Hearts form puts Steven Naismith high in Scotland manager’s thoughts

Steven Naismith has started the season well for Hearts
Steven Naismith has started the season well for Hearts
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Scotland manager Alex McLeish insists Steven Naismith is high in his thoughts for the international double header after starting the season strongly with Hearts.

Although a late addition to the squad, Naismith’s seven goals in eight appearances for the Edinburgh club this season have propelled him into contention for a place in the Scotland starting line-up.

McLeish’s side face Belgium in a friendly tonight and Albania in the UEFA Nations League on Monday. Both matches are at Hampden Park and Naismith could play a big role.

“He is uppermost in my thoughts. He has started the season well,” admitted McLeish, who explained he was keen to recall the 31-year-old after his appointment earlier this year. “I spoke to him in the summer. He couldn’t come away with us as he was struggling with a heel injury. I said: ‘Look, get it right, start the season well and you never know what will happen, if it’s meant to be it’s meant to be.’

“He’s started the season well as I requested. He feels good and he has trained well. He looked sharp in training.”

Leigh Griffiths and Johnny Russell are the other strikers competing with Naismith in the current international squad.

As Scotland embark upon another qualifying campaign ahead of Euro 2020, McLeish hopes his players can take inspiration from the country’s female internationalists.

He congratulated the Scotland women’s team on qualifying for next summer’s World Cup in France for the first time in history.

“We’re really proud of what the ladies have done with their qualification. I know Shelley well and I know how hard she works. I feel really chuffed for her and they certainly did the nation proud,” said McLeish.

“Our boys all know about it so probably there is a wee bit of them in there saying: ‘It would be great if we could do that.’ I think they all want to be part of finally getting to the finals.”