Steven Naismith names the Hearts star he wants to 'dominate' games as teammate turns perfect example
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Steven Naismith thinks Calem Nieuwenhof has the potential to reach the international scene as the midfielder revels in Hearts life.
The Australian midfielder has grown in stature at Tynecastle in recent weeks, amid a winning run of 10 victories from 11 games. He danced in and out of Airdrie players to score the third goal in Sunday's 4-1 Scottish Cup round of 16 win over the Diamonds.
He joined the club from Western Sydney Wanderers last summer and boss Naismith thinks a call-up to the Australian national team like Nathaniel Atkinson, Cammy Devlin and Kye Rowles before him won't be far off in his current form.
Naismith said: "He's impressed us since he came in. The character he is, he's a reserved person and really chilled out. That probably went against him in the first couple of months in that he was finding his feet.
"In training he's quality. Calmness in possession, understanding of the game, his range of passing and he is a goal threat. As much as I am delighted for him and he is in a great position. His performances are getting consistent but I think he can dominate games more which is a pleasing aspect for us.
"He is one of the fittest players at the club. What he brings on and off the ball is really important. He is consistently improving and becoming more dominant in games.
"That is why we signed him. We knew he was a good player, someone who has desire to get into national team and I don't think that will be too far away if he continues the same vein of form."
Nieuwenhof agrees with Naismith's verdict on being reserves counting against him. He now feels he is settled in Edinburgh and adapting to what the Tynecastle boss is asking of him.
He said: "He's not wrong, for sure. I'm a bit more of a laidback, reserved kind of guy. Coming over here, to Scotland, football is so different. You can't really be reserved on the pitch as I've learned. You need to go into every game with that mindset that you are going to have to get stuck in and get involved.
"That's something I have really learned across the last few months and brought it into my game and just trying to get consistency into that side of my game, the physical aspect.
"I honestly couldn't be any happier with the support Naisy has given me during the whole time I have been here. From the start, he said it was a massive move for me coming from the other side of the world, a completely different style of football and lifestyle as well.
"He's always said to me it is going to take time to settle in and get used to the league, the way teams play over here. I couldn't be more grateful for the trust he has put in me. I'm just really happy to get some consistency and play consistently and hopefully reward his faith.
"I'm still getting used to the cold! The city is awesome, I've really settled in and the boys have been great as well. We've got such a great bunch of guys in the dressing room. Everyone gets along as well which has made it that much easier."
One star Nieuwenhof is learning plenty from is Australian teammate Devlin. The all-action midfielder has plenty in his game for his fellow Aussie to take pointers from, with Nieuwenhof growing in consistency thanks to more regular starts, including the Airdrie display.
The 22-year-old added: "Cammy's great to learn off. He's a real dog and a really aggressive player. For sure that is something I can take from his game.
"I'm definitely going into the team with that consistency. I've been playing week in, week out for the last few rounds. I'm feeling a lot more comfortable in the team and getting used to the way we play and the way we want to break down teams. I've been happy to play a role in Sunday's game and the last few games. I've been happy with how it has been going.
"I'm happy to get another goal. I think I was able to get involved and link the play-up moving forward. All around I was happy with the performance.
"That's something I want to build into my game moving forward. Getting forward and getting into those positions more. I think goals and assists will naturally come when you are getting into those positions and helping the team link up."