With Andrew Driver seemingly committing his international future to Scotland, there will be the usual outrage from traditionalists who feel that international football should be played by teams made up of players born in the country they represent.
If, or when, Driver makes his Scotland debut he will become the first senior player to take advantage of new rules agreed by the home nations. These changes mean that anyone who has a UK passport and five years of schooling in a particular country can then go on to represent that nation at international level. Celtic’s young striker Islam Feruz, born in Somalia, has already played for Scotland’s under-17 side after meeting the criteria.
One of the most outspoken critics of the new ruling is former Leeds, Manchester United and Scotland defender, Gordon McQueen:
“I would rather not qualify for the World Cup ever again than play someone with Driver’s background. We’re awful and we know we are. But I’d rather stay awful and play with people who were entitled to be called Scottish.”
Strong words indeed. In an ideal world every national side would be made up of 11 players born in the country they represent with a coach or manager to match. However those days – if they ever existed – are long gone. The ‘grandparent rule’ enabled the Republic of Ireland to reach the last eight of Italia ’90 and then there’s Deco and Eduardo, Brazilians who turn out for Portugal and Croatia.
Should England upset the odds and win the World Cup, will the open top bus and the reception at Downing Street be cancelled because the Manager is Italian? Not likely.
Scotland fans unhappy at Driver’s imminent call-up should also think back to former stars like Andy Goram (born in Bury) and Richard Gough (born in Sweden, raised in South Africa) who didn’t have any trouble being accepted.
While it could be argued players with a family connection are more entitled to represent Scotland, surely a kid who grows up there, attends school and experiences the culture, has more of an emotional bond than somebody whose granny left on a boat 50 years ago and never returned.
Given the number of people moving to Scotland from other countries, it’s only natural that the SFA try to take advantage of what’s on their own doorstep, particularly as it’s now 12 years since Scotland qualified for a major championship. If kids from Polish, Slovakian or Somali families eventually make the national team, it will provide heroes for immigrant communities and open the door for others to follow, hopefully leading to a Scotland team that reflects the multi-cultural population it represents.