

``A lot of people in Scotland might not have known him too well beforehand but that goal has brought him to the forefront of the public's attention.

``He is so level-headed though the extra attention won't bother him a bit.

``Hopefully that same ability to cope with anything that comes his way will help him in the two games against Holland.

``I have no doubt that if he plays from the start in one or both the playoff games he will pass the test with flying colours.''

Interestingly, Arthur argues Fletcher has more experience at the very top level than most of the older Scots vying for a jersey.

He said: ``Berti Vogts is in a tricky position in that not too many of his players have a lot of European experience. But Darren has had a taste of it with United. His substituteappearance against Rangers last week was his fifth Champions League outing.

``That's far more than most of the players in Berti's squad will have had.

``Young Steven Hughes is a similar type of player to Darren.

``He did well at Old Trafford but in the first Rangers-Manchester United game there was not a single Scot in the Rangers team.

``Sometimes it's the same with Celtic so it's hard for Berti to find players with experience of club football at the very top level.

``I think Darren can go on and force his way into the Scotland side and be prominent in the play-off matches.''

Let's pray Fletcher is prominent and van Nistelrooy is peripheral.

Even better, let's hope the Dutchman ends up watching the games on TV.


DARREN HOT: Albiston says Fletcher has ability, temperament and more Euro experience than most of the Scots squad; HOLL TOGETHER: But; Ruud's unlikely to start play-off with Kluivert
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 12, 2003
Previous Article:Quotesoftheweek.

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