Steven Naismith surprised as John Souttar shines

The emergence of John Souttar on the international scene these past two weeks is redolent for Steven Naismith of the obstacles and setbacks he had overcome to stake his claim for his country.

Hearts Steven Naismith. Pic: SNS

Only a matter of months ago the 21-year-old Hearts defender was considered to be behind 
£10 million-rated Scott McKenna, Jack Hendry and Charlie Mulgrew in the centre-back pecking order. Following the composed showings in his first two full internationals – the stand-in Tynecastle captain excelling in the 2-0 Nations League opening win at home to Albania on Monday after a decent debut in the difficult circumstances of a 4-0 defeat by Belgium days earlier – that order may now have been rejigged. Naismith, his team-mate in Gorgie who has revitalised his international career over the past fortnight, certainly sees parallels with his own situation a decade ago.

“When I was younger in the national team, I had it with Steven Fletcher and Ross McCormack,” said the 31-year-old, pictured.

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“We came through together and then I did my knee and saw those two doing really well.

“You have that bit of, ‘I wish I was there’ and it drives you on, so he’ll definitely have that in his mind but he’s done all he can in the last week.

“The progression from last season to this season has been massive. That’s probably where you guys haven’t seen it, I see it day to day. He’s tidied his defending up, so it’s much better.

“The first thing I said to him when I went into Hearts was, ‘you maybe don’t give many chances away but there’s a lot of ‘ohh, that’s close, he’s risky on the ball’ which gives people an impression that’s not the fact.

“I just said to him, ‘if you can eradicate that, you are giving yourself a right chance’ because 
he’s good footballer. I have shared with him since we’ve been away and after the game on Friday I said to him ‘you’ve done better than I thought’.

“I thought after the game on Friday, you would come away thinking: ‘he’s the one that made 
his debut tonight’ but really he didn’t, he settled in perfectly well which is great to see and now 
he’s in the driving seat, he’s come 
in and seen an opportunity and taken it.”