Drivers Scotland dream is over

By Team Talk
Last updated : 12 February 2010

But after investigations into Driver's educational background, it transpired he did not fulfil this criteria.

The SFA said in a statement: "After recent media interest, the Scottish FA regrets to confirm that Andrew Driver cannot be considered for selection by the national coach, Craig Levein, under the terms of the revised eligibility rules.

"Under Article 16, paragraph 1(d) of the FIFA regulations, it states that in order to qualify under the new rules adopted by the four Home Associations, a player must have 'undertaken primary and/or secondary education for a minimum of five years in the territory of the relevant Association'.

"Upon investigation of Andrew Driver's eligibility by the Scottish FA, it has emerged that - despite widespread public belief since the inception of this new rule - the player does not, in fact, fulfil this criterion."

New Scotland manager Craig Levein, who was keen to have Driver on board, said: "Firstly, let me express my heartfelt sympathy and deep disappointment for the player, who had expressed a keenness to play for Scotland when it first emerged he may have been eligible under the new rules.

"Unfortunately, after carrying out the necessary procedures, it emerged that he had not been educated for a minimum of five years at primary or secondary school in this country.

"I spoke to the player and his father today to inform them and they were obviously and understandably disappointed.

"I consider Andrew a fantastic player with a great future ahead of him and I would have been delighted to work with him at Scotland.

"This is not now possible but I would ask everyone to allow Andrew the time and space to concentrate on his club career and I wish him all the best."

SFA chief executive Gordon Smith added: "Since the Scottish FA was at the vanguard of amending the FIFA regulation, in order to place an emphasis on being educated in the country for a prolonged period and not simply being a continuous resident, it was imperative that we had to protect the ruling as agreed with the other Home Associations.

"It is unfortunate that Andrew Driver is not eligible but I would rather this was determined now rather than at a later juncture that could have had serious implications for the Scottish FA or the results of the national team."

It is understood Driver, who was born in Oldham but moved to North Berwick at the age of 10, attended school in Scotland for four years and eight months.

He technically still qualifies to play for them under FIFA's two-year residency rule but the home nations do not recognise this regulation.

Friday's news is embarrassing for the player, who represented Scotland at schoolboy level but played for England Under-21s last summer.

He thought long and hard about switching his allegiance to his adopted country but Levein announced last Friday that the player had made up his mind and was "dead keen" to turn out for Scotland.

However, Levin added prophetically: "We need to find out he meets the criteria exactly, that it's five years schooling and not four years, 11 months and 26 days."

The news is also potentially embarrassing for the SFA, who on Friday denied accusations of dithering over looking into Driver's background.

The issue of the player's eligibility first emerged under the reign of George Burley but it is understood the former manager did not pursue the matter because he had no intention of picking him.

The SFA insist Levein - who did want Driver on board - investigated the issue at the earliest possible opportunity.

Driver expressed his disappointment at learning of his ineligibility. "I am massively disappointed at the outcome but these things cannot be helped," he told his club's official website.

"I was excited at the prospect of playing for Scotland and was very impressed by what Craig Levein had to say when the idea was first mentioned.

"Obviously, in order to make sure I was eligible, we had to check with my old school and it then became apparent that I was short of the five years required.

"Nobody is to blame here.

"I am a positive character and I just have to concentrate on getting myself fit and back into the Hearts team. We have a new manager in Jim Jefferies and I have a new challenge to make sure I am a part of his plans.

"It is disappointing to think that I may have had a chance of playing for Scotland in a European Championship qualification campaign but there is no point in dwelling on that disappointment.

"My focus is with Heart of Midlothian but I wish Craig Levein and Scotland the best of luck for the forthcoming qualification."

Jefferies said: "I have been keeping tabs on the situation and it's disappointing for the lad as he obviously thought he had a chance of playing for Scotland.

"However, he has to try to put this to the back of his mind now and concentrate on his game. He has been injured recently and it's important he gets fit and focuses on playing well for Hearts - and getting a game for England!"

Source: Team Talk

Heart of Midlothian Match Reports

Scottish Premiership Sat 17th February 12:30

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