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Naisy on his come-back doubts, encouragement, where he'll play & a 'clean slate'


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STEVEN NAISMITH has admitted he wrestled with the fear he wasn't good enough for Rangers.

The £1.9million signing missed most of last season after suffering a knee injury in April 2008.

The youngster says he wondered if he'd be able to show the promise which had convinced Rangers to buy him from Kilmarnock.

Naismith, called into the Scotland squad in midweek, said: "When you're younger you just play every week.

"You've no worries, you don't really think too much about things but as you get older and you've had an injury, you do start questioning things. You begin to wonder.

"If you have a few bad games when you're younger you shrug it off and look forward to the next game, but as you get older you begin to question whether you've maybe moved to a level you're not good enough for.

"Last season when I came back after the injury I was itching to play. I was going along to games and not being stripped and doubts began to creep in. I began to wonder if I wasn't being picked for a reason other than the club just taking extra care of me.

"Of course, they spent money on me and they're looking after my best interests, so maybe it was just in my head. It was the first time in my career that had happened to me. I put it down to being my first big injury.

"You hear stories of players having to quit because of cruciate injuries but I couldn't believe the technology. I walked out of the surgery the day after the op.

"That reassured me and helped me get through it and once you get round that you get your confidence back.

"Guys like Davie Weir were magnificent in terms of encouragement. It's frustrating because you want to go out and play as well as you can every week but circu stances prevented me doing that.

"Now it's a clean slate and hopefully I can show what I can do for the club. Maybe last season I had the excuse of being injured but this time there are no excuses.

"I made a point over the summer of doing a bit extra for my knee and that helped me. I've come back feeling sharper. It's the best I've ever felt in my career so I'm raring to go."

Rangers' formation in pre-season suggests wide players will get their chance under Walter Smith this season. Naismith said: "The 4-3-3 we've been playing has helped the front players because you're not just playing one position.

"We've adapted to it well but the manager has said he knows we can play 4-4-2 because we played it last season and won the league.

"This one's a formation he wants to try out in the Champions League and SPL, so we don't know which one he'll choose. I just have to show up well in training and hopefully that'll get me in the team."

Naismith made his name at Killie as a striker and although chances at Ibrox have been limited that's still where the club see his long-term future.

He said: "The manager's said that while I can play wide he sees me playing up front.

"I played with Kris Boyd at Kilmarnock and the manager knows we can play together, but he has Kenny Miller and Kyle Lafferty as well. You have to wait for your chance.

"It's been a strange summer because it's different for any Rangers team not to make signings but it gives boys like myself the chance to stake a claim.

"It doesn't really bother me that there haven't been any new signings. Last seasons we showed we could do it and we've pretty much the same group this season. We've taken every competition to the last day since I've been here which is a good mentality to have."

Rangers will find out their Champions League opponents on Thursday week. Naismith said: "I got a taste of it two years ago which was fantastic. It was hard watching it last year when we were missing out on facing the best players in the world.

"For a few boys like Lafferty who signed last year this will be their first experience of it and I'm sure they'll be looking forward to it as well."

Smith believes that Naismith can be a big player this season if he holds himself back.

He said: "I have high expectations for Steven. I think he'll be a really good player and if anything he's just a bit too keen. He wants to do things a little bit too quickly.

"With a bit more confidence he'll manage to calm himself down a wee bit. He has a real determination to become a player at the highest level and I think that sometimes overcomes him a bit. He needs a bit more calmness in his play but right now he's just full of energy and desperate to get back.

"With Steven, the sharpness and energy that's required is a big part of his game.

"At the start of the season he's been really good and I hope the Rangers fans will see the best of him now. He's important because he can play in a few positions."


Published Date: 16 August 2009

By Martin Hannan

FROM CROCK to the edge of the national team in just a few months is a journey which Steven Naismith of Rangers has made almost unnoticed. His pre-season displays have delighted the Ibrox crowd, and the former Kilmarnock player says he is now ready to perform on a consistent and regular basis for his boyhood heroes.

Yet in the midst of the months of pain and rehabilitation which he suffered as a result of a cruciate ligament injury, there were times when Naismith doubted if he really had the quality to play for Rangers.

"When you're younger and you maybe have a few bad games you don't think anything of it," said Naismith, "but as you get older you think about things a bit more.

"You start wondering if you are playing at a level that you're not good enough for, but once you get rid of that feeling and get your confidence back you start feeling good again.

"You have to believe in your own ability, and it helps when the manager and the older guys take you aside and help you. Davie Weir has been magnificent that way."

Naismith was selected for the full Scotland squad for the World Cup qualifier against Norway. He may perhaps have been happy to miss out on the debacle in Oslo last Wednesday, but was determined to make the point that, for him, the qualification process is not yet over.

"The good thing is that the next two games come up pretty quick and they are both at home," said Naismith. "We won't be dwelling on it for too long.

"As the manager said, it was one of those nights when everything that could go wrong, went wrong, and it was a totally bad day a the office. We now need to go out and win these two games, that's the bottom line.

"I'm sure the manager will reiterate that to all the players, and if there's anyone who doesn't think we can do it then they probably shouldn't be there. The advantage is that they're both at home, so the crowd will play a big part."

Naismith will be 23 next month, and the former Young Player of the Year has benefited from his first full pre-season sessions with Rangers – he was signed for £1.9 million at the last minute in the 2007 transfer window, and of course missed much of last season through his injury.

"I have had a good pre-season," said Naismith. "I played in most of the friendlies and feel confident going into the season. It's the best I've felt throughout my whole career.

"It's ultimately down to myself. Last season there was the excuse that I had been injured and the first season I was signed on the last day of the transfer window and did the pre-season at Kilmarnock. This is the first season I have been comfortable so I can just get on with my football.

"From the very first day of this season I have been involved with the main squad which helps a lot. Last season I was doing all the work myself because I was injured, and there was no-one to keep up with."

Despite his confidence, Naismith is not setting himself any targets: "You could be playing really well and then the manager will have a reason to leave you out for your own benefit so I am not going to say that I will play this or that amount of games. As long as I am doing well and know I'm doing well, that will be satisfactory for myself."

Naismith does feel that Rangers can win the championship again, even though there has been no strengthening of the squad and quite a few departures: "It's different for any Rangers team that there have not been any pre-season signings. It's the first time I have ever known it, but it gives the boys like myself and those who have been on the fringes a chance to go and stake a claim. "The manager has brought in most of the boys, and he obviously believes in our ability so it is time for us to repay him. Last season we showed we can do it, and we have the same players this time so, yes, we can do it.

"Since I joined two years ago, we have gone to the last day of every competition which is a great mentality to have. We want to do that again."


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Naismith himself may be a veteran when it comes to coping with a bit of attention, but at just 22 he is still one of the younger members of the Ibrox squad.

He scored the fourth goal on Saturday afternoon and judging by his celebration afterwards, it rubbed a little balm on the wounds he carries after missing a chunk of his Ibrox career with a serious knee ligament injury.

While Rangers on the whole are determined to retain the title, Naismith believes that winning the league this term will feel like a first for him personally, after feeling so out of it last season.

"It is the worst thing in the world when are injured because you feel as though you are not part of it," he said.

"You are left watching the rest of the guys get on with it and because of the experience I have had I feel as though I appreciate a place in the team all the more.

"It was great to score and I just want to be the best I can be this season. I want to help the team win the title because it didn't feel as though I did that last year.

"I want to contribute hugely to this season but I know I am not the only person who feels like that. Everybody who is in this squad wants to play every week but there are only 11 jerseys available. I want to be at the top of my game because that is the only way that I will be involved every week.

"I am concentrating on doing everything I can at training and in games to show the manager that I have what it takes to be a regular in this side and not only that, but that I am a player who can contribute to bringing success to the club."

Publication date 17/08/09


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