Scotland are pleased they have two Fletchers in their side in a bid to deny an equally desperate Wales in Cardiff
Wales played their first international in Glasgow, losing 4-0 in 1876. They have had many better days since, but Scotland have gone on being an affliction. The visitors to Cardiff City's ground for the World Cup qualifier on Friday hope to deliver a little more woe. It was Scotland who reached the 1978 finals at the agonising expense of Wales.
These are two small countries with a large passion for sport. If there is a difference, it lies in the Scottish fixation with football. Rugby, at international level, has some prestige north of the border, but there is no parallel with the allure that constantly draws large crowds to Celtic Park and Ibrox. While in the Third Division of the Scottish Football League, Rangers have 36,000 season ticket holders.
In Wales, it is supreme rugby players such as Barry John and Gareth Edwards who have been accorded a degree of awe unlikely to be extended even to a footballer of Ryan Giggs's calibre. He did end his international career with Wales five years ago, but the wish to concentrate on playing for as long as possible with Manchester United was scarcely a scandal.
Wales's sole outing to the finals of a major tournament came at the 1958 World Cup and players of status have often been tormented. A 2-0 victory over them at Anfield in 1977 sent Scotland to the World Cup the following year. The opener arrived with the award of a penalty to Scotland despite the fact that the ball had actually come off the hand of their striker, Joe Jordan. Don Masson converted it.
The losers, even now, must look back in resentment because nothing has happened to make up for that injustice. Scotland have not reached the finals of a competition since the 1998 World Cup, but Wales are burdened with a record that is far poorer. Although there is a sprinkling of Premier League players in the present squad, with Swansea contributing as members of the top flight, they have still to make an impact for their country.
The 6-1 defeat by Serbia is the only occasion on which Wales have scored since Chris Coleman was appointed manager in January, following the death of Gary Speed. Gareth Bale notched that goal with a beautiful free-kick, but the players, in general, are not the sort to show virtuosity.
Although Scotland have little to preen themselves over, there are hints of promise. Steven Fletcher could, in theory, make an impact. The Sunderland forward has scored all five of the club's Premier League goals this season. It is as well for Scotland that he has returned after a rift with the manager Craig Levein was mended. Fletcher's last cap came in August 2010, against Sweden.
There ought to be gladness that a more famous Fletcher is also available. Darren, with his medical problems resolved, can take the field once more for his country, as well as for Manchester United. Such good news, though, does not guarantee that gloom will be dispelled. Levein is in trouble. Scotland have begun the campaign alarmingly, taking only two points in draws with Serbia and Macedonia at Hampden. Home fixtures were supposed to be a launchpad, but sent the side into a tailspin instead. That is all the more dispiriting when Scots have made an impact at club level. Four of Levein's players appeared for Celtic during their first away victory in a Champions League group match when Spartak Moscow were defeated last week. Their midfielder Kris Commons was added to the Scotland squad after injuries forced Jordan Rhodes and Robert Snodgrass to withdraw.
Perhaps there is encouragement in the fact that Levein can still feel well enough served, with half of his men drawn from Premier League clubs. Wales, for their part, are certainly not counting on obscure figures. In addition to Bale, there are other familiar faces, although we are yet to see whether the recent loss of the Wales captaincy is relief or a blow to Aaron Ramsey. Arsenal's 21-year-old has seen the armband pass to Ashley Williams.
That sort of issue barely warrants notice in the football world at large when Wales, like Scotland, seldom take the eye on the pitch. They will oppose each other in Cardiff, but the quest for mislaid status is a common cause.