It is a year since Steven Naismith was capped for Scotland but his performance at Tynecastle yesterday suggests that maybe Alex McLeish should not wait too long before picking him again.
The 31-year-old, who maintained his bright start to the season and weighed in with a hat-trick and an assist as league leaders Hearts dismantled St Mirren 4-1 to stretch their unbeaten run in all competitions to nine games, was omitted from the 23-man squad for Friday’s friendly against Belgium and the Nations League opener against Albania three days later but the national coach may not feel he can ignore him for much longer.
A squad with only five international goals among them, the Hearts attacker has contributed seven at that level and his drive and scoring ability is something McLeish may yet look to add to his line-up. If he does, Naismith says he would jump at the chance.
“I definitely want to add to the 45 caps I’ve got. As long as I’m playing and doing well I’ll feel like I can contribute for Scotland,” he said.
“But it’s a transition period for the national team at the moment and the manager’s picked his squad. I just have to work hard and keep putting in performances like that to stay in his mind.”
Overlooked for McLeish’s first four matches back at the helm, Naismith added: “I spoke to [McLeish] in the summer about the friendly games but I had a niggling Achilles injury and didn’t want to go and not do myself justice.
“I wanted to have a good pre-season and I’ve done that. He was fair with me and I’m now working as hard as I can to get in there.
“When you get into your thirties you’re always fighting a battle to stay in the squad. The youngsters are playing in England and doing really well. That’s what I’m competing against but hopefully I’ll get another chance eventually.”
Hearts assistant manager Austin MacPhee was grateful for Naismith’s contribution yesterday and would back an international recall. “For a start Steven is a professional and a guy who has maximised his talent so since he came to the club he is first here, he is last away every day,” he said. “Everything he does shows the younger players how you build a career and how you get international caps. “Three goals and an assist in the first half is fantastic. It is the first hat-trick by a Hearts player [in the top flight] since 2015.”