Andy Driver retains hope of winning full international honours

Andy Driver was called up by Stuart Pearce to play in the 2009 European Under-21 Championship
Andy Driver was called up by Stuart Pearce to play in the 2009 European Under-21 Championship
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ANDY DRIVER played for both Scotland and England at youth level and remains eligible for both countries.

He still harbours hope of winning full international honours but is happy not to be in the United Kingdom tonight.

Now playing in the Dutch second tier with De Graafschap, the former Hearts winger will watch the England-Scotland World Cup qualifier from his home in Arnhem. He played for Scotland Under-16s and then England Under-21s but didn’t progress to senior level with either country.

He was to be named in Craig Levein’s Scotland squad for a friendly against Czech Republic in February 2010 after FIFA residency rules changed. Having been schooled in Scotland for five years, the Oldham-born player became eligible to represent his adopted home nation. Then injury struck and he never did win that elusive full cap.

Now 28, Driver hasn’t given up on international ambitions. He hopes that helping De Graafschap gain promotion into the Netherlands Eredivisie might aid his case.

“A season can make a huge difference. All a player can do is play every week but there’s no point worrying about it,” Driver told the Evening News. “My dad will tell you I’ve still got a chance to play for England. He’s my number one fan.

“When I played for England [at the 2009 European Under-21 Championship in Sweden], my family loved it. They went to Sweden on a big trip and even when I played at schoolboy level they travelled to Europe to watch.

“Anybody would want to play international football, it just didn’t materialise for me. I won’t lose any sleep over it. I think it’s a great achievement for Hearts to have international players with Scotland, guys with African countries, Perry Kitchen with America. Obviously there’s a little bit of envy but I’m happy for them.

“It was a great achievement getting to play at youth level and I’d loved to have done more. The dream is still alive, though. I’m still waiting on the call,” he laughed. “People go along different paths but I wouldn’t change my career with anyone’s.”

Recalling the furore six years ago when he was touted for a Scotland call-up, Driver continued: “It was a funny situation and, had things gone differently, I would’ve had a big decision to make. At the time, it was all happening but I knew my knee wasn’t right. All this was going on but I was more bothered about sorting my knee out, to be honest. After it was sorted, I didn’t play well for a while and I was getting fitness back.

“It would’ve been great if it happened. I still worked as hard as I could to get there but it just wasn’t to be. You never know what can happen in football. Things can change. You get a bit of luck, go on a run and you get a move somewhere. One minute, someone can be worth millions and the next they’re worth nothing. I just keep playing football and enjoying it.”

He played alongside Joe Hart, Theo Walcott and Danny Rose for England Under-21s in that summer of 2009. All three are in the full squad to face Scotland this evening.

“It was kind of intimidating for me joining them at first but they made me very welcome. It’s a totally different world to what we’re used to be,” he explained. “They don’t have as much of a life as we do because of the attention and pressure on them.

“They were all good guys and it was a good experience for me. The biggest shock was that the difference in class was so small. I trained with England Under-21s and it wasn’t that much different from training at Hearts.

“Tonight, I’ll enjoy not being in England or Scotland and watch the game from afar.

“I think it will be tight and I actually think Scotland could possibly pull off an upset. I do feel split but it’s always nice to see the underdog triumph. I try to keep quiet ahead of a game like this. People ask me how I can choose when you lived in Scotland for so long, all your friends are Scottish.

“I was born in England and I’ve got English friends as well. It’s hard. You just have to stay quiet.”