Evertonians have always had boo-boys. From David Unsworth to James McFadden, Simon Davies to Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, it seems that some Blues are not satisfied unless they are criticising someone in an Everton shirt.
Since signing from a crumbling Glasgow Rangers on a free transfer in the summer of 2012, Steven Naismith has not enjoyed the most cordial relationship with the matchgoing Everton supporters.
In fact, he has been treated little short of disgracefully from the majority of the Goodison crowd.
Played out of position for long periods of his 18 months at the club, Naismith has suffered a crisis of confidence on the pitch which has led to ineffective performances and the wrath of the Goodison boo boys. In September, after netting the winner against Chelsea to secure the club’s first Premier League win of the season, Roberto Martinez admitted that Naismith had found it ‘very hard’ since arriving at the club and that the Scot had ‘not really been himself’. To his credit, Naismith has never hid or offered anything less than 100% despite his touches being widely jeered from the Goodison faithful during cameo appearances.
On Saturday, with the Blues trailing 1-0 to Aston Villa and an equaliser looking unlikely against a stubborn back line, Martinez introduced Naismith after 70 minutes. Five minutes later, Naismith had drawn the Blues level with a smart finish after a brilliantly timed run and flick from Pienaar that cut Villa apart. Although a stunning free-kick from Mirallas secured the three points, there was no doubt to most inside the ground that the introduction of Naismith won Everton the game.
For each of the goals Naismith has netted in a Blue shirt, he has demonstrated both composure and an ability to be in the right place at the right time. Think back to the cool finishes against Chelsea, Liverpool, Norwich, Reading, Fulham and Stevenage and you will begin to appreciate the finishing qualities that Naismith brings to the table.
Goals alone are not enough for Premier League frontmen, you need both presence and nous. Steven Naismith has both. Kevin Mirallas doesn’t have the physical presence to lead the line alone as was demonstrated on Saturday as the Belgain toiled against a wily Villa defence. Naismith may not have the pace to get in behind teams but what he does have is intelligent movement to get defenders turning and the strength to look after the ball and bring others into play.
With Romelu Lukaku injured and worryingly out of form in any case, Naismith has earned his spot for the crucial trip to Spurs on Sunday. There were Evertonians screaming for Vellios when Naismith was stripped and ready to come on, demanding that Martinez introduce the Greek as the Blues needed ‘height’. The fact that Vellios hasn’t contributed anything to the Everton cause for the best part of two years barring the posting of ‘selfies’ of himself and his teammates at Finch Farm on Twitter didn’t matter, it was the fact that Naismith was coming on that fuelled their fury. Thankfully, Roberto Martinez knows best with the timing and the impact of the substitution proving inspired.
The time has come for Steven Naismith to be afforded the respect and appreciation that his ability deserves. He has a massive part to play in the final third of the season and Evertonians would do well to cut the man some slack and allow him to enjoy his football.
Maybe then the much-maligned Scot can play without the fear of disapproval and convey the arrogance and self-belief that Roberto Martinez has challenged Naismith to showcase in the final third of the season.