Hearts striker Steven Naismith determined to win over Scotland boss Steve Clarke – after turning him down twice


STEVEN NAISMITH is determined to use his permanent move to Hearts as a springboard to the Scotland hall of fame after revealing that national team boss Steve Clarke launched failed bids to sign him with West Bromwich Albion and Kilmarnock.

The worst kept secret in the SPFL was finally confirmed on Thursday when Naismith put pen to paper on a four-year deal with the capital club, shunning interest from elsewhere in Britain and Major League Soccer.

The 32-year-old is adamant his international aspirations were key in his decision to return to Tynecastle following a hugely successful loan stint last term, with Euro 2020 looming large.

(Pic: Hearts FC)

Naismith has already held talks with Clarke and has been assured there is a pathway to add to his 49 caps – one shy of a hall of fame place – if he can attain full fitness and replicate his goalscoring feats for the Jambos.

Indeed, his fellow son of Ayrshire is something of a long-term admirer.

“Steve tried to sign me when I went to Everton and then when I came back to Hearts, he had a conversation with me about going to Kilmarnock,” said Naismith. “So I have a relationship there.

“During his time at Kilmarnock, I live in that area and you would bump into him.

“I had a chat with him over the summer and he just said: ‘Get fit. You know I wanted to sign you so there is a reason for me to pick you if you are doing well’. That’s what I’ve got to do.

“Aside from wanting to do well for Hearts and pull the club as far forward as I can, the biggest thing for me is the national team and getting to the Euros.

“The potential prize at the end of this season is big and, if I start the way I started last season, then I would back myself to get back in the squad.”

While Naismith has plenty left in the tank – as evidenced by agreeing to a contract which will see him play until at least the age of 36 – he also sees Tynecastle as the perfect place to hone his coaching skills as he considers life after hanging up his boots.

“I’ve taken a lot of notes from managers throughout my career because I enjoyed it,” continued Naismith. “But, as you get older, that means a bit more. I do want to go down that management route.

“Since I’ve come here I’ve naturally done that with the players, especially the younger ones. I have those characteristics and the manager lets me get on with that – he’s good like that.

“I understand the balance, as I’m still a player, so it’s just me passing on advice at the moment. However, looking back, Hearts have got loads of young guys into coaching. Jack Ross was here, Foxy [Liam Fox] and Jon Daly as well.

“It’s a club that gives you that opportunity so why would I not be interested?”

Naismith also outlined the importance of reuniting with Craig Levein; a relationship first fostered during the Hearts manager’s ill-fated reign in charge of the Scotland side and cemented during the last 18 months working together at Tynecastle.

“The biggest thing in coming here is probably the relationship I have with the gaffer,” adds Naismith. “That comes from the national team and, as it went on, he has obviously seen traits in me that he likes.

“On the flip side, I enjoy working with him. He is a different manager than he was with Scotland and puts more onus on the coaching staff and the senior players, which is ideal for me.”

(PIC: heartsfc.co.uk)

Naismith, meanwhile, has declared himself fit for Hearts’ Premiership curtain-raiser against Aberdeen on Sunday after completing his recovery from the knee surgery which prematurely ended his campaign in February.

“I’ve had the conversation with the gaffer and I told him I am ready to play,” continued Naismith, who notched 14 goals for the Jambos last term.

“If he says I am playing at the weekend then I would happily be involved. I know I would be fine. I would just need to use my experience a bit more later in the game but, whatever he needs from me, I’m ready.

“I don’t say that lightly, as a young boy might. I say that knowing I am ready to be involved.”