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STEVEN Naismith hopes he can be the latest player to benefit from David Moyes’ magic touch – as he strives to become a better player at Everton.
The Scotland international says he has already witnessed first-hand how former Rangers team-mate Nikica Jelavic has improved under the tutelage of the Blues boss since swapping Ibrox for Goodison almost a year ago.
And even though Naismith, 26, has had less time to benefit from Moyes’ nurturing after following Jelavic in the summer, he is confident he will also lift his game to another level with the guidance of his manager.
He said: “I would definitely say Niki has improved and that’s a trait from the manager himself. The players he has signed may not all come straight into the team but over a period of time he turns them all into better players.
“He has shown it – not just with Jela but others who have become established figures in the Premier League. Fellaini is now one of the top players, you’ve got Jagielka, like Bainsey, Osman, Tony Hibbert. They’ve all improved over the years under the manager’s guidance and I want to do the same.”
Naismith may have an opportunity to revive his attacking partnership with Jelavic against West Ham tomorrow in the absence of the suspended Marouane Fellaini.
And although he would be happy to play alongside the Croatian again, his prioroty is simply being in the starting 11 as he bids to carry on improving.
“I think it wouldn’t make any difference whether I was playing up front or on the right, I just want to play,” he said.
“I feel like so far I have contributed but I think the best of where I can be is still to come and hopefully in a couple of months I can show that. It has taken time to get over the injury and gel with my team-mates, being involved with top quality players that you’ve got to get used to and that’s still a work in progress.
“West Ham might represent a different chance for me in terms of where I play but there are a few players in the squad who can come in.
“Tolis (Vellios) has come off the bench and done well with an assist for the second goal against Spurs, so I’m sure he’ll want to be involved.
“For every game the manager does his research and works out how he wants us to play, and it changes from week to week. I’m sure he’ll have in his mind how he wants us to play and we’ll find a way.”
Meanwhile, Everton’s home game against Chelsea on Sunday, December 30 is a sell-out, but Evertonians can still take advantage of the recently-launched print at home facility to guarantee a seat at the Blues’ boxing day clash with Wigan.
The simple process allows supporters to buy their tickets online and print them immediately, without having to queue to collect pre-ordered tickets before a match or wait for tickets to arrive in the post.
The facility is available in the Top Balcony, Main Stand, Upper Bullens, Lower Bullens, Park End or Paddock, subject to availability of tickets.
As well as purchasing online, supporters can buy tickets in person from the Park End Box Office or from the city centre sales points in Everton Two and TicketQuarter in Queen Square.
WITH HIS considered, gentle manner and ultra-disciplined approach to his profession Steven Naismith is the last player you’d expect to lose it on a football pitch.
Anyone tempted to judge on appearances would perhaps be less surprised that Marouane Fellaini, with his intimidating frame, angular physique, and previous rap sheet might occasionally swing a powerful elbow at an overly physical opponent.
But not Naismith.
Not the 26-year-old with a reputation for a keen social conscience, highlighted by his generosity to Liverpool’s homeless this week, and butter-wouldn’t-melt looks.
However, the former Rangers man was the first to express sympathy to his Belgian team-mate in the post-game controversy of his head-butt on Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross last Saturday.
Naismith himself is currently serving a two-game international ban for an off-the-ball elbow incident with Serbia's Srdan Mijailovic in a Scotland qualifier at Hampden in September.
In reality, Fellaini is also the laid-back sort and not one prone to aggression, so what is it that makes top players snap?
“I think you go onto the park trying to do everything you can, wanting to win,” says the former Kilmarnock attacker. “Your adrenaline is so high and you’re working your hardest. Every so often the red mist comes and that’s all it was. Straight after the game Felli apologised to the manager.
“There are different things that go on in games and yes, Stoke are a physical team but that’s the way they play. Felli did what he did and that was part of it. Even if you look at the match on Saturday Stoke’s players just got on with it, they expect a tough physical game.
“Felli knew he’d done wrong. He has to deal with his punishment and move on.”
Naismith believes the absence of Everton’s top scorer, while being a highly inconvenient blow, could also represent opportunity to Everton’s first-team fringe men.
“He’s done fantastically well for us this season but you’ve got to see it as giving other people in the squad a chance to go out and do what they can, to show the manager they were worth buying,” he says.
“I’m sure the players who play against West Ham will do as good a job as anyone else in the squad.
“There’s no doubt Felli will be missed but we have to cope without him and that’s what we’ll do. The manager has built a squad to compete in every game, under any circumstances whether it’s injuries or suspensions and this is one of those times. I’m sure the manager will have a game plan against West Ham and then whoever comes in will have a chance to step up and make an impact and try and stay in the team.”
West Ham are in 11th place in the table, just four points behind the Blues in sixth, and Naismith is keenly aware of the tight-nature of the Premier League in his first season in England.
Some Evertonians misconstrued an interview he gave to the Scottish press recently as the forward implying there is less pressure on Everton to win every game than there is on his former club, Rangers.
On the contrary, insists the man himself. “There’s pressure going into every game here, as players and especially under the manager who has shown over the last 10 years that he expects the best and you’ve got to be there.
“It’s a league where there are such fine margins between the teams and anyone can drop points here and there. That shows the competition with the top 10 teams in the Premier League and everyone wants those top four spots.
“There is a difference between the quality players you’re coming up against and the teams you’re facing. Every game has the pressure to win and that’s your main goal as every player. The manager’s expectations and standards are so high that you’ve got to meet them.
“What I’ve found is that in the Premier League there are so many games that are so close and it’s either a mistake or a moment of genius that changes it and makes the difference. That’s why you have to be at your best.
“At Everton we do it as a collective, as a team and we’ve shown that by scoring goals from every different position while we have people making last ditch tackles too. We work as a team and all strive for the best.”
That is precisely what Naismith wants to do at Upton Park on Saturday, when the task of overcoming Sam Allardyce’s men faces them.
“They’ve got a few big players but also they kept a lot of their players when they went down and that has stood them in good stead when they came back up into the Premier League.
“West Ham have shown in their results that they’re a difficult team to beat at home and their results at Chelsea proved they’re no mugs.
“They definitely deserve respect and we need to be at our best. If we have any aspirations of getting in the top four that’s what we need to do.
“We know we’ll have to be at our best - it’s something the manager drills into us every single day.”
After all the rough-stuff at Stoke - is Naismith dreading another combative slog in East London? Not at all - in fact, he’s relishing it.
“It doesn’t take too long to recover,” he says. “It maybe looks more grinding on TV than it actually is.
“I don’t think I have played against a side that’s probably as physical as Stoke. But they’ve gone from a team that was promoted not so long ago to being a promoted Premier League team. It’s a style they’ve got which works for them so you can’t fault it at all.
“It was a very tough game but we could have won it if we’d scored that second goal.
“It never came but at least we showed that we could defend well and that’s part of it - we’ll take that forward.”
EVERTON FC manager David Moyes admits he would like to manage abroad - and has targeted the Germany as a preferred destination.
The Blues boss believes he would be suited to coaching in the Bundesliga, and is open to plying his trade on the continent in the future.
Moyes, who is yet to agree on a new Goodison deal after 10 years in charge, has long been touted as a possible successor to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United and was linked with the Tottenham job last summer, but he spoke of his ambition to work outside the Barclays Premier Leage in an interview with France Football magazine.
"I always had the hope of being a coach abroad," Moyes said. "If I had the choice, I would probably go to Germany, in part because of the mentality, which is similar to mine. I'm also fascinated by what happens in German football.
"They seem to have found a way of producing young players. Look at Borussia Dortmund. I saw them against Manchester City this season. They were fantastic. They put this incredible intensity on their opponents to break the tempo. It adds a new tactical level."
The 49-year-old added that he would like to travel even further afield, if he had the time, in order to broaden his horizons.
"If I was not working as a coach, I think I would decide to go to South America: to Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, to see how they train young people out there," he said. "That would be my project: to understand football better."
Moyes has earned huge respect in football for the job he has done at Everton since joining them from Preston North End in 2002.
The Scot has ensured the Toffees have stayed competitive in the Premier League despite operating on a budget which is meagre in comparison to most of the other clubs in the top half of the table.
But once again he reiterated that he does not believe the club needs owners as wealthy as Manchester City or Chelsea in order to progress.
"Everton have shown stability and are going in the right direction," he said. "We are a club. We are a community. Everton are for the people, for the people of Liverpool.
"From the first day I wanted to change the perception of Everton. I do not know if I could one day take Everton as far as winning titles or
playing in European Cup finals but I wanted people to say, 'Things are getting better. Everton are a good club, a stable club'. I wanted to
make an impact."
This has been a sobering week for Steven Naismith. Monday entailed a visit with Everton's squad to Alder Hey children's hospital; on Wednesday he helped serve Christmas lunch to homeless people at a refuge in Liverpool. It has not been a normal few days for the Everton forward but, then, again the same could be said of 2012 in general.
Naismith, after all, only finds himself playing in the Barclays Premier League due to the extraordinary events that led to the financial meltdown of Rangers.
The past 12 months have borne witness to some incredible sporting stories and the shockwaves from the demotion of one of the biggest names in the world game to the lowest rung of Scottish football continue to reverberate.
Hopefully 2013 will be a bit quieter and I can focus on my Everton career,' says Naismith, a level-headed and thoughtful individual.
'But it has been hard. At Rangers I had got involved in things that you never expect to have to deal with. That was so difficult.
'In 20 years' time, when people look back on it, it will be difficult to comprehend how big a story it was and what happened. It wasn't nice because the club was in such a mess. Nobody was prepared for what we had to go through.
'I don't think anyone would have ever thought it could happen, that is why it is so surreal. To see Rangers being demoted to the lowest tier of Scottish football was unbelievable but they are beginning to move on.'
Naismith felt he had no choice but to walk out on Rangers in June, when he objected to having his contract transferred to the newco and is currently embroiled in a legal battle with Rangers chief executive Charles Green.
The issue, though, is not proving distracting. Since he arrived on Merseyside in July – the day he made the journey south was the day Rangers were kicked out of the SPL – Naismith has contributed to Everton's eye-catching progress and the suspension to Marouane Fellaini means he will be heavily involved over Christmas.
An industrious forward with an eye for goal, Naismith's colleagues describe him as being the perfect team-mate; he comes in does his work, accepts when he is not named in the starting line-up but is always prepared if and when he is needed. They say he has settled in without fuss.