Steven Naismith interview: Everton striker on the side of the supporter

The Everton forward tells Tim Rich why four unemployed fans will be his guests at the Chelsea match, why he had to quit Rangers and how he feels about the cash sloshing about football

In a corner of the well-stocked library at Everton’s training ground is a discarded, eight-month-old copy of Professional Player magazine.

It is written for the Premier League’s elite. “Advertising in Professional Player is a unique opportunity to reach an affluent audience with phenomenal spending power… prepared to invest heavily in such luxuries as jewellery, watches, property, yachts, cars and holidays,” runs the advertising blurb.

However, the article entitled “How England can avoid an early exit from the World Cup” suggests not many of Roy Hodgson’s squad got past the ads for concierge services promising to fulfil your every whim “day or night”.

The vast majority of professional footballers are not the materialistic, Marie Antoinette figures cut off in their gated communities that Professional Player depicts. Most came up the hard way and most have not forgotten the steps that took them there.

Read more: Everton vs Chelsea match preview
Costa in race to be fit for Chelsea
Europa League draw - who did Everton get?

Steven Naismith grew up in Stewarton in Ayrshire, the son of a social worker. He lived there when he played for Kilmarnock and Rangers “and I will go back there when I’m done”.

The Everton forward has four season tickets for every home game and ensures they go to fans without a job.

“The price of football is getting more expensive and more and more fans who’d probably gone for years were struggling to go any more,” he says. “We’d speak to the Jobcentres in local areas, who would know who was working hard trying to get back into employment, maybe had a few setbacks, and could do with a morale booster.

“The first ones I spoke to were mad keen Evertonians who hadn’t been for a few years because of the prices but I was amazed how much they knew about Everton and its history. The same day, just before we met them, one of the guys got a job. He’d been knocked back for a couple so it was a great day for him.”

Steven Naismith celebrates after putting the visitors back in the lead against Everton Steven Naismith celebrates after putting the visitors back in the lead against Everton  

This evening at Goodison Park four more will watch Naismith face Chelsea, one of three clubs, all in London, where a season ticket can cost more than £1,000.

“The majority of our squad grew up on council estates playing football in the streets,” he says. “They understand how hard it can be for some people and Everton is probably the best club I have ever seen for working with the local community. Giving up an afternoon to run a football session isn’t a lot to give up.”

This week, supporters from Liverpool and Everton, under the banner of Spirit of Shankly and the Blue Union, jointly protested at the cost of tickets on Merseyside. “Ticket prices are a difficult subject because so many different people at clubs have their targets to hit,” says Naismith. “You cannot look too far from German football; how they play, how they run their league.

“I remember reading that Bayern can afford to lower their prices and it means they are losing out on around £2m. That’s not a lot of money to Bayern Munich but to a club like Everton £2m is a lot. It’s about finding the right balance but prices can’t get out of hand because we are losing the spine of what football is all about.”

This week, too, Manchester United broke the British transfer record, paying £60m for Angel Di Maria. “That’s a normal price now and it’s incredible to think that kind of money can change hands,” says Naismith.

Angel Di Maria moved to United for £59.7m Angel Di Maria moved to United for £59.7m  

“In no other business would it work like that. If that kind of money were being transferred, there would be a lot of due diligence, a lot of background checks, whereas in the football world it’s a ‘when you’re hot’ kind of thing.

“The biggest one that hit me was when Fernando Torres moved and you’re thinking, ‘£50m, wow’. But then you’ve got players going for £60m, £70m or £80m. It’s crazy. Then you look at other sports, especially the American ones, and the figures involved in them.

“The money keeps rising and you think, ‘God knows when it will all stop’. If someone is prepared to pay the money for success, then it probably won’t.”

When he was growing up, Naismith would take the supporters’ bus from Stewarton to Ibrox to watch Rangers. With 19 seconds remaining of the 2007 summer transfer window, he joined them as a player. But if his arrival was thrilling, his departure was laced with bitterness.


By 2012, Rangers had collapsed into financial chaos and liquidation that would result in them being relegated to the fourth tier of Scottish football. Naismith chose not to transfer his contract to the new company that emerged from the ruins. To have remained at Ibrox would have been to shackle his career to a corpse in the name of loyalty.

“It wasn’t an easy decision,” he says. “We had no idea how it would pan out. I went away and spoke to a lawyer and worked out what option was best. Looking back now, it was a good decision to move.

“We were in administration and the players had decided to take a 75 per cent pay cut so nobody would be made redundant. I believed in my ability and knew I could find another club that would take me.

“Part of it was sitting down with my family and working out what the best decision was. You have got so much to think about – your international career, your desire to play at the highest level. All these things were put on the table and you work out your next move.”

The move from Glasgow to Merseyside was not a smooth one. His first season, which was manager David Moyes’ last at Goodison, was a stuttering affair in which Naismith seemed little more than a bit-part player.

“I was maybe a wee bit in awe of the players,” he says. “Baines, Jagielka, Osman, Pienaar – seeing them from afar doesn’t show you what these guys have got; you just see the highlights. But when you are training with them week in and week out it is incredible how talented some of them are.

“I didn’t contribute much in the first season, just four goals, but there was one in the derby and one against Chelsea, which was good. The way the manager treated me definitely kept me going.”

When Roberto Martinez replaced Moyes, Naismith’s future was again in doubt. Everton played Chelsea early on at Goodison. The boy from Stewarton scored the only goal, kick-starting Everton’s season.

This evening there will be at least four spectators in the old stadium willing him to score another.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable