The Scottish Mail on Sunday
No surprise should Dorrans decide to follow his heart
STEVEN NAISMITH might not be ready to come back to Scotland just yet. But he suspects he knows a man who is. Thanks to the rising bids from Ibrox, Naismith’s Norwich team-mate Graham Dorrans could be granted his long-held desire to sign for Rangers.
That was how Naismith’s own dream came true 10 years ago this summer when he joined from Kilmarnock following a lengthy close season signing saga.
His five subsequent seasons spent winning titles and playing Champions League football have been the subject of much interest from Dorrans since the pair became Norwich pals.
‘Dozza is someone who has always thought of playing for Rangers one day,’ said Naismith. ‘He’d ask how it was in my time there.
‘And both of us keep an eye on the scores and watch games. There was certainly always an interest there. If it’s right for him it wouldn’t be a surprise that he fancies coming back to Scotland.’
As Pedro Caixinha combs the Portuguese and Mexican markets and targets a Colombian striker, Rangers fans will be comforted by the idea of a lifelong supporter being keen on moving to Glasgow.
Naismith was considered the most likely man to make that switch when it was suggested, at the end of the season, he could be leading the Carrow Road clear out.
However, it is former Livingston midfielder Dorrans who interests Caixinha as well as Norwich’s Championship rivals Sheffield Wednesday and Middlesbrough.
Naismith describes Norwich’s willing to do business for his fellow 30-year-old as slightly surprising as new sporting director Stuart Webber sets about slashing the wage bill.
For the Scotland forward believes Dorrans being out of action with a knee injury from Boxing Day to mid-March was a major factor in Norwich failing to make a run at the play-offs.
‘Norwich are in a transitional period, sacrifices may have to be made and he might be one of them,’ said Naismith. ‘But for me he’s a big player and could be a big player going forward.
‘When he was out injured, that was the biggest miss of the season for us. He plays with such a calmness.
‘From him being a young, really attacking player, as he’s dropped deeper and played that, if you like, playmaker role he is so calm on the ball and makes the team tick.
‘As a forward playing with him, you know he can find the wee pockets and he’ll deliver that pass. He won’t play it safe and knock it side to side.
‘He wants to force the issues, that’s a big thing. Our best performances were when he was in the team.’
Naismith, then, looks more likely than Dorrans to return to pre-season training in East Anglia with new German head coach Daniel Farke.
However, he does retain a wish to round off his career back in the Scottish top flight a few more years down the line.
He would just prefer the domestic scene to be in a better place when he does return.
Naismith has worked on his ‘B’ licence but speaks more like a future administrator than manager.
Far from being a man detached from where he’s come from, Naismith watches the action on a weekly basis and follows the controversies and complications of the business closely.
He is concerned by problems that run deep through a Scottish game which he’s heard being routinely mocked since swapping Rangers for Everton five years ago.
‘I eventually want to live the rest of my life in Scotland, go to football matches and enjoy them,’ he explained. ‘It’s not about ticking along and picking up a wage for me.
‘It’s more about coming back and hopefully giving some young guys, in my position when I started, the knowledge that I’ve gathered. Playing in a team that’s good and help them progress.
‘And I want to think: “What a good product we have here”. That we’re bringing youngsters through to make money, a constant conveyor belt.
‘We’re a small country compared to England and that’s a comparison that’s unfair. They have a league that’s amazing, it’s marketed in an amazing way.
‘We need to know where we’re at and what we can do to give youngsters the best opportunity.
‘But we have 42 professional clubs in a country with five-and-ahalf million people.
‘Is that too many? But everyone has a vote. Who’s going to decide they don’t want to be a club? That won’t happen.
‘People need to put aside their individual agendas for the best thing for Scotland and a better product. Changes need to come from the top more than just at each individual club.
‘I watch Scottish football all the time. The play-off game was a good, entertaining game because there was a lot of guys going at 100mph and wanting to do it for their team.
‘But there was a bit of quality lacking there. We’ve got teams playing on astroturf because of benefits budget-wise but, for the good of Scottish football, we need a higher standard for people to watch.
‘Whether that’s changing to summer football, changing to one body controlling everything in football, there’s so many things that need to change.’
Back in the English second tier, Norwich have made their own changes in order to pursue a place back in the top flight.
Farke is Alex Neil’s permanent replacement as Webber goes back down the route that proved so successful when he recruited David Wagner for Premier League new boys Huddersfield.
Farke replaced Wagner as Borussia Dortmund’s reserve team coach in 2015 and Naismith is intrigued by his club’s new appointment.
‘Huddersfield — along with Fulham – was the best team we played,’ he noted.
‘It’s a good mould to try and emulate, copy and we’ll see if we do that through pre-season and into the start of the season.
‘Any time I’ve had a new manager I’ve gone in and tried to work my socks off and impress him. I’m going to go back and hopefully help the club out the division.’