STEVEN NAISMITH admits the lure of potentially representing Scotland at Euro 2020 will be a major factor in where his future lies as the Hearts loan star described the prospect of a permanent move to Tynecastle as ‘really appealing’.
The 32-year-old regained his international place following his sensational start to the season in Gorgie and rewarded Alex McLeish with goals against Albania and Portugal.
Naismith will miss the upcoming qualifiers against Kazakhstan and San Marino after undergoing knee surgery this week but is hopeful he will be in contention for the June fixtures against Cyprus and Belgium.
And the experienced striker knows that joining Hearts when his contract at Norwich expires could boost his hopes of staying in the Scotland picture.
“One of the biggest things I need to consider is: if I can repeat what I’ve done this season into next season, and Scotland make the Euros, then I need to do everything I can to make that squad,” said Naismith, who has scored 14 goals for the Jambos this term.
“Being at Hearts has given me the chance to get back involved with Scotland. I need to weigh that up.
“This is a strange situation that I’ve never really experienced in my career, to be out of contract and trying to work out what I want to do. Hopefully, I can come to that decision sooner rather than later.
“The opportunities Hearts have given me over the last 18 months have been great, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and I think, with the relationship I have had with the manager and the chats we have had, that is a really appealing option for me.”
Naismith was also linked with a move to Major League Soccer, with the former Kilmarnock and Rangers man amenable to the idea of an adventure in America in the autumn of his career.
However, it is understood he is not weighing up any concrete offers from the States.
He added: “It [United States] is in my mind in terms of being one of the last opportunities to try something different and as you get older, you think of the boxes you have ticked in your career – and that springs to mind.
“But it’s not so much a case of ‘this club is after me, this club wants me’, it’s more about, as a family, would that move be the right thing to do?”
Should his recovery go to plan and Naismith feature against either Cyprus or Belgium he will win his 50th cap an earn a place int he Hall of Fame – an astonishing feat for a player who never even imagined he would represent his country once.
He added: “It’s an entertaining start to the season for Hearts, but also in terms of the international side of things. As a kid, I never expected to get any caps, so to be flirting with getting into the Hall of Fame is incredible. I’ll hopefully get there one day and this summer has to be a realistic target.”
Hearts boss Craig Levein revealed on Thursday that Naismith’s surgery to repair damaged knee cartilage had gone better than expected and he was hopeful of being able to call upon the striker’s services before the end of the season.
That could be a mouth-watering prospect for the player, particularly if the Jambos can see off Inverness in the Scottish Cup semi-final – which will come too soon for Naismith – to book a date at Hampden in May.
“All round it was better than expected,” he told BBC Sportsound. “This first part of the recovery is quite slow and you don’t do very much, but there is a rapid incline after that once you have passed the first hurdle.
“I will be guided by symptoms – what the swelling is like, whether my knee reacts and, especially in my current situation the last thing I want to do is come back and break down.”