Sep 142014

Heard the one about the footballer who is scoring regularly, always contributes in the big games but yet is unlikely to ever be the first name on the teamsheet?

A player who has been lauded by the coach of the World Cup winners but could struggle to gain a starting role for his club side when everybody is available?

A player who to most top-flight supporters is more renowned for charitable deeds off the pitch than his efforts on it?

Welcome to the world of Steven Naismith.

Revisionism dictates David Moyes was merely a minor ripple in Everton FC’s history (albeit one that lasted more than 11 years).

But even the Scot’s detractors would admit snapping up Naismith for nothing from the ruins of the old Glasgow Rangers in 2012 was a canny piece of business.

Germany boss Joachim Loew agrees, having pinpointed the Everton man as a danger before the visit of Scotland in their Euro 2016 qualifier last weekend.

The greater the challenge, the greater the response from Naismith.

And with Romelu Lukaku and Samuel Eto’o now on board permanently, the Scottish forward is demonstrating his worth.

Naismith, though, is being harshly hampered by the manner in which much of his play is slipping under the radar.

Naismith’s versatility across the front line means he will always be in Roberto Martinez’s thoughts.

But when everybody is fit – a utopia rarely visited by any Premier League boss – the Scot would find himself on the bench in many Blues fans’ first-choice sides.

That, though, is changing.

Big-game players are a rare breed and Naismith has demonstrated an ability to produce when it really matters, most notably at Goodison where he has netted against Chelsea and Arsenal on two separate occasions and in a derby.

Martinez knows this. That’s why Naismith invariably appears in such matches.

Of course, with Everton now back in Europe, opportunities will arise for every squad member.

Naismith, though, is better than that.

The Scot may not have the profile of Lukaku or Eto’o. He may never have his own song on the Gwladys Street.

But his efforts are finally gaining wider appreciation than in the dressing room, fans acknowledging his contribution.

And, on current form, he’ll have a regular starting role for the foreseeable future. Naismith is the man in possession – it’s now up to others to wrest the jersey from him.

It’s not all in the game for Liverpool

Brendan Rodgers may as well just give up right now.

The player rankings for FIFA 15, the latest iteration of the long-running computer game franchise, have been revealed.

And the summer departure of Luis Suarez means there are no Liverpool players to be seen in the top 50.

The Reds’ traditional top-six rivals each possess at least one member in the exalted list.

Bizarrely, mid-table strugglers Manchester United have five players – one of which is Juan Mata, who isn’t even guaranteed a starting role at Old Trafford.

It’s the same story for Petr Cech, among five Chelsea players to be ranked among the world’s greatest, while Manchester City boast four.

Hey, even Tottenham Hotspur (Hugo Lloris) and Arsenal (Mesut Ozil) can claim a current FIFA legend.

Other console-related news came from Scotland’s Ikechi Anya, who, having netted in his country’s 2-1 Euro 2016 qualifying defeat to Germany last week, tweeted: “I scored past Manuel Neuer! Wowwww I can’t even do that on FIFA.”

He’s right. It’s virtually impossible.

Jack not the lad for England            

England's Jack Wilshere at Luton Airport after returning home from the World Cup England’s Jack Wilshere at Luton Airport after returning home from the World Cup  

It’s the question on the lips of anyone who watched England’s impressive and much-needed win over Switzerland last week.

Just what does Jack Wilshere do for his country, exactly?

With Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard gone, the way is clear for Wilshere to assume his mantle as the apparent chosen one in England’s midfield.

Except he still flatters to deceive.

Wilshere is 23 in January. He is no new kid on the block, having played more than 150 games at club level and earned 22 caps for England.

But we await lift-off.

Consider what Gerrard had achieved by that age – not least scoring in a European final.

Yes, Wilshere has had his injury concerns. But so too did Gerrard early in his career.

In fact, a better comparison is his Arsenal team-mate Aaron Ramsey who, less than a year older, has overcome much worse injuries and is now the player everybody thought Wilshere would be.

Scotland vote not handy for Andy

Great Britain's Andy Murray in action Great Britain’s Andy Murray in action

Finally, the people of Scotland will decide on their future this week.

And with it, the fate of one of the most enduring, time-honoured traditions of sport in the United Kingdom.

Where Andy Murray is actually from.

When Murray wins memorably, he’s a true Brit. And rightly so.

But when defeated, even gallantly, he is Scottish through and through.

If those north of the border say yes on Thursday, for the rest of us there’ll be no such thing as an unlucky Murray defeat again. The miserable Scot.

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