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Steven John Naismith (born 14 September 1986) is a Scottish footballer who plays as a second striker for English club Everton and the Scotland national football team.

Naismith began his career with Kilmarnock in 2004. He spent four years with the Ayrshire side where he won the SFWA Young Player of the Year award in 2006[1] and the SPFA Young Player of the Year award the following season.[2] Naismith joined Rangers in the summer of 2007 for a fee of £1.9m. While with the club he won three consecutive league titles, the Scottish Cup in 2008 and the League Cup twice in 2010 and 2011. He joined Everton in July 2012 following the financial collapse of Rangers.

Naismith made his full international debut in 2007 against the Faroe Islands and has 19 caps, including two goals against Spain and Lithuania.

Club careerEdit

Early life and careerEdit

A resident of Stewarton, Naismith attended Lainshaw Primary School and Stewarton Academy, while his footballing education took place with local boys club team Stewarton Annick.[3] Naismith was also on the books at Rangers as a youngster.[3]

KilmarnockEdit

Naismith played several years in the Kilmarnock youth team before signing professionally for Kilmarnock on 31 August 2002.[4] He made his senior debut in the 2003–04 season as a substitute against Hibernian on 24 April 2004.[5] This was in a season where he helped Kilmarnock under-19s win the Scottish Youth Cup against Rangers 1–0 at Rugby Park.[3] He scored his first senior goal for the club in a 2–2 draw with Heart of Midlothian in February 2005.[6]

In the 2005–06 season he played in the striker position, and also played on the left of midfield. His performances won him the SPL young player of the month award in August[7] and January[8] and the SPL player of the month award in March of the 2005–06 season.[9] Naismith went on to win the Scottish Football Writers' Player of the Year award, after scoring twelve goals during the season.[1] On 9 March 2006 he signed a new contract with Kilmarnock until the summer of 2010.[10]

Naismith's performances led to a two-day trial with Arsenal in August 2006.[11] Naismith scored his first professional hat-trick, in a 3–0 Scottish League Cup semi-final victory over Falkirk.[12][13] He won the SPL young player of the month award in March 2007.[14] Naismith received the Scottish PFA Young Player of the Year award in the 2006–07 season.[2]

Rangers made a bid of around £400,000 for the striker in June 2007, with Kilmarnock officials incensed by what they considered to be a derisory offer.[15] It was then widely reported that Naismith had handed in an official transfer request.[16] BBC Sport then reported that Kilmarnock were close to accepting a bid of around £2m from Rangers' Old Firm rivals Celtic.[17] Shortly afterwards, Naismith withdrew his transfer request.[18]

RangersEdit

2007–08Edit

[1][2]Naismith celebrated with Kenny Miller in November 2010.On 31 August 2007, Kilmarnock accepted Rangers' offer for Naismith for around £1.9m[19] and he joined the club just 19 seconds before the transfer window closed.[19] The following day Naismith made his debut as an 83rd minute substitute against Gretna.[20] He scored his first goal for Rangers in a 3–0 win over Aberdeen on 23 September 2007.[21] Naismith made his Champions League debut at the Nou Camp against FC Barcelona in November 2007, coming on as a 78th minute substitute.[22][23] He scored in consecutive games against Hibernian[24] and Dundee United[25] at the turn of the year during season 2007–08. A month later he then scored his fourth and fifth goals for Rangers against Falkirk[26] and Gretna.[27]

During Rangers' Scottish Cup semi-final against St. Johnstone in April 2008, St. Johnstone player Martin Hardie stepped on Naismith's left knee and appeared to injure him.[28] However, after initially limping off the pitch he returned to the field of play, only to collapse a short time later and required to be stretchered off.[28] After cruciate ligament damage, Naismith underwent surgery in May 2008 and was ruled out of action for up to a year;[29] however, he returned to training eight months later.[30]

2008–09Edit

Naismith returned to action in December 2008, playing in a reserve match against St. Mirren and made a return to first team football in January 2009 during the Scottish Cup; coincidentally St. Johnstone were the opponents.[31] Naismith featured in the 2009 Scottish Cup Final win over Falkirk after missing the majority of the season through injury.[32]

2009–10Edit

Naismith opened his account for the 2009–10 season by scoring the fourth in a 4–1 win over Falkirk[33] and followed this by winning a late and decisive penalty against Hearts at Tynecastle, which team mate Kris Boyd converted. The penalty proved to be the winning goal.[34] Naismith then netted in the Scottish League Cup match against Queen of the South in September 2009.[35]

In the 2010 League Cup Final win over St. Mirren, Naismith set up Kenny Miller for the winning goal through a counterattack after Rangers had been reduced to nine men.[36]

Towards the end of the season Naismith scored two goals against Hearts at Tynecastle in March 2010.[37] Naismith made 25 league appearances during season 2009–10 and received his first SPL winners medal after Rangers clinched back to back titles.[38]

2010–11Edit

In the first match of the 2010–11 season Naismith scored as Rangers beat Kilmarnock 2–1.[39] Naismith then scored in consecutive games against Dundee United[40] and Dunfermline[41] in September 2010. On 29 September 2010, Naismith scored the only goal of the game as Rangers defeated Bursaspor at Ibrox to gain them their 1st win in 12 UEFA Champions League matches.[42] Naismith followed this Champions League goal up with the winning goal deep into stoppage time against Hearts at Tynecastle in October.[43] Further goals against Motherwell,[44] Kilmarnock[45] and St Mirren[46] took Naismith's goal tally to eight for Rangers at the turn of the year in the 2010–11 season. Naismith's form also won him the SPL player of the month for October.[47]

On 22 December 2010, Naismith signed a new four-and-a-half-year contract to stay with the Rangers, keeping him tied to the club until at least May 2015.[48]

After the new year Naismith scored the winning goal in the Scottish League Cup semi final against Motherwell at Hampden Park.[49] Naismith was then sent off in the 2–2 draw with Celtic at Ibrox in the Scottish Cup after a second yellow card.[50] Goals against Motherwell,[51] Dundee United[52] and St Johnstone[53] took Naismith's tally to 11 for the season. Naismith then scored two goals in a 5–0 win over Motherwell in April 2011[54] In the final game of the 2010–11 season Naismith scored in the 5–1 win over Kilmarnock which won the league title for Rangers for the third consecutive time.[55]

Season 2010–11 proved to be Naismith's most prolific in a Rangers shirt, scoring 15 goals.[56] Naismith was nominated for the SPFA Players' Player of the Year award after his performances throughout the 2010–11 season.[57] Naismith won both the Rangers players' player of the year and the supporters' player of the year for season 2010–11.[58]

2011–12Edit

Naismith scored again on the first day of the league season against Hearts at Ibrox in a 1–1 draw.[59] In the following league match against St. Johnstone, Naismith scored again as Rangers won 2–0.[60] August saw Naismith score in consecutive games against Motherwell[61] and Aberdeen.[62]

In the first Old Firm derby of the season on 18 September 2011, Naismith scored twice against Celtic as Rangers won 4–2; this was the first time he scored in a match against Celtic.[63] Six days later against Dunfermline Athletic, Naismith scored another brace to take his tally to eight goals in eight league games.[64] However, the match was overshadowed when Naismith was handed a two match retrospective suspension by the SFA for elbowing Dunfermline captain Austin McCann. Naismith later stated there was no deliberate intent and had already had an apology accepted by McCann.[65] Naismith scored Rangers first goal against Hearts in October 2011, and Rangers went on to win the game 2–0.[66]

During the 2011–12 season, Naismith began a goalscoring celebration where he crosses his arms in front of his body.[67] This was later revealed by a family friend to mean that he is sending a kiss to his girlfriend when doing so.[67] On 29 October, Naismith injured himself after attempting to tackle Aberdeen's Rob Milsom. A scan later confirmed that he had damaged his cruciate ligament and would be out of action for around nine months, ending his season.[68]

In June 2012, Naismith lodged an objection against his contract being transferred from Rangers old company to the new company running the club.[69] PFA Scotland had previously commented that players were entitled to become free agents if they objected to the transfer.[70]

EvertonEdit

"It was great to make my debut, it made it that extra bit special because I've been out for quite a while and there was the legal stuff to get through. But I'm glad that it's all passed now and I can focus on getting my fitness back and staking a claim for the first game of the season. I've had a taste of it for the last couple of weeks with the squad. I was dying to get back on the pitch and link up with the boys. I had a wee test – 20 minutes or so – and hopefully there's more to come in the coming weeks. I felt strong from the test I got today. It's just about the short sharp stuff and the games are going to come thick and fast which will be good for me."[71] Steven Naismith, speaking shortly after his debut for Everton.Steven Naismith signed a four-year deal for Everton on 4 July 2012,[72] which saw Naismith join up with his previous striking partner at Rangers, Nikica Jelavić. There was no transfer fee involved as the player had refused to have his contract transferred from the soon to be liquidated Rangers to Sevco, the business consortium run by Charles Green.[73] After his move to Everton, Naismith explained that leaving Rangers was "one of the hardest decisions" of his football career.[74] On 20 July, Naismith received provisional international clearance from FIFA which allowed him to play while arbitration over his move from Rangers continued.

He made his debut for the Toffees as a second half substitute in a 1–1 friendly draw with Motherwell on 21 July, his first match since his injury in October 2011.[71][75] His next appearance came in Tony Hibbert's testimonial against AEK Athens at Goodison Park in which he netted a first half hat-trick.[76] Naismith's competitive debut came as an 89th minute substitute during Everton's first match of the season, a 1–0 league victory over Manchester United.[77] He scored his first competitive goal for Everton on 28 October in a derby against Liverpool, in his tenth appearance for the club.[78]

International careerEdit

Naismith, whose father was born in Wales, was approached by the Wales national under-21 football team, but he decided to play for his homeland instead.[79] One of his grandmothers was born in England.[79] Naismith scored on his debut for the Scotland national under-21 football team, in a 4–0 victory against Iceland U21s in March 2006.[80] In the same month he scored on his debut for the Scotland B team, against Turkey B in a 3–2 defeat.[81]

Naismith was called up to the Scotland squad for the first time in June 2007,[82] and made his debut as a late substitute in the 2–0 win over the Faroe Islands. Naismith captained the Scotland U21 team later that year, and scored a winning goal against the Czech Republic U21s.[83] Naismith received his second international cap when he started the world cup qualifier against Holland at Hampden Park in September 2009 which Scotland lost 1–0.[84] Naismith's third international cap was against Wales in a 3–0 friendly defeat.[85]

Naismith was selected for all three of Scotlands matches in the Nations Cup when Scotland reached the final but were defeated by the Republic of Ireland.[86]

In the Euro 2012 championship qualifiers Naismith played in both matches home and away against Lithuania, both matches against the Czech Republic, the home match against Lichtenstein and the home match against Spain.[86] Naismith scored his first goal for Scotland in the 3–2 loss to Spain on 12 October 2010 in the Euro 2012 qualifiers.[87] Naismith scored the winning goal in the home match against Lithuania in September 2011 to keep Scotland's hopes of reaching the Euro 2012 alive.[88]

International goalsEdit

Goal Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1. 12 October 2010 Hampden Park, Glasgow  Spain 1–2 2–3 UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying
2. 6 September 2011 Hampden Park, Glasgow  Lithuania 1–0 1–0 UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying

Style of playEdit

Although Naismith traditionally started his career as a striker, he has recently been effectively used as a midfielder.[89] Naismith has been used on both right and left flanks for Rangers but also as a central midfielder with his versatility a key attribute.[89] Former coach at Kilmarnock Billy Brown likened Naismith's play with Alan Smith who started his career as a striker but ended up playing midfield for Manchester United.[89]

Naismith's play has also been attributed to his committed and fearless nature with an awareness and shrewdness which is required to play in a number of positions on the park.[89] Scotland national team manager Craig Levein has been known to utilise Naismith for his attacking instincts, workrate and sense of responsibility.[89] Rangers manager Ally McCoist believes that Naismith's natural zest and enthusiasm are some of his biggest strengths.[65]

Career statisticsEdit

[90]

As of match played 12 January 2013.
Club Season League Cup League Cup Europe Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Kilmarnock 2003–04 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
2004–05 24 1 3 1 0 0 0 0 27 2
2005–06 36 13 1 0 2 0 0 0 39 13
2006–07 37 15 1 0 5 4 0 0 43 19
2007–08 4 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 5 1
Total 102 29 5 1 8 5 0 0 115 35
Rangers 2007–08 21 5 6 0 0 0 4 0 31 5
2008–09 7 0 3 0 1 0 0 0 11 0
2009–10 28 3 3 0 4 1 4 0 39 4
2010–11 31 11 2 0 4 3 7 1 44 15
2011–12 11 9 0 0 1 0 3 0 15 9
Total 98 28 14 0 10 4 18 1 140 33
Everton 2012–13 21 3 1 0 2 0 0 0 24 3
Total 21 3 1 0 2 0 0 0 24 3
Career total 221 60 20 1 20 9 18 1 279 71

HonoursEdit

Rangers

Personal awards