Over-Hyped, Then Written off. Now Fleck Vows to Prove Critics Wrong

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), January 8, 2012 | Go to article overview

Over-Hyped, Then Written off. Now Fleck Vows to Prove Critics Wrong


Byline: Fraser Mackie

THE bucket and spade were packed last weekend as John Fleck prepared for Blackpool and the move he'd craved for months. Within eight minutes of Monday's visit of Motherwell to Ibrox, however, Fleck realised he'd be digging Rangers out of a hole for the foreseeable future instead.

Kyle Lafferty's torn hamstring meant that, in contrast to the previous nine months -- in which he featured a paltry seven times as a substitute -- Fleck was desperately needed by his club.

Top scorer Nikica Jelavic was out, too, and the fleeting experiments with Alejandro Bedoya and Matt McKay as creative support acts to the Rangers strikers had failed to impress.

So, after an encouraging display against Motherwell helping out another player hauled from the Murray Park freezer -- David Healy -- it was Fleck back in favour all of a sudden. The arrangement for the 20-year-old to follow a loan path blazed by Charlie Adam three years ago had to be ripped up.

This is the second successive transfer window in which Fleck has met roadblocks. He and midfielder Kyle Hutton were all set for Sheffield United in League One back in August, only for a paperwork blunder to stymie the bid to beat the deadline and return him to the Ibrox fringes.

On this occasion, Lafferty's likely absence for two months places Fleck in the firing line. 'I wouldn't say I've got to make the most of this chance, especially,' said Fleck, 'but I do want to.' Fleck may have been attempting to deflect pressure from himself with that statement and who can blame him? He was 17 years old when the premature accolades included comparisons with Wayne Rooney.

Certainly, he exhibited the Manchester United star's fearless style when scoring his first Rangers goal three years ago -- a pressure penalty 12 minutes from time when a home game against Dundee United was scoreless.

However, Fleck cannot point an accusing finger at the scale of expectation some invited him unfairly to reach. For he has patently failed to push on, even to the minimum degree which he and coaching staff would have hoped. He has scored just one SPL goal, against Falkirk, since that tense January 2009 afternoon at Ibrox.

Seven months later, he was dropped from the first-team squad's appearance at a pre-season tournament at the Emirates after a bust-up with then assistant manager Ally McCoist during a training camp in Germany.

'A lot of people seem to think that's why I'm not playing,' said Fleck, 'but there's never been a problem between me and the gaffer. I think it was exaggerated a good bit.' McCoist denies there have been application and attitude issues since. Fleck fudged the answer when invited to rate his own efforts at making the breakthrough over the past three years. However, he was more emphatic in saying he has 'definitely' been judged too harshly for a young man who doesn't turn 21 until August.

'People make up their minds about you anyway, don't they?' he said. 'But hopefully I'll get a few games now and show them what I can do. I definitely think I can still do it here. I'm still young -- I'm only 20. People maybe expected me to do well every week but that doesn't happen when you're a young boy. It doesn't even happen to the senior players a lot of the time.' When asked if Fleck believing his own hype was a problem, McCoist disagreed. However, he stressed that the time had come for the excuses to stop. A platform, albeit through default, has been provided for Fleck now.

He will be a central figure to a fire-fighting spell for Rangers, so perhaps this greater-than-ever exposure to judgment and the realisation that Rangers will be relying on him to produce may provide the spark to accompany his obvious talent. …

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