Interview: Steven Naismith, Everton striker, on the upcoming season
STEVEN Naismith knew what he had signed up for when he swapped Ibrox for Goodsion Park during the close season and it was exactly the kind of game tomorrow brings.
Everton open their season with a home match against Manchester United and, having come through a full 90 minutes of international football against Australia on Wednesday, the Scotland forward is desperate to be involved.
“Normally when the fixtures come out for the Premier League you do have a wee look to see where there are some big games but I took extra notice once I signed for Everton. That’s what you sign up for, the big games. I have had a good pre-season and hopefully the manager sees what I have done not only in the games for them but for Scotland and in training and I can stake a claim for a starting place.
“The squad is full of real, real quality players and part of my decision was that there were real quality players there but the squad wasn’t too big that I wasn’t going to get my chance. That played a big part. With better players you’re going to become a better player yourself and, hopefully, training with these boys every day will make me a better player.”
With the difficulties at Rangers, allied to his own injury issues, things have been testing for Naismith over the past year. Having come back from one cruciate ligament injury in 2008, he was floored again with the same problem last term. On the back of a successful 2010/11 season, where he was nominated for the PFA Scotland’s Players’ Player of the Year award and having started the new campaign with ten goals, his season was brought to a premature conclusion after just three months.
Since then he has simply been trying to get back to the levels he had been at.
“There are days when it is really tough but you have just got to grind through them and there were obviously a lot of other things going on as well which took my mind off the injury for a wee bit. But on the whole it has been really hard work, but doing my knee the first time has helped me this second time to know what I expect.”
Naismith is known for his willingness to graft and his enthusiasm, and those traits have helped him get back to the standards expected at a top English Premier League club and he is buzzing. The full match against Australia came on the back of a hat-trick and dazzling display in a testimonial match for Tony Hibbert at Goodison Park, which forced manager David Moyes to try to tether fans’ expectations of the Scot ahead of the new season.
“To be honest, the goals were good but the better thing was that I was in the position for them,” said Naismith. “I could have possibly scored a few more and the good thing was that I got confidence from the fact I was in the positions to score them rather than being lazy or not finding the right position so it was a good day. Maybe [the fans] will see me in a good light and ease off me at the start but hopefully I can produce as well in Premier League games and score goals. It’s something I have enjoyed doing throughout my career and down there will be no different.”
Naismith, though, knows the challenges ahead. He says it has been the most enjoyable pre-season of his life and, for him, the thrill has been in getting back in the thick of things, training hard and getting into starting line-ups. “Because I missed so long last season and being out of football, it’s great to come back and just getting to kick the ball again in pre-season was great. I have worked hard and I have had to work hard to get back to where I want to be, especially having moved to play in one of the biggest leagues in the world. I have to be at my best, at my sharpest and fittest and I have worked hard to do that.”
That work ethic is something he shares with his new boss, Moyes, which is one of his key reasons for joining Everton. “I had a good chat with him and he was saying all the right things and other people I spoke to said he wants you to work hard and that’s the kind of trainer I am, I want everybody to be working at their best and everything he said to me appealed.”
While the signing of Robin van Persie from Arsenal will allow Manchester United the option of fielding him alongside Wayne Rooney in a potent strikeforce, Everton have their own threat, with Naismith happy that he has been able to link up with his former Rangers team-mate Nikica Jelavic and recapture the kind of understanding which rendered them such a danger to SPL defences.
“In pre-season and in training we have been playing together quite a bit and it has worked well and that is good for me and good for my confidence but he is just one of a number of quality players there. From defence right through to attack there is real quality and playing with these guys all the time will make me a better player.”
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North