He scored on his arse. He scored on his arse. Steven Naismith. He scored on his arse. Jon Rogers looks at the complex case of the ex-Everton favourite and current Norwich not-so favourite.
Five seconds in Steven Naismith’s world is a long, long time.
Against Bristol City, at the beginning of the season, there was one portion of play that summed up Steven Naismith’s Norwich career in five measly seconds.
Late second half, we were under pressure. It was 1-0 and Bristol were pushing us close. We just could not keep the ball. They forced a corner but it was cleared long and high, launched over the half way line, towards the South Stand touchline. Our only man left up was Steven Naismith, who scampered over, controlled it beautifully in one exquisite touch with his left foot. It was a touch of a well-moisturized angel. He turned, looked up and passed the ball directly to a Bristol player’s feet. You could hear the honk of disappointment in Lowestoft.
There was quite the pursuit in two windows for the wee man, but when we finally persuaded him to move him, his family and his comfortable career to the east, it was all a bit of an expensive disappointment. Like a chap who spent six months on eBay trying to buy a limited edition Rolf Harris’ portrait he quite liked, a week before….you know.
So why did we buy him? Well, it wasn’t his footballing abilities - which sounds odd, but we had better players in his position. There was something else we needed. Something we didn’t have. At the time we were lacking a 'mouth'. As good as Wes, Howson and Redmond are with their feet, we needed someone who likes to get stuck in with his mouth. And not in a Robbie Brady Gary O’Neill way.
Every good team, when they are on the pitch, needs a complete prick in it. Some like to call that person an experienced head, or an old pro, but nope, really, they’re a complete prick. A chap who isn’t afraid to scream into the face of others. Have a few devious ways of winning precious points. Winning free kicks and penalties. Making the referee doubt his own existence. Keeping the ball moving when we’re winning. Holding it in corners. Getting under the skin of the opposition.
Basically, exactly what he did on his fantastic debut verses Liverpool, where all the tricks in the book came off. The rest of the season, he couldn’t even muster a quick penny behind the ear of a toddler.
Steven is a very good footballer. No, quiet you! He is. You don’t get to hang around in a top ten Premier League team or an international side for so long being a whining, always on his arse, sloppy charlatan.
So, why do we think he is a whining, always on his arse, sloppy charlatan?
Old pro, as I said, is a term you don’t hear in the game anymore, and that’s been my main observation of Steven. He is very professional. Which isn't feint praise.
Some say whining. You could say professional. Manipulating situations. In the ear of the referee, screaming at team mates demanding the best and constantly pushing the opposition buttons. Rubbing people up the wrong way. Being that complete prick, basically. Definitely one you’d rather have in your team.
Some say he’s always on his arse. You could say professional. Although he has a good jump on him, his height means he won’t win many headers, so his aim of winning cheap freekicks when under the cosh can be vital. Being a professional con-artist, relieving pressure, or slowing the game down can be precious in any league. It also opens up opportunities to put the ball in the box and cause a little mayhem.
Some say sloppy. You could say….well. nothing. Because that’s where he’s let us down. His overall general play just hasn’t been good enough for an expensive, international footballer. He’s busy. He’s niggling at the defenders. But if he is losing the ball far too often, his weaknesses are fully outweighed by his strengths. His touch isn’t crisp. He’s finishing isn’t as clinical. His passing is erratic. And when he was pointing and shouting at Jacob or Josh to do this and do that – as he should as senior player – it loses the impact of being a wise head. Especially when those two are twating it in the top corner, and Naismith is just twating about.
So, what can he do to bring himself back from out the cold?
Well come on a score a goal like he did against Rotherham wont harm of course.
And most importantly, patience. But not Tony Andreu patience kind of way. Patience with an actual chance of opportunity. He could be vital in the last few months of the campaign though. Nearly every first team player bar none has been injured or missed a game so far. The Championship makes players keel over clearly. So I leave you with this thought.
Remember that game against his beloved Everton in the cup? Not only did he score one of the most ironic goals in history (sloppy, on his arse) the ovation he received from the home fans show that behind our exasperation, there is a considerable fan’s favourite for one of the biggest teams in the country.
Although, thinking about, the ovation Kyle Lafferty received on his last substitute appearance, you’d think he’d have scored a goal a game for the past 599 games. so scrap that.
You want to get in our hearts, Steve? Go and become the complete and utter prick we all know you can be.
Jon Rogers tweets at @BigGrantHolt