HEARTS may have experienced severe financial difficulties this season, but Andy Driver has been around long enough to put the present problems into perspective. Speaking on his last visit to Riccarton before joining his new club Houston Dynamo, the winger looked back on his long career as a Hearts player – back to the days when they did not have a training centre to call their own.
“When I joined, the under-19s trained at Pinkie in Musselburgh,” the winger, now 25, recalled. “We trained at the lagoons next to there when everything else was frozen, and pre-season was running around Musselburgh Racecourse.
“Then, a year or so later, we moved here to the academy. So the club has come on leaps and bounds.”
Rather than merely being in with the bricks at the academy on the Heriot-Watt University campus, Driver was there when building work began. And he also took part in an indoor exhibition match to celebrate the opening of the academy – a match which he remembers because of the angry reaction of his coach, current Hearts manager John McGlynn.
“I’m part of the furniture – I’ve been here a long time and I’ve seen a lot,” he continued. “I was here when they broke the sod before they even started building the academy.
“Then I played in the exhibition match when we were beaten by Heriot-Watt, and I remember the gaffer went mental in a five-a-side game that was supposed to be a friendly.
“We gave away a penalty in the last minute, it was unbelievable.”
While the opening of Riccarton was a memorable episode in Driver’s Hearts career, the obvious highlight was last year’s Scottish Cup final victory over Hibs. Most of the squad from that day last May have now moved on, but Driver is confident that the current group of young players are worthy inheritors of the jerseys.
“I came through another successful under-19s team which had won the Milk Cup but, at that time, we had a very strong squad here. I was lucky to get into the team when we had the Aguiars and the Bednars and guys like that, and the most important thing for me was getting a long run of games in my first season which brought me on massively.
“Obviously these boys don’t have the same experience around them that I had then, so it’s going to be a steeper learning curve for them. But they definitely have the ability to cope and they have played together for a long time now and that will help them along the way.
“I think we just need to be a bit more patient due to the fact there’s a lot of young boys in the squad. They won’t be great every week – but I think you might find occasionally they’ll go out and hammer a team because they are that good a group.”