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Ward catches up with Scotland football captain Fletcher

Ward catches up with Scotland football captain Fletcher

Thursday 10 Nov 2016 8:15pm
Ahead of a massive weekend of sport in London, Leeds Rhinos and England Rugby League star Stevie Ward met up with Scotland football captain Darren Fletcher to talk about the off field challenges he has faced throughout his career. 

The West Bromwich Albion midfielder is preparing to lead his country against the Auld Enemy at Wembley on Friday night in the vital World Cup Qualifier whilst Stevie Ward is part of the England squad preparing to face their biggest rival, Australia across the capital at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday afternoon. 

However, in his latest article for his Mantality magazine Ward met up with Fletcher to discuss how the footballer has overcome challenges off the field to become one of the most successful players in the modern era. He is the fourth most capped player of all time for Scotland and one of only three players to have played over 300 games for Manchester United and captained his country this century. 

In Ward's article Fletcher admits that he's lucky to have got back onto the pitch though after being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in December 2011 which left him on the sidelines for nearly two years. As the conversation turns towards this inevitable topic, he does not clam up; rather, his posture relaxes and he suddenly becomes even more open than before. This, you can sense, is something that he had struggled with. But you feel like he knows he is better for it. There seems to be an added edge to his character from the adversity he had to suffer.

"Yeah, it was difficult,” he answers when I ask about the challenge of dealing with such a career-threatening illness. 

"Because I was battling my health. Everyone was telling me to forget about football, but deep down, I couldn't let it go. Everyone I spoke to – my doctors, my wife, Sir Alex Ferguson – they were telling me that football didn't matter, and that I had to get well first. But I could never accept that.” There was something that struck massively with me which he said next: "It's probably stupid looking back but I had to get back playing football… because that was me”.

This is something that I have noticed when I look back on my career and more importantly my adopted lifestyle to become a pro rugby player. All of those sacrifices, all of those choices which you make consciously and unconsciously – they make you who you are. They are your identity. So it's no coincidence that Darren didn't want to let everything that he had worked for his whole life and who he had actually become slip.