Driver needs time to choose direction, says Smith

Hearts winger should not be pressured into picking a nationality, SFA chief argues
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The Independent Online

Gordon Smith has compared Andrew Driver's dilemma over his international future to someone choosing between two potential girlfriends. But the Scottish Football Association chief executive Smith said yesterday that he does not believe Driver risks losing both Scotland and England as suitors if he continues to stall on committing to either country.

Smith admits that Driver, the Hearts winger, has become a "victim" of the recent rule change – a brainchild of the SFA chief executive – which allows British passport holders to represent any of the home nations, providing they have been educated in that country for five years.

Driver, who was born in Oldham but has spent most of his life in Scotland, yesterday revealed he had still to make a decision whether to remain loyal to his native England or switch allegiance to his adopted nation. The 21-year-old played for Scotland schoolboys as a youngster but represented England Under-21s in the summer and appears to be genuinely torn.

He confirmed yesterday he would not be in the Scotland squad – which is named tomorrow – for Saturday week's friendly in Wales but said he hoped to make a decision about his future before the end of the year, admitting dragging out the saga would be "disrespectful" to both nations.

But Smith believes Driver should not be rushed, saying: "I feel sorry for the boy because, at the end of the day, he knows two girls – he's not going out with either of them. So he's not upsetting either of them by not selecting one or the other. He might still have not made his mind up which one he prefers."

Smith, who insisted he had no personal view on whether he would like to see Driver in a Scotland shirt, added: "I think he's been a victim of this whole thing, because he's being put under pressure. He's officially English at the moment because he played for the England Under-21s and he'd have to change his nationality with Fifa.

"Why should he even consider that unless he's going to be selected for Scotland? The thing we need to know about first and foremost is where his Scotland career's going. If he comes into contention for selection then there's a situation to consider. Until that happens, I think the boy should be left alone."

That position would appear to put Smith slightly at odds with the Scotland manager George Burley, who wants Driver to proclaim his allegiance to the country before considering him for selection.

Driver yesterday suggested his agent had already been in touch with the SFA. Smith was speaking at the official opening of Broughton High School in Edinburgh, which includes a floodlit 3G football pitch. The SFA chief insists such facilities are key to reversing the decline in the standard of the Scottish game.

He said: "It's a marvellous facility; these 3G pitches are the way ahead; we need more of them in the country." Smith also reiterated his belief Scottish football should be played in the summer months but admitted his proposal had not found favour with the Scottish Premier League.

Despite this, Smith will press ahead with proposal for youth football competitions to take place between March and December.

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