After four years and 123 appearances at Goodison Park, Steven Naismith looks set to depart Everton this week and sign for Norwich City in a deal worth a reported £8.5 million.
First of all – at that price – for a player of his age – and for the amount of game-time the Scot has had at Goodison Park this season – the deal makes sense for all parties. Naismith made over 30 League appearances in each of his opening three seasons at the Club but has found his chances more and more restricted with the Toffees during the current campaign, making just ten Premier League appearances since August. He is 30 years of age and signed for Everton on a free transfer in 2012, so for the Club to be offered the chance to make a big profit on him, and for the former Rangers man to get a real chance of regular game time at Norwich, this is an opportunity not to be missed for everyone concerned.
Naismith joined Everton after an acrimonious departure from Rangers, the Club he supported as a boy and eventually left because a dispute over transferring his contract to the new Rangers Company. A ruling stated that Naismith, and other Rangers players, could become free agents and Naismith went on to do so, joining Everton in the summer of 2012 much to the annoyance of Rangers supporters.
Naismith’s Everton career got off to a slow start under David Moyes (2012-13 season) and it took a while for the Scotsman to convince us Evertonians in a royal blue shirt. Naismith was used mainly from the bench in his maiden season at Goodison but got his first goal for the Blues in a Merseyside Derby – always a good time to break your duck – and eventually went on to score in David Moyes’ final game as Toffees Boss at the end of that season.
It wasn’t until his second season (2013-14) at the Club until we saw the real Steven Naismith, he was often deployed down the middle (his natural position) and went on to score nine times as Roberto Martinez’ side finished fifth in the Premier League table. Naismith played a key part in our performance that season, showing a grit and determination that Evertonians love, but also proving his finishing ability and first rate attitude every time he took to the pitch. In his next season at Goodison – the 2014-15 campaign – Naismith made his most appearances (39 in all comps) and hit 8 goals in what was a disappointing season for the Club overall, finishing in 11th place in the Premier League. In that season, Naismith scored against Lille in the Europa League to get off the mark in Europe and also hit goals against some of the League’s biggest sides including Man United, Chelsea and Arsenal.
This season, Steven Naismith has found his chances more and more limited, with the permanent arrival of players like Gerard Deulofeu and Aaron Lennon at the Club, and Arouna Kone getting more and more opportunities in the side, Naismith’s appearances have been few and far between. Romelu Lukaku has taken centre-stage in the Everton attack and Naismith would only continue to find himself deployed out of position if he was involved this season. It must be frustrating for him, but with better players in our offensive positions it is the right time for him to move on. Although Naismith hasn’t been a regular this term, it is quite fitting that Naismith’s finest display in an Everton shirt came back in September in a fixture against Chelsea at Goodison Park. Naismith came off the bench early in the game and went on to score the perfect hat-trick – a goal with his left foot, his right foot and a header, to earn himself the match ball in a 3-1 victory. That was what Naismith had in his locker, the ability to score different types of goals and be unplayable on his day. He could terrorise even the biggest of defenders, for a lad who only measures up at 5 foot 10 inches he couldn’t half win a header or ruffle those defensive feathers. He constantly made life difficult for the opposition and gave 100% every time he went onto the pitch representing Everton FC, and I have no doubt that most Evertonians will wish him well at his new Club.
Norwich expressed an interest in him last summer but Everton reportedly rebuffed the approach, but now it appears that he is about to seal a deal with the Canaries and I am sure I won’t be the only Blue to thank him for his efforts during his time at the Club and wish him all the very best. Naismith has been nothing but a true professional since arriving on Merseyside, a real credit and obviously a top fella too. His charity work and work in the community is something which he should be proud of, I know his work with the homeless community in Liverpool has not gone un-noticed, paying for under-privileged people to go to football matches and buying them Christmas dinner are just two examples of his work. He’s been a credit to himself and our Club and he has without doubt made a difference both on the pitch and off it. In terms of his footballing ability he isn’t the most exciting player, not full of flair or fancy tricks, but the lad works hard, knows what his best attributes are and did his utmost to be a success at Everton FC.
Unfortunately for Naismith, and without sounding too critical, our team now possesses players who are a lot better than him in terms of ability – Lukaku, Deulofeu, Mirallas, Lennon are all starters ahead of him – and even Kone is getting a game before him – the players Everton are buying are a better standard nowadays and we have to move on. Ideally Martinez gets the money received to bolster his squad and reinvest back within our team – which is not always the case at our Club as you know. I feel that is vital he does so, because there are many others who, like Naismith, need to be moved on for different reasons, and we need to bring in quality in their respective places. Kone is one, Pienaar probably another coming to the end of his time, Gibson, McGeady, Oviedo, Osman, Hibbert, I’d expect all of these players to move on eventually.
But for the moment Evertonians will be reflecting on a good bit of business for Everton, and also a good move for Naismith, who leaves Everton with some fond memories. I know he wasn’t everyone’s favourite player, but I believe he grew to become more and more popular with the more we saw his capabilities. He is what you could call the classic Scottish footballer – full of effort, vigour, toughness and graft, but lacking that extra bit of quality – we’ve had a few of them over the years, especially during the Moyes/Smith eras, but I’d say Naismith has been one of the more gifted and popular in recent times.
Goodbye and good luck Steven.