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Burley defends chance to hand call-up to Driver

October 13, 2009

George Burley has defended the rule change which could see Andrew Driver become the first player to be capped by Scotland with no family ties to the country.

Opinion has been divided over whether Burley should select Hearts winger Driver, who was born in Lancashire but moved to Edinburgh as a youngster.

Scottish Football Association chief executive Gordon Smith has succeeded in changing Scotland's eligibility criteria to include players who have spent five years' schooling in the country, in addition to holding a British passport.

Driver is the most obvious beneficiary of this rule change, but his selection could prove controversial, with the youngster having played for the England Under-21 side as recently as this summer at the European Championships.

But Burley would have no qualms picking him for next month's friendly in Wales, provided the winger publicly pledges his allegiance to Scotland beforehand.

Burley revealed he had yet to hear from Driver on the matter, adding: "He's a young lad and he played with England in the summer and there's a lot of people speaking about it.

"Give him time and if at some point he's desperate to play for Scotland, actually that's something we'll look at.''

Driver, 21, has previously stated he would love to play for Scotland, but Burley believes it would be wrong to pressurise him to pin his colours to the mast.

He said: "One rule has changed and you're putting all these young players under pressure, which is unfair, totally unfair. Andy is a smashing kid, a very good player; he was involved with England in the summer and I hope you will just let him play his football, let things settle down and take it from there.''

Burley insisted the rule change was not a white flag in Scotland's bid to produce their own young players.

"I don't think we're looking for the rule; it's a rule that's come up,'' said Burley, speaking at the launch of a new partnership between the SFA's Street Football programme and Robert Wiseman Dairies.

"The most important thing is to bring our own youngsters through. But if somebody was brought up from a very early age in this country, it's hard to challenge the fact that if they wanted to play for Scotland that they should do.''

Burley also pointed out Scotland's eligibility criteria was still stricter than that of other countries, who take full advantage of the FIFA residency rule.

"Other countries have had players qualify for them after living there for three or four years. It's not the same as that,'' Burley said. "We haven't been looking to bring people in willy-nilly.''

Burley was almost forced to resort to such desperate measures for Saturday's friendly defeat in Japan after 10 players pulled out injured. SFA chief Smith suggested some of those who cried off might have played through the pain barrier had the match been a World Cup qualifier.

But Burley insisted he would never knowingly field someone who was injured.

"You're either fit or you're not,'' he said. "I was just driving along tonight listening to the radio and Northern Ireland for a World Cup game have had nine injuries. Are you trying to say to them they don't want to play?

"Unfortunately, the way football's played these days, people get injured and sometimes you've got to live with that.''

But with only friendlies between now and the start of the European Championship qualifiers next year, Burley will not tolerate them being treated as second rate matches.

He said: "The most important thing is that everyone's very aware that friendlies are just as important as World Cup games and that's something that I'll be stressing.

"I'm very confident that we'll have a very strong squad when we play against Wales.''