Norwich loanee Steven Naismith open to permanent Hearts move
Steven Naismith would happily convert his Hearts loan into a permanent transfer if Norwich City let him leave Carrow Road.
The striker revealed to the Evening News today that he is open to an extended stay at Tynecastle if both clubs can reach a deal.
Norwich have Naismith contracted until summer 2019 but he is surplus to requirements there, hence a five-month loan move to Hearts in January. After nine appearances and one goal in maroon, the 31-year-old explained he is happy in Edinburgh and willing to stay beyond the summer.
He admitted much will depend on Norwich and their demands. They paid Everton £8.5million to sign him in January 2016 and he remains their joint record signing alongside Dutchman Ricky van Wolfswinkel. They may look to recoup some of that fee through a sale this summer, which would all but remove Hearts from the equation.
His vast salary in England is also a potential stumbling block, but Naismith is keen to at least explore the possibility of becoming a bona fide Hearts player.
“A lot is going to be up to Norwich to be honest,” he said in an exclusive interview. “I’ve got another year on my contract there and they’ve moved in a different direction, undoubtedly. They will have a say in it but I would definitely be open to staying in Scotland and staying at Hearts.
“I’ve loved every minute of it here and the club have been great with me. Probably the biggest thing is they have a very good squad of players with ability and who are also good characters to be around.
“I’m open-minded to anything at the moment. I have enjoyed it here. It’s a totally different set-up in terms of what I have been at before. That brings its own new challenges but also good points as well. Norwich will have a big say in what happens in the summer but I’m definitely open-minded.
“At the moment, I stay until the end of the season. The manager said at the start of it all that he wanted me to come in and show, through the experiences I’ve had, what he would expect from players day-to-day.
“That means your attitude before training, what you do afterwards, how you conduct yourself around the place. He wanted to give the younger players an insight into what it’s like at higher levels.”
Organising his club future will be the player’s main priority after the season’s final ball is kicked. He also has his international career to consider.
Naismith last played for Scotland 12 months ago in the 1-0 World Cup qualifying win over Slovenia and is eager to add to his 45 caps. Encouragingly, the first of those was given to him 11 years ago by Alex McLeish during his previous Hampden tenure.
The reappointed national coach left him out of the squad for this month’s friendlies against Costa Rica and Hungary in favour of younger forwards like Jason Cummings and Oliver McBurnie. That does not necessarily mean the end of Naismith’s days in dark blue, for he is determined to play his way back into McLeish’s thoughts.
“I would never shut the door on Scotland, definitely not,” he said. “It’s one of the proudest things I did in my career. Don’t get me wrong, as you get older your attributes change in terms of how you play. You form into a different type of player.
“When I made my debut for Scotland, I was a different type of player to what I am today. That might open some doors for me, or it might not. You just try to do well and if the manager calls upon you, then you’ll be ready for it.
“It’s something I’ll always push for. I’ll try to keep doing well to hopefully get selected again. I expected the manager to come in and introduce some new faces and put his own stamp on it. He’ll change it up and drive it forward, not only the way he wants but maybe also touching on a few things he did in the past as national manager.
“He gave me my first cap and, fortunately for me, he has got a bit of knowledge of what I can do.”
Hearts can play their part in potentially helping him return to the international fray for end-of-season friendlies against Peru and Mexico. Naismith agreed to the Tynecastle loan with the thought of rekindling his Scotland career firmly in his mind.
“When I decided I had to go somewhere to get playing in January, I wanted to firstly make sure I was playing every week. Then you’ve got to hope you get recognised for the national team,” he added.
“I’ve had some great experiences with Scotland, and also some tough times. I love every minute of being involved with the international set-up. I love meeting up, spending time with the squad and also what you learn.”
McLeish is taking the opportunity to assess several prospering new recruits – Naismith’s Hearts colleague Jon McLaughlin amongst them – this month.
Others are likely to be given an opportunity in the summer tour to South and Central America before the squad for the inaugural UEFA Nations League is finalised.
Naismith is banking on more changes and another opportunity to prove he still has the required attributes to thrive at international level.
“I know how quick it can change. Since I made my international debut, there are probably more changes within international squads than ever before. It’s a lot more about form, how you’re doing at a specific time, as well as injuries.”