Naismith tells Tartan Army: We need help
Norwich striker hopes 1-0 victory over Slovenia can bring supporters back to the national side
SCOTLAND don’t just need to start winning games again, they could do with winning back the public.
The latter will not come about if the former doesn’t happen more often and good victories, over countries with any sort of a football pedigree, have been rare in recent and not-so-recent times.
This is why a 1-0 win over Slovenia was hailed, if not like a Wembley triumph, then certainly with far more vigour than such results have been in the past when they were more run of the mill.
There are mitigating factors for the dwindling numbers at Hampden. Scotland have been poor for some time, Sunday’s match was on Mother’s Day and a late kick-off, the sunny weather would have prevented many walk-ups and, given all of the above, £30 a ticket seems typically excessive.
Scotland supporters need a reason to care about their national side again and Steven Naismith is optimistic the win over Slovenia has finally given them one.
“Hopefully this makes people fall back in love with the team,” said Naismith who played most of the second half in place of Leigh Griffiths and showed up well after spending time out of Gordon Strachan’s plans.
“Hopefully, the Slovenia win can get some supporters back with the team. People might have written us off and thought the campaign was just going to peter out, but this result might change that.
“No-one can blame the fans because the start of the campaign wasn’t good enough. It makes the job harder, whereas if we’d put in some good performances, we’d be sitting in a promising position. But we’re still in the mix and that’s what we need going forward.”
Scotland have England, Malta and Slovakia at Hampden ahead, with trips to Lithuania and Slovenia before the final numbers are crunched.
There are 18 points to play for and a minimum of 12 will be required. Strachan’s men have little wiggle room and even if all goes to plan, not every runner-up makes the play-offs. Scotland can forget pulling off a miracle if they can’t find a way to dominate in Glasgow, a foundation the successful campaigns of yore were based on.
“The home games will be crucial, we need the atmosphere we used to get at home games,” said Naismith. “I know we played Ireland in the last campaign at Celtic Park, but that atmosphere is what we need.
“We need teams to come here and think: ‘ Wow, we’re in a game here.’ Going forward, this is what we need and that will give us the best opportunity. We’ll go into the games believing that we can win.”
Naismith described Sunday’s win as ‘job done’ but it was a bit more than that. The team created chances, were unfortunate not to score more and looked confident on the ball.
Such traits were utterly absent in the home draw with Lithuania, a result which just might come back to haunt them, and certainly in Slovakia when a 3-0 defeat was all Scotland deserved.
“We dominated, but it’s a game we’d expect to dominate,” said Naismith. “It’s a win. We’ve played better, but it’s what we needed and we’ll move on now.
“The pressure was on and, to be fair, in the first half we looked confident. That’s one thing this squad has got. There’s no superstars, but there are guys who believe in what they do.
“As they have got older, they have understood that if we miss a chance and there is 10 minutes to go, just keep doing the right things and you will get more chances. That showed in the latter stages against Slovenia.”
Naismith, now with Norwich City, is 30 and should have a few years left to give for the national side. The former Rangers and Everton man has been one of the country’s better players over the past four years and therefore it was strange to see him cast aside completely for the England match last November.
He is experienced enough to know that while Scotland have quite a bit of ground to make up, nothing has been decided in terms of qualification.
“The last campaign for me was the biggest one I’ve been involved with in terms of being close and everyone halfstarting to think: We’re going to make it,” he admitted. “It slipped through our fingers, but we know we are still in this. There are big games coming at home and those are games we need to capitalise on.
“The victory should take away that bit of nervousness which surrounded the camp from when we met up and after the Canada game. It relieves a bit of that and the boys still believe. We’ve always believed.”
FIGHT FOR FANS: Steven Naismith hopes an improved Scotland side have won over some jaded supporters.