The growing anxiety among Hearts supporters over the will-he-won’t-he contract concerns surrounding Steven Naismith won’t exactly have been assuaged by anything the 32-year-old had to say yesterday about his proximity to penning a new deal. Even as the forward sought to do precisely that.
Asked if he had any message for a Tynecastle faithful fretting furiously over the delay in securing the services of their most influential performer, Naismith said: “Relax”.
Yet, when the days continue to roll by without any end to the talks between the player and club they can hardly be at ease over retaining a focal point whose loss to injury for two spells during a rum campaign for the Gorgie club coincided with form spectacularly nosediving.
Incredibly, indeed, Craig Levein’s men lost only twice when Naismith completed a full 90 minutes for them, something he didn’t do across the closing two months after requiring a second operation of the season for knee problems.
The Scotland international, who has been working with the national side’s physios at the Oriam this week, maintains there is nothing alarming about the delay in reaching a permanent agreement with the Edinburgh club now that his Norwich City contract has run its course.
“Both previous times I’ve signed for Hearts [on loan], I spoke to the manager and told him my thoughts. I’ve said what I want and I’ve told them I’m not actively going to look elsewhere. I’ll sit and negotiate and they seem to think we can get to resolution which suits everybody. It’s just getting to that point.
“If it gets to the stage where I’m a bit uneasy with it and thinking it might not get done, then I will tell the manager and say I need to start looking. I don’t think it will get to that, to be honest.”
Naismith has said the same for a number of months without the white smoke ever appearing. Considering he must accept a salary cut of 70 per cent – his Norwich wage reducing by half to £30,000 when the East Anglia club were relegated – maybe Hearts need smoke and mirrors to get a deal over the line.
“The main things are in place,” Naismith said. “There has to be a bit of come and go in both directions – where I’m coming from and what Hearts can offer. It’s not your straightforward contract. When you’re younger it’s about earning as much money at the highest position you can play. Now there are more factors and it’s about making sure everybody is happy. There are a few things Hearts have that are non-negotiable and there are probably a few things which are non-negotiable from my side.
“I’m comfortable at the moment that it will happen. I’m not actively looking at all different options. This is one I’m going to look to try to get done. At the moment, we’re still getting there.
“It’s a big deal for them. The things I’m asking for are a big commitment for them and they are working out what they want to do. Are they willing to take that gamble? Like all negotiations, they are trying to get the best deal for them and I’m trying to get the best deal for myself. Ann [Budge, Hearts owner] is a proper businesswoman. I won’t go into it too much but it’s about making sure I’m covered with things I want to do when I finish playing. For the club, it’s about not leaving themselves vulnerable to anything.
“At the moment I’m not actively looking to say to Hearts: ‘I’ve got this club wanting me’. I’m comfortable and relaxed to make sure we get to that point. Hearts have been good for me over the last 18 months. In my head, I would happily continue on if it’s all right but I’m not daft enough to just say: ‘Right, I’ll sign’. With any negotiation, you make sure it’s right.”
l Steven Naismith was speaking at the launch of nominations for Scottish Football Hall of Fame 2019. Football fans can participate by logging on to sfmhalloffame.co.uk and nominate the personality of their choice. You can also post your nomination to: Scottish Football Hall of Fame, Hampden Park, Glasgow, G42 9BA. Closing date for nominations is midnight on Sunday 25 August.