ANDREW Driver was omitted from the Hearts squad for yesterday’s 4-0 win against Dunfermline Athletic and has almost certainly played his last game for the club after he confirmed that he no longer wants to play for manager Paulo Sergio.
In the build-up to the match, the winger was questioned about reports that he was poised to put in a transfer request after falling out of favour since the arrival of the Portuguese earlier this season. He confirmed the stories were true and was asked to leave a team meeting before being replaced in the squad by under-19 captain, Chris Kane. And, after Hearts won comfortably without Driver, Sergio hit out at the player, claiming he was not good enough to be gifted an automatic start. “I don’t believe that Hearts has any player that makes all the difference: if he plays we win, if he doesn’t we lose. Messi and Ronaldo play in Spain, we don’t have them.
“My point of view is Andrew Driver is a good player. He hasn’t been fit for a long period. Now he’s OK, I liked what we had last week [against Celtic] and I was thinking of him to help the team for the rest of the season. He works well, he just has to wait his chance to play because for a long period [he was] just training twice a week because of his knee.
“Yesterday he told me he wants to move in January; for me, not a big deal. But today I read that his agent is saying that I don’t have a good relation[ship] with Driver, which isn’t true, I never had a problem with him. And he was saying, too, that you don’t want to play for Hearts while I’m the manager. That is something that I have to take care of.
“So in a meeting I asked Driver to clarify the situation, because I don’t have a problem if he wants to go in January, but we have a problem if he doesn’t want to play for me as a manager. I asked him to confirm if it was true, and he confirmed it, he doesn’t want to play. I don’t want anyone who’s not involved 100 per cent with Hearts. I said to him to leave the meeting. We’re going to find a good solution for everybody. I’m the Hearts manager and nobody is going to hear me say bad things about any player, and I don’t want to do it about Driver. He’s a good player, he can help us in the future but we can only start the game with 11. If everybody not in the starting 11 wants to leave, maybe the squad will just have 11 players.”
The manager was reacting to a statement from Driver’s agent which said: “Andrew has been fit. We have now reached the stage where they are not paying him or playing him. They are treating him with utter disrespect. All he wants is to play for the club he has been with since he was 14 but his relationship with Sergio isn’t good.” The agent also claimed that the manager had accused Driver of not working hard enough.
Sergio refuted that. “He works well too, so I don’t say that he doesn’t work. But he has to learn to wait for his chance because Hearts has more players, not just Driver.
“In football, like in life you should always be with those ones who are committed 100 per cent. I’m not thinking of me, Hearts are just on my mind and I can’t accept a player with an attitude like that.”
Injury had limited Driver’s appearances over the past couple of seasons but he now claims that he is fully fit. He has not started a game since the win over Hibs on 28 August.