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STEVEN Naismith admits he is still learning what it takes to be an Everton player – but at least he has got one painful lesson out of the way.
Surviving the unrestrained rage of David Moyes after his side have thrown victory away is an initiation for any player who has worn royal blue over the last decade.
And while the Blues boss might have mellowed of late, he is still eminently capable of reminding his squad robustly when they have fallen below the standards he expects.
Naismith’s arrival has coincided with a period when Everton’s players have largely been making their manager grin not grimace, but the 26-year-old completely understands why he caught a glimpse of Moyes’ infamous temper at the Madejski Stadium last Saturday.
“It’s his desire to win that drives that and it’s not surprising that his emotions run high at times like that,” says the summer signing, who scored his second Premier League goal during a first half against Reading which should have seen the Blues build an unassailable lead.
“We should have been three goals up at half-time at Reading and the game would have been far more comfortable. In the end it turned into a defeat which should never have happened.
“That was the angriest I've seen him along with Fulham, both times when we've had chances to win and come away with only one point from the two games. It’s not good enough if you want to challenge at the top.”
Naismith is a thoughtful, intelligent individual who is happy to bide his time as he acclimatises to the Premier League, but like his new boss he has high standards, and admits his frustration that he has so far been unable to show Everton supporters his best.
That, he quietly insists, will be only a matter of time, as the Scotland international continues to recapture full fitness following a serious knee injury last year.
“I’ve come to play in arguably the best league in the world and although I’ve probably not played my best football in my career since I’ve arrived it’s a learning process and I’m learning every day in training,” he says, speaking at an event to launch Liverpool Council’s major new anti-obesity public health drive.
“I’ve had some good moments in parts of games but overall I’m not back to my best. It will take time before I get my sharpness back but I’m happy I've been able to contribute to the team.
“It’s important that you at least show signs of what you can do when you move to a new club, because the manager has put faith in you to bring you there.
“Now it’s a case of me getting into the way of an Everton player and what the manager expects, and I’m getting into that.”
Everton host Norwich City tomorrow with the Blues staging a special retro day, but Naismith hopes old habits, certainly in terms of this season, do not continue.
“The amount of draws for a team that has the quality we have has not been good enough,” he says. “We should have picked up more points.
“In every game this season, apart probably from West Brom, we’ve looked as if we could win but we’ve not always taken our chances while we’ve lost sloppy goals at the other end.
“One positive we need to take is that we are creating a lot of chances per game, and I’m sure if we keep going it will eventually click and we’ll score a fair few in one game which will push us on and get us on a good run.
“If we play to our best we can roll a team over but it’s fine margins. The manager has definitely made his point and told us we need to kill teams off.
“We’re still confident about the top four. There have been a couple of games where if we’d just got the results it would have pushed us up even higher.
“It’s really tight and a lot of teams are going to take points off each other so we’re really in the mix and we’re going to carry on.”
The Canaries are on a high after toppling Manchester United last weekend – conceding just once in their last five games, and Naismith has paid them special attention since his close pal at Rangers, Steven Whittaker, signed on at Carrow Road in the summer.
“They are set up really well defensively and have got more than capable players going forward,” he says.
“(Wes) Houlahan has been one of their most creative players, and (Robert) Snodgrass who I’ve played with at international level is good going forward as well. We know it will be a tough game but one we should be confident about winning.
“It’s good for Steven that he has settled and is playing well, even though I hope he doesn’t have one of his better games on Saturday.”
STEVEN Naismith insists recent criticism of Seamus Coleman is grossly unfair – and believes the Ireland international will prove himself a top Premier League defender this season.
Coleman received a flurry of internet abuse after he conceded a penalty during the Blues 2-1 defeat by Reading last weekend, prompting Everton to condemn the so-called fans who subjected the 24-year-old to anti-Irish jibes on Twitter.
The Donegal-born player’s stint at right back is set to continue against Norwich tomorrow, with both Tony Hibbert and Phil Neville still injured, and Naismith was quick to emphasise the qualities Coleman brings to the team.
He said: “I think the criticism is a bit unfair. A lot of people just remember one bad mistake rather than the good things a player does in a game. This is probably the first time Seamus has had a good run at right back, which is his preferred position.
“For me he has been very good since he has come in. Overall he’s grasped his opportunity with both hands.
“Yes, he gave away a penalty at Reading but that’s not why we lost the game. The reason we lost is because we didn’t take our chances.
“Seamus is still young, he’s still learning his trade and there’s going to be mistakes. Every player makes them.
“The difference with a full-back is that they are in the last line of defence. He has the potential to be a top right-back.”
Coleman was man of the match during the Republic of Ireland’s narrow defeat by Greece on November 14, with Giovanni Trapattoni quick to praise the contribution of the former Sligo Rovers man.
“Being in the Ireland squad a lot is giving him confidence and that’s another manager that sees good in him,” added Naismith. “He’s got the energy to get up and down all day.
“If you look back to the Southampton game his ball in for Jelavic’s goal was top draw and in the early rounds of the cup he was constantly a threat down the right.
“He’s got a lot going forward as well as being a top defender. I can see him having a long and successful Everton career.”
David Moyes must decide whether to reinstate Sylvain Distin to a defence which has continued to concede goals in recent weeks.
The Blues boss continues to look to strengthen that department in January, and was at Molde’s Aker Stadion last night to run the rule over Norway international centre-back Vegard Forren during his side’s Europa League clash with FC Copenhagen.
CHRIS Hughton hopes goalkeeper John Ruddy keeps the Norwich mean streak going when he returns to his old club Everton on Saturday.
Ruddy, who made just one senior league appearance in five years at Goodison Park, has been nursing a knee injury which he received in the 1-0 win against Manchester United at Carrow Road last weekend.
The England goalkeeper has been training by himself this week but Hughton is confident he will be fit to extend Norwich’s run of clean sheets.
The team have not conceded a goal in three and a half matches which is major progress for a side who lost 5-0 to Fulham on the opening day of the season and conceded five against Liverpool and four against Chelsea.
Hughton said: “Ruddy’s fine. He is looking to train tomorrow and we’ll look to make a decision on him for the weekend.
“He will enjoy going back to Everton and will look for the opportunity to catch up with old friends. It is only a good day though if you get something from it.
“I have been very pleased with the team defensively. It (the three clean sheets) is a wonderful stat for them. What is more important is the points you are getting. We will be severely tested on Saturday, but we are buoyed by the good spells we have had this season.”
They do not come much better than beating Manchester United, which is Norwich’s second major scalp of the season, having already defeated Arsenal.
“We are a team that has to play at that level to get results,” said Hughton. “We have been more solid on front of goal.
“That is always pleasing for a goalkeeper and a back four but it is a real team effort. The back four have a group of players in front of them who are giving them good resistance.
“But Everton have started the season really well. They are playing a very good style of football. They are a good all-round team.”
Everton, however, will be without their Belgium star Marouane Fellaini, who misses the game through suspension.
You might have thought that would have delighted Norwich but Norwegian midfielder Alex Tettey, for one, admits learning Fellaini would not be playing came as a real blow.
Tettey, whose recent form has been key to Norwich’s resurgence, said: “I am very disappointed. It would have been a good test.”