STEVEN NAISMITH admits that he’s grown into his role at Everton.
Despite scoring a hat-trick on his Goodison debut in a 4-1 win over AEK Athens in Tony Hibbert’s testimonial, the former Rangers man was often on the fringes of David Moyes’ squad and out on the wing under his fellow Scot after arriving on a free transfer from Ibrox in 2012.
However, since Roberto Martinez’s arrival Naismith has become a first team regular in a more central position ever since his goal handed the Catalan his first Premier League victory as Blues boss against Chelsea last September.
Naismith admits his rise has been quite a journey and said: “I have kind of grown into being an Everton player. When I first came I was coming back from an injury, but came into a squad I didn’t realise how big the jump was in terms of quality from where I’d come from.
“Some of the players here are fantastic and it was something I had to get used to, and quickly. And as I’ve progressed over the years the manager has played me more centrally which I definitely feel more comfortable with. It gives me more chance to get in and around the box and on the end of chances which I’ve probably done more in the last year than I had in the previous year.
“I definitely believed I could play it at Everton [the central role]. I’d done it at previous clubs and I knew I could do it here.
“But if I’m in any position on the park I’m going to give 100%, I’m not going to moan about it.
“That’s probably something I’ve not done, or should have done maybe more, when I was playing wider. As long as I’m working for the team and we’re doing well I’m happy really.”
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Naismith reveals that he was approached specifically by Martinez on his arrival at Goodison over the new boss’ plans to move him into the middle.
He said: “The manager told me he would prefer me to play either up front or more centrally off the striker. But with the way we play it doesn’t mean I’m not ever going to be wide.
“You can feed off players and you saw against Wolfsburg that Kevin Mirallas and Aiden McGeady would roam in off the side so if you can fill their positions and get on the ball that’s the main thing. But as a starting point, playing more centrally is where I feel more comfortable.
“I think he’s given me the freedom to go and play, and he knows that my type of character I’ll definitely get back and work for the team. I’ll get back into a defensive position. But he also say that when we’ve got the ball just go and play.
“And I think he does that with every forward player which shows when we come up against teams we cause them problems, we create chances and that’s one of the biggest assets we’ve got.”
One of Naismith’s greatest strengths is his ability to keep on running no matter how things are going on the pitch and he reveals that digging deep into his energy reserves is something that has always been second nature to him.
He said: “To be honest when I was younger it was something that was natural. As you get older you need to look after yourself.
“Probably the game has changed a little bit more in that there are lot more bigger, stronger and athletic guys. You need to adapt and I find it comes pretty easy, even during pre-season it’s pretty easy for me.
“The last couple of games it’s probably been a bit more noticeable because the manager has wanted me to be a little bit more in midfield, and defending, but to get forward and attack when we are attacking. That’s maybe why it’s been more noticeable.
“Even against Wolfsburg late on when we were breaking I felt strong enough to get up the park. Kevin Mirallas puts a ball a box in the box and they clear it, but at least I’m in the position to get a chance and hopefully be in the right place.”
As one of the English-based Scottish players, Naismith wasn’t eligible to vote in this week’s historic referendum but while the flow of tartan talent south of the border has become more of a trickle compared to the years when he wee lad, the 28-year-old is glad to be part of a new generation of Caledonian stars making their way in the Premier League.
He said: “There is definitely more Scottish players coming to the Premier League. You go back to that era of real quality match-winners and at the moment we don’t have that but we have a team that understands how each other plays and compliment each other. That is what has got us further this time.
“Competition for places is as high as it ever has been for places. Part of that is that most international players are in the top two divisions in England and the quality is so high that we are progressing as a team. Andy Robertson is another one, he has signed for Hull and showed that he is not just happy to be around it. He has come down and has played in nearly every league game which is fantastic for us.
“I always have the mentality that it can all be gone next week if you stop working hard. That is what has got to me to where I am. It is good to playing at a top, top club and hopefully we can progress on what we did last season.”