Sheffield United midfielder meets Sky Sports' Kris Boyd to talk Premier League campaign, Chris Wilder impact and possible Rangers swansong
Wednesday 6 May 2020 08:13, UK
Sheffield United midfielder John Fleck has backed team-mate Dean Henderson for the very top, insisting the on-loan Manchester United goalkeeper has what it takes to fulfil his dream of becoming No. 1 for club and country.
Henderson has starred at Bramall Lane for a second successive season, keeping 10 clean sheets for a side that has conceded the third-fewest goals in the Premier League during a remarkable campaign back in the top flight.
Blades boss Chris Wilder believes Henderson will "100 per cent" become England's top choice in goal and Fleck, speaking to Sky Sports' Kris Boyd, agrees the 23-year-old, despite being yet to make a senior appearance for the Old Trafford club, has all the qualities to achieve his ambitions.
"He's been amazing and he's still a young boy," Fleck said.
"He's kept clean sheets, made some massive saves for us, kept us in games at times. I'm sure he's going to have a massive career ahead of him.
"He'll quite openly tell you he wants to be Manchester United's No. 1 and England's No. 1 as quick as possible. I don't think, personally, he's too far away from that now.
"Goalkeepers are a bit crazy - he's a bit mad at times! But he's got that big personality.
"When he's maybe made a mistake and the manager has criticised him, he's bounced back straight away. That's just the personality he's got and I'm sure that's what will get him to the top."
Sheffield United have confounded pre-season predictions to sit seventh - with a game in hand on their closest rivals - and Fleck, who arrived on a free transfer from Coventry in 2016, is one of several players who have propelled the club from the third tier to the top flight in just three years.
"It was a tough start," Fleck said. "The first four games we didn't win and in my first game at Bramall Lane, I remember doing my groin after 15 minutes. We were 3-0 down to Southend and I was thinking, 'I can't ask to come off here.'
"But we've come on leaps and bounds as a club. For the boys who been on the journey, it's been a great place to play.
"The manager has brought us all on, he's been amazing. He's got a great coaching staff but this is obviously his club so he wants to push it forward.
"I think at the start the aim was to stay in the division; if we'd have finished one place above the relegation zone, I'm sure everyone at the club would have been happy.
"But we've managed to get a lot of good results against some big clubs. Obviously football has had to stop right now but we're in a good position to kick on again and the manager won't let us rest on our laurels.
"It's full-on in training and I think that is one of the things that has helped us massively. It's the same standards every day and that's been the case right from the beginning."
As well as paying tribute to Wilder's drive, Fleck credits a tactical tweak for career-high goalscoring campaign that has seen him net five so far from midfield.
"At this level we have to be a bit more wary to the counter-attack or losing possession in dangerous areas of the pitch; we've changed this season to more of a [midfield] three to give us a bit more security.
"But there's that bit more freedom to get forward and try to get in the box at the right times. That's the conversation the manager had with me at the start of the season. He told me I had to score more goals - thankfully I've managed to do that.
"Against teams like Man City you have to try and soak the pressure up and try to hit them on the counter but for the majority, we've tried to get after the ball as much as we can. The principles are pretty much the same regardless of who we're playing against."
Having made his senior debut for Rangers aged just 16, Fleck left Scotland eight years ago, moving to Coventry before his Bramall Lane switch.
Now 28, the midfielder insists continuing to impress at Sheffield United - and adding to his two Scotland caps - remains his priority, but says he would relish a Glasgow return further down the line.
Asked by Boyd if the opportunity to return to Rangers towards the end of his career would appeal, and whether he felt he had 'unfinished business' at Ibrox, Fleck said: "I must say first of all I'm very happy at Sheffield United. As long as that continues, great.
"If that [Rangers] chance came later on down the line, I would love it to be honest. I wouldn't say unfinished business; I was a small part of a successful team back then and have great memories of the squad and that time.
"Looking back, I made the right decisions, going away and trying to build up my career again from scratch. There were some difficult times to begin with, moving away from home at a young age but I'm now at a great club in Sheffield United."
On pushing himself into Scotland boss Steve Clarke's plans on a regular basis, he added: "I've been delighted to be involved in the past few squads and get a couple of games under my belt; hopefully I get a few more as I go along.
"But I need to keep continuing to prove it at Sheffield United first and take things as they come."