Everton striker Steven Naismith could be worrying about his lack of first-team action this season but recent events close to home have put any frustrations he may have had into stark perspective.
The Scotland international’s uncle, Douglas, narrowly avoided serious injury or worse in the Clutha pub helicopter tragedy last month which has claimed the lives of ten people.
Naismith’s support of a Liverpool-based homeless charity has also helped add another degree of realism to his situation.
“My uncle was out with his mates and went up to the pub and had just walked in when it happened,” he said yesterday at the homeless Christmas lunch event at the Whitechapel Centre in the city.
“He is a retired high-ranking firefighter but his instincts just kicked in and he started calming people down, but he damaged his shoulder badly after being knocked out and ended up being taken to hospital.
“There is a lot of passion [in football] and it is the favourite sport in Britain but that puts it in perspective when these things happen.
“It is a tragedy and days like that up there and days like this make you realise football is only a game.”
Naismith also supports a similar charity in Glasgow from his time as a Rangers player but insists he is not interested in the credit he gets. He just wants to give something back, having worked to put himself in a comfortable position.
“I personally think there is a wrong persona about footballers,” he said. “Ninety per cent of footballers who I’ve played with, against or met outside of football have been genuine down-to-earth guys and the majority come from working-class backgrounds and had to work to get where they are.
“People think worse of them than they really are. Don’t get me wrong, in any walk of life there are people who aren’t the nicest but overall a lot of players do a lot of charity work to help people in need.
“This is something which is close to me, I wanted to help and I’m glad I had the chance to. They do fantastic work. The club has backed me brilliantly, they have contributed as well so it is fantastic for everyone involved.”
Naismith has started just three league matches under Roberto Martinez this season, one of which saw him score the winner at home to Chelsea, and made seven substitute appearances.
He understands, however, because the Toffees have had a great start to life under their new manager it is making his life more difficult.
The 27-year-old is prepared to accept that in the short term, but admits he does not know what the longer-term future holds.
“The biggest problem for me is the team has been doing so well,” he added ahead of today’s visit of Fulham.
“It is a great situation to be in as a squad because we are up competing at the top of the league and we are playing some fantastic football and it is making me a better player. But the other side of the coin is I have to sit and wait and bide my time.
“I felt earlier in the season when Steven Pienaar got injured I came in and did well. But then I went away on international duty and when I came back the game plan had changed for the coming games and it was me that suffered as Steven eventually came back and is probably one of the first picks in the team, for me one of the best I’ve played with.
“You need to accept it, work hard. This period coming up will be a tricky time as there are a lot of games and there will be injuries and suspensions and when the door opens you have to make sure you take your opportunity.”
Asked if he saw a future for himself at the club the Scot added: “I would hope so. My short-term future I see here but it is such a tricky game it can change so quickly. There will come a time when I’m not enjoying it because I’m not getting as much game time. Then I might need to make a decision. But at the moment I am still learning every day and it has been great for me.”
It is a crucial period for every club at this time of year but for Everton, one point outside the top four, it is even more significant as three of their next four matches are at home to the Cottagers, Sunderland and Southampton.
“We are excited about the performances we have had so far. We have four games now, three at home, and that is the only focus we should have as a football club,” said manager Martinez.
“I think we have created a very consistent level throughout the season. When you have been able to get through to nearly halfway with just one defeat it shows we are carrying