EXCLUSIVE: Wracked with self-doubt and nerves, but former Rangers star Naismith is now ready to prove he belongs at Everton
22:38 GMT, 20 December 2012
This has been a sobering week for Steven Naismith. Monday entailed a visit with Everton's squad to Alder Hey children's hospital; on Wednesday he helped serve Christmas lunch to homeless people at a refuge in Liverpool. It has not been a normal few days for the Everton forward but, then, again the same could be said of 2012 in general.
Naismith, after all, only finds himself playing in the Barclays Premier League due to the extraordinary events that led to the financial meltdown of Rangers.
The past 12 months have borne witness to some incredible sporting stories and the shockwaves from the demotion of one of the biggest names in the world game to the lowest rung of Scottish football continue to reverberate.
Making an impression: Naismith
equalises against Liverpool and
(above) serves dinner at a refuge
for the homeless
'Hopefully 2013 will be a bit quieter and I can focus on my Everton career,' says Naismith, a level-headed and thoughtful individual.
'But it has been hard. At Rangers I had got involved in things that you never expect to have to deal with. That was so difficult.
'In 20 years' time, when people look back on it, it will be difficult to comprehend how big a story it was and what happened. It wasn't nice because the club was in such a mess. Nobody was prepared for what we had to go through.
'I don't think anyone would have ever thought it could happen, that is why it is so surreal. To see Rangers being demoted to the lowest tier of Scottish football was unbelievable but they are beginning to move on.'
Naismith felt he had no choice but to walk out on Rangers in June, when he objected to having his contract transferred to the newco and is currently embroiled in a legal battle with Rangers chief executive Charles Green.
The issue, though, is not proving distracting. Since he arrived on Merseyside in July – the day he made the journey south was the day Rangers were kicked out of the SPL – Naismith has contributed to Everton's eye-catching progress and the suspension to Marouane Fellaini means he will be heavily involved over Christmas.
An industrious forward with an eye for goal, Naismith's colleagues describe him as being the perfect team-mate; he comes in does his work, accepts when he is not named in the starting line-up but is always prepared if and when he is needed. They say he has settled in without fuss.
Knee-sy does it: Naismith celebrates after scoring against Everton's arch-rivals Liverpool
The man himself, however, will tell you a different story. It involves him being wracked with self-doubt and nerves and wondering whether he had the ability to cope with the demands of English football, given he had just spent nine months out with cruciate ligament damage.
'It has been a bit more difficult than I thought it would be,' said Naismith, who has been capped 19 times by Scotland.
'Moving clubs is a big deal but it was all the more difficult because I was coming back from a knee injury and hadn't played since last October before I signed.
Welcome aboard: David Moyes is prepared to give Naismith the time he needs to thrive at Goodison Park
'To be honest, I was a bit in awe of the lads when I started here. (Steven) Pienaar, (Leighton) Baines, (Leon) Osman, (Phil) Jagielka; Fellaini and (Nikica) Jelavic. The list goes on. They are top quality players. They are that good, you have no option but to deal with it and get up to speed.'
Crucially, Naismith has a manager in David Moyes who will give him all the time he needs to thrive – Baines, Pienaar and Jagielka are all examples of his ability to keep persisting even when things haven't been going smoothly.
'The manager has been fantastic,' said Naismith, who will also be afforded patience by the Goodison Park crowd after he scored the equaliser in a 2-2 draw with Liverpool in October.
Rangers old boy: The international played just under 100 times for the fallen Scottish giants before his transfer
'He probably understands it from my point of view. 'He knew it wasn't going to click straight away; he knows that it is a longer term project. I've signed for four years and I would hope I will be there for that amount of time. His work ethic is outstanding. I am of the same kind of mind-set that you train 100 per cent every day.
'The 10 years he has been here, he has put his stamp on every aspect of the club. That goes from the office staff to the ground staff to the chefs to the players: everybody works to their best. It is one big team. It is not about individual departments and that is why the club is so successful.'
Should Everton – who face West Ham on Saturday – maintain their consistency in the second half of the campaign, they will be contenders for a Champions League spot and Naismith sees no reason why they cannot gatecrash the party.
'It is going to be tough because there are so many teams going for fourth spot,' he said. 'But we have shown that we have got the quality in our team. We could definitely compete if we got in there. The way we are competing in the league, I'm sure it would be the same if we made that next step.'