Hearts' Sean Clare on Steven Naismith, Steven Fletcher and scoring goals
Despite his London accent and English origins, Hearts winger Sean Clare wants to see Steven Naismith and Steven Fletcher combine to form a lethal Scotland forward line.
Clare played with Fletcher at Sheffield Wednesday and is a current team-mate of Naismith’s at Tynecastle Park. He admitted learning much from both players, who have each enjoyed a renaissance in dark blue of late.
Naismith was recalled by the Scotland coach Alex McLeish in September after an 18-month international hiatus. He scored in the Nations League win against Albania at Hampden Park before suffering a knee injury playing for Hearts last month.
His unavailability, combined with Leigh Griffiths’ fitness issues, prompted McLeish to call up Fletcher earlier this month. Like Naismith, the former Hibs forward hadn’t played for his country since last year. McLeish’s faith in Fletcher was rewarded with a converted penalty in the 4-0 away win over Albania and an intelligent display at home to Israel on Tuesday as Scotland secured a Euro 2020 play-off berth.
Clare sees similarities in Naismith and Fletcher and believes McLeish should pair them together next year.
“They both bring other people in, their hold up play is unbelievable,” said Clare. “That’s one of the big things I try to take from them, holding the ball up, bringing players in, spinning off. They both score goals but they also bring different things as well.
“Fletch is more of an aerial threat and Naisy’s a bit more on the ground, he can drive at players a bit more. So I think those two in the same Scotland team wouldn’t be a bad front line! They’re both great.”
What both players possess is experience at the top level in England and in an international context. Naismith is 32, Fletcher 31, but Clare insisted they both have plenty to offer Scotland.
“Totally, 100 per cent. I can’t see why not. They’re both top quality players, they’ve played at some unbelievable levels against some unbelievable teams.
“They’re both very influential for both their clubs and their country and I have tried to learn from both of them every day I have trained with them.”
Clare left Wednesday in the summer and eventually joined Hearts as a free agent. He recalls Fletcher as a helpful team-mate who taught him a lot of smaller, technical manoeuvres.
“He’s a top guy. He was really welcoming, especially when me and a few other players made our step up to the first team,” said Clare. “You could see he’s still got a lot of quality, a lot of experience but in general he’s a great guy and a great player.
“When I was playing there he was injured but when I first broke in he was in and around it and I learned a lot from him – where to make my runs, when to hold, when to go. He really helped me.
“As a young player, you can be very nervous but he was really welcoming and involved me like I had been there all season. I didn’t catch the [Scotland] game live but I watched some of the highlights on TV and he still looks a class act.”
Clare consulted Fletcher briefly before taking the decision to sign a three-year contract with Hearts in September.
“I spoke to him a little bit, because I was injured when it was all happening we didn’t get the chance for a proper chat. But I have spoken to him in little bits and he is someone you can approach and talk to. He has always been helpful.”
Clare insists he is now fully fit and ready to show his capabilities in maroon after recovering from ankle surgery. He is in line for only his third start today when Hearts visit St Mirren.
“I’m feeling good,” he said. “I’m getting fitter and stronger every day so I feel that I’m there or thereabout in terms of being ready to go. The games so far been fast-paced, tough games, all of them. All for different reasons but I’ve enjoyed them. I’ve learned form them and I’ll take lessons from them all and improve my game every day.
“I don’t feel there’s extra pressure [with team-mates out injured]. Every game we go in to we need to be trying to play at our best, trying to create, score goals and help the team. Whether players are in or out, that’s our goal. Obviously there’s more of a need for goals from different areas but everyone in the team has to chip in.”