First posted on Facebook, August 11th, 2016
Robert Fleck will turn 51 today. It’s fair to say that Robert’s Scotland career is a bit odd and perhaps belonged more to the esoteric days of the fifties; where more often than not, players came and disappeared from the Scotland scene quite quickly. In 1958 Jimmy Murray of Hearts and Stewart Imlach of Notts Forest played in two games of the World Cup in Sweden but would only gain 5 and 4 caps respectively. Robert would only play 4 times for Scotland and 2 of these were at the 1990 World Cup in Italy.
Robert moved to Norwich City from Rangers in 1987 for just under £600,000 and soon the striker established himself as a fans favourite. Robert had gained 4 Under-21 caps with Rangers and would earn 3 more as a Norwich player, scoring 3 goals.
He made his debut for the full International team in March 1990 against Argentina at Hampden as did Stuart McCall and Craig Levein, both of whom would also feature in Italia ’90. Scotland won 1-0 with Stewart McKimmie providing a memorable moment in 32nd minute.
Robert would not feature in Scotland’s next five games but would return to the starting line-up in June 16th in the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genoa to face Sweden in the must win game following Scotland’s disastrous start to the competition with a defeat to Costa Rica. Stuart McCall would give Scotland the lead in the 10th minute but it would take until 81st minute and a penalty for Scotland to grab a second. Fleck was involved, with a pinpoint pass inside the area to Roy Aitken whose initial shot was blocked before he was tripped going for the rebound. Mo Johnston would convert the penalty and although Sweden would score a few minutes later, Scotland held out for a memorable win.
Robert would not start in what would be the final game as Scotland faced Brazil. Andy Roxburgh having started with Alan McInally in the Costa Rica game and then Robert Fleck alongside Maurice Johnston but for this final game he played Ally McCoist with Mo. It is perhaps indicative of Roxburgh in this period, as he never seemed to know what his starting eleven should have been. Robert would come on in 77th minute for McCoist with the scores tied at 0-0, however Scotland were to lose a poor goal four minutes later to exit the tournament.
Robert would play one more game for Scotland in 1991 playing 75 minutes in a dismal 1-0 defeat to the USSR at Ibrox in 1991. Robert would go on to be Norwich City’s Player of the Year in season 1991-92 but would never again pull on the dark blue of Scotland. Robert would move to Chelsea in 1992 for £2.1m before returning to Norwich a second time, a couple of seasons later and then finishing his League career at Reading.
Robert continues to live in Norwich and is a teaching assistant in a school for “children with complex needs”. A lot was expected of his nephew John Fleck but the former Rangers player has not been able to live up to early expectations but he has played over 40 games in each of last few seasons for Coventry and earned himself a three year contract at Sheffield United recently, so maybe there’s still time for him yet.
Anyway, Happy Birthday Robert and all the best.