Scotland: Naismith happy with lone striker role

Steven Naismith: Happy to take on lone striker's role. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Steven Naismith: Happy to take on lone striker's role. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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Steven Naismith will be happy to take over the demanding lone-striker’s role with Scotland that was recently vacated by Kenny Miller.

Gordon Strachan has been looking for a replacement for the veteran Vancouver Whitecaps striker, 33, who quit international football following the friendly defeat against England at Wembley in August.

Naismith started as an out-and-out striker at Kilmarnock before playing deeper and at times wide, for Rangers and current club Everton.

However, he was asked to play the role of willing-work horse in the 2014 World Cup qualifier against Macedonia in Skopje last month and made a good fist of it as the visitors ran out 2-1 winners.

Ahead of the final Group A game against against Croatia at Hampden Park next Tuesday night, the 27-year-old was asked if he would like the role on a permanent basis.

He said: “If that is the way the manager wants to play I would definitely (like to play there).

“As long as I play I am happy. I feel I can contribute up front which is where I grew up playing, and I still have the instinct of a striker, but if it is deeper it is deeper.

“The biggest thing about playing lone-striker is that when the ball comes forward you need to hold it up to let the team progress up the pitch.

“If the ball is constantly coming back then you end up not getting out of your own half.

“Plus, bringing your more advanced players into the game (is key).

“I think Kenny did that magnificently during his international career and every striker here should have been watching and learning from him over the years because it is a difficult role but one he made more simple than it was.”

Naismith, who will win his 25th cap if picked to play against the Croats, knows the physical demands of playing that role means rarely being on the pitch at the final whistle.

He said: “It is the one position where you will get subbed every game, you get more tired (than in other positions) so it gives an opportunity for all the strikers.

“So there could be changes. We have some real quality here in the forward positions and that has got to drive every player on to get that starting spot.”

Naismith accepts victories against Macedonia and Croatia in their last two away qualifiers have come “far too little too late” for the Scots as another failed qualification campaign comes to an end.

“To be honest it is a bit frustrating,” he said.

“Since the new manager came in the results and performances have been more of what we would expected but it is far too little too late.

“The bottom line is we didn’t do it in the first-half of the campaign to give ourselves a chance, that is probably the most disappointing aspect.

“Beating Croatia has given us the feeling that we can compete, they are top five or six in the world and we beat them away from home which is a great achievement but it counts for nothing if we can’t do that in the next campaign when there is a lot riding on it.”


Naismith completes memorable week for Scotland and Everton