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Naismith: I've put friendship with team-mates on hold


Steven Naismith

Steven Naismith

AFP/Getty Images

Steven Naismith

Steven Naismith has suspended his friendship with Aiden McGeady and James McCarthy until the dust settles on Scotland's Euro 2016 match with the Republic of Ireland tomorrow - but the Scottish striker defended his Everton colleagues' decision to choose Irish jerseys over the dark blue shirts they were also entitled to wear.

McGeady and McCarthy - both Scots-born and raised - have become headline fodder in the build-up as the former Scotland defender Gordon McQueen urged the Tartan Army to give the pair a "horrible reception".

However, Naismith insists the home supporters will put more focus on backing Scotland instead of booing the visitors.

"The fans are going to come and support Scotland, and that's going to be their main priority," he said. "Every away ground I go to fans boo me, and I shout comments. It's part of the game.

"I don't think it will be that big a deal, I don't think it will be something that will play on their minds or even the Scotland fans'. They will hopefully be cheering us."

Sky Sports yesterday tweeted a table showing that 12 of Martin O'Neill's 27-man extended squad were not born in Ireland. Naismith is not a fan of the grandparent rule, through which the pair are eligible for the Ireland, but he said: "Those are the rules so if it can improve your team - and it has improved our team - we're happy about it, to be honest.

"I personally think there should be a cut-off, not distant relatives, but every country in the world is doing it and I don't think there's any point in debating it. We wouldn't have too many complaints about it."

As it happens, Naismith's father was born in Wales and the Welsh FA sounded the player when he was representing Scotland at junior levels.

"I was enjoying playing for Scotland and growing up it never crossed my mind that I could play for Wales," he said. "They probably chanced their arm and thought it might be an opportunity. But don't get me wrong - everybody's circumstances are different so, if there's a chance for somebody to have an international career and maybe go to a major tournament, would you give that up just because you weren't born in that country?"

Asked if he had discussed the issue - or the game - with his Irish colleagues at Everton, Naismith said: "Normally we text during the week. This time - no friends for a week. I want to win so bad that the friendships can go on the side until after the game.

"They'll be the same. It's a game where you know so many people and it's never nice being on the losing end, so it's probably best leaving each other to get down to business - then we'll talk about it after."

Naismith was singled out for praise by Graeme Souness this week, while the former Scotland captain also said that it was time for Steven Fletcher to start scoring goals for his country. Naismith, though, included himself in the stricture.

"All the forwards are at fault," he said. "I don't have a good scoring record for Scotland and think I should do better.

"Fletch is probably the same and I'm sure Shaun Maloney has said he should score more, but it's not about one guy scoring.

"I see it at Everton - Seamus Coleman getting seven goals from full-back and our midfield are scoring.

"We've got the ability to control games. Poland put us under a lot of pressure and we dealt with that very well. Germany was a massive game because it was our first in the group against the world champions. Then it was Georgia at home and everyone is saying we must win it.

"Ireland got a great result against Georgia away with a last-minute goal so that shows how tough it can be.

"Then people talk about Ireland being three points ahead of us but they have played Gibraltar which is a game you expect to win, but we have not played them yet.

"There are so many variations in the table and there will be twists and turns all along the way." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent