Striker Steven Naismith frustrated at Everton

Steven Naismith at the Loaves and Fishes Christmas Lunch for the homeless in Glasgow with Wendy Brockett and James Goldie. Picture: Martin Shields
Steven Naismith at the Loaves and Fishes Christmas Lunch for the homeless in Glasgow with Wendy Brockett and James Goldie. Picture: Martin Shields
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Having suffered two serious cruciate knee ligament injuries during his career, Steven Naismith is no stranger to the frustration of lengthy periods on the sidelines.

But the Scotland international insists he has never experienced a more challenging season than the one which currently finds him on the outside looking in at Everton despite being 100 per cent fit.

Naismith has made just four starting appearances in the Premier League during a campaign in which he became the first Scot for 17 years to score a hat-trick in the top flight of English football.

Even that stunning contribution during a win over Chelsea in September has earned him no leeway with Everton manager Roberto Martinez. Naismith has not played in a league match since being substituted at half-time of the 3-0 defeat at home to Manchester United two months ago.

He admits he may now have to reappraise his situation at the club when the transfer window opens in three weeks’ time.

Norwich City were rebuffed by Martinez when they made an £8 million move for Naismith on deadline day back in September, an indication at the time that the former Kilmarnock and Rangers forward remained a firm part of the plans at Goodison Park.

Naismith, who is under contract to the club until 2019, continues to admire and respect the way Martinez runs a squad in which Romelu Lukaku, Arouna Kone, Gerard Deulofeu, Aaron Lennon and Kevin Mirallas are among the others competing for front line places.

“He is different to any manager I have worked with,” said Naismith. “Since he’s been at the club, he has shown he will take players out, even if they are playing well.

“It is more what he sees for the next game. I didn’t have my best game against Manchester United. We didn’t play well as a team.

“You can’t really have any complaints when you are dropped the next week. The team have carried on a very good run since then. I just have to sit and bide my time.

“The Chelsea hat-trick was a high profile achievement for me, but it’s not the way the manager works. With other managers, that might have bought you a bit of time.

“But this manager just sees every game as it comes. If he changes the way we play slightly, or the type of player he has behind the striker, then he’s not scared to do that. That’s one of the plus points of him as a manager.

“The biggest thing is frustration. As a player, you just want to play. When you are injured, you know there is something stopping you but when you are fit and ready, but don’t get the opportunity, it’s harder.

“There is an acceptance there, when you come back from injury, that you’ve maybe not had a pre-season and there are guys who’ve played 20-odd more games than you. You have all that ahead of you and have to accept it will take a bit of time to get back.

“It is harder now, when you are fit and building your whole week up to the weekend, thinking you might get a chance of playing but then not being involved.

“It feels slightly like a wasted week. On a Friday, you don’t do too much in training and then on Saturday you do nothing at all, then have a Sunday off.

“So that’s three days you haven’t trained too hard. So it is about adapting your working week to keep you in the best condition you are in.

“I wouldn’t like to say it is stressful, because people will go ‘Oh, he’s a footballer, what’s he got to be stressed about?’ But yes, I would say it is a stressful part of the job. You are constantly on edge, knowing you have to perform better. For me, I think it brings the best out of me and makes me perform to my best.

“I’ve been here before. I’ve come back and got into the team. I’ve been written off a lot of times before, so I’ll just keep my head down.

“I’m sure the manager will speak to me in January. We will see what he wants. I don’t think I’ll be rushing into anything.

“I would weigh it up, take my time and decide what I need to do. I’ve always done that and it’s got me in a good place so far in my career.

“I wouldn’t rule anything out. But I’m not going to say I’m definitely going out on loan or I’m definitely leaving Everton.

“I still think I’m part of Everton’s squad. I love the club, I love training and I love being around the squad. But then there is a decision to make, depending on what the manager says. If he turns round and says I’m not part of his plans, then I’ve got a decision to make. But if he says I am, then I’ll need to weigh it up.

“I just need a bit of honesty in January. At my age, I’d say I’m at my prime and I just want to play every week. I have proved my worth and that I can play in the Premier League. I can contribute to any team I’m involved in.”

Scotland’s failure to reach the Euro 2016 finals also contributed significantly to Naismith’s sense of frustration over the past few months. He admits he will look to avoid coverage of Saturday’s draw in Paris which most of his Everton colleagues will be eagerly tuned into.

“I don’t think I’ll be watching it, to be honest,” he said. “I couldn’t even have told you when it is, that’s how disinterested I am.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’ll love watching it over the summer and watching my team-mates play and hopefully doing well. But I’m not really interested at the moment.

“We had such a great start to the campaign and it just fell away. It was terrible, the feeling the boys had at the end. It was one of the worst I’ve had, to be honest.”

l Steven Naismith was in Glasgow where he sponsored a Christmas lunch for charity Loaves and Fishes, an organisation which helps the city’s homeless and also operates as a food bank.