Steven Naismith warns of pain before gain for Scots

Steven Naismith in action for Scotland. Picture: SNS
Steven Naismith in action for Scotland. Picture: SNS
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STEVEN Naismith has warned the Tartan Army they face more suffering before they see any signs of progress for Scotland under Gordon Strachan.

For the first time in their history, Scotland have lost four consecutive competitive fixtures and few would bet against that dismal sequence being extended to five when they face Croatia in Zagreb on Friday in their latest World Cup qualifying match.

Rooted to the bottom of Group A and already eliminated from the 2014 World Cup, Scotland under Strachan are already building for the 2016 European Championship qualifiers.

Everton forward Naismith is optimistic Scotland will eventually improve with the guidance of the former Celtic manager but insists he must be given leeway to experiment in the remaining four games of the failed World Cup campaign.

“There could be some more pain before we see some gain,” said Naismith. “We hope not, but there might be. I think a lot of the fans realise that about this game in Croatia, looking at the players who are not with us because of injuries.

“The manager has gone down the route of giving some younger boys of the future a chance. It’s about the bigger picture now. It’s got to be all about the next campaign. This one has been a disaster and we need to use the time wisely between now and the start of the Euro 2016 qualifiers.

“There may be some games where the manager tries things and they don’t work out. There will be other times when he tries things which do work out. It’s just got to be about looking towards Euro 2016.”

When Naismith made his Scotland debut six years ago under Alex McLeish, the country was a dizzying 14th in the Fifa world rankings. We have now slumped to 78th place, while Friday’s opponents Croatia are rated the fourth best international team on the planet.

“You look at other countries we were ranked alongside a few years ago,” added Naismith, “and now we are dropping rapidly while they are still up there. The manager is working towards getting us back up there and, as players, we need to believe in our ability more. It’s not intentional but there has probably been a lack of belief in recent squads. It’s not because Scotland haven’t reached a major finals since 1998. That statistic has been there for so long now, so it’s not a factor. We just need to believe we can still compete with the best teams.”