Nai­smith tells Tar­tan Army: We need help

Nor­wich striker hopes 1-0 vic­tory over Slove­nia can bring sup­port­ers back to the na­tional side

The Herald - Herald Sport - - WORLD CUP QUALIFYING - NEIL CAMERON

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.”

Pic­ture: SNS

FIGHT FOR FANS: Steven Nai­smith hopes an im­proved Scot­land side have won over some jaded sup­port­ers.

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