Hearts have been chalk and cheese this season when it comes to the inclusion of Steven Naismith. Yet both Jim Jefferies and Gary Locke believe a big contribution is yet to come from the Scotland international.
After being ruled out of Saturday’s Scottish Cup final showdown against Celtic, Nasimith can be key to the team’s spirit.
Can Naismith be as influential in 2019 as Locke in 1998?
“Although I didn’t play in the 98 cup final, I was a huge part of things in the dressing room before the game,” recalled Gary Locke, who was devastated not to feature against Rangers at Parkhead.
“It was natural to get about the boys before the game, being the captain, and the fact I wasn’t playing didn’t really change anything. I just acted how I would’ve done if I’d have played in the game.
“We had a lot of characters in that dressing room so everybody was well up for the game.
“But being the captain, I’d sit with one or two and have a wee chat with them before the game, try to make everybody relaxed, and then just before the boys were due to go out, you were right behind them and I’m sure Naisy will do the same.
“The kind of guy that he is, he’s similar to myself in a lot of ways. He likes to organise on the pitch and he’s very vocal in the dressing room so I’m sure he’ll still have a big part to play even though he’s not fit.”
Naismith’s former manager is still complimentary of him today
“Nobody needs to tell me about Steven Naismith,” Jim Jefferies recalled.
“It was me that gave him his debut at Kilmarnock. 16 years old, I told him in a reserve game one night that if he kept up what I could see on the pitch that night, he’d be in the first team in a short space of time which he was.
“He was terrific, we always knew. Told Arsene Wenger, when we took him down for two or three days training there, that he would play for Scotland and that he would play in the English Premiership.
“He did both but since he’s come back I’ve got to say I think he changes Hearts’ team immensely. When he’s playing, he gets everybody else playing. He’s got that tenacity, the will to win and it spreads off on others.”
You need only look at the stats to know that Jefferies is spot on in his evaluation of Naismith, a revelation in maroon this season.
“You can never do it with one player. But one player can make other players play,” his former manager stated.
“If the rest of them play, they’re difficult to beat and win more matches. So it’s not an easy thing just to say they’re a one man team, that’s the one man that can make the rest of the team play better and that’s evident when he plays.”
Whilst he’s out of Saturday’s showdown, the Jambos will be hoping it’s only a matter of time before they’re able to announce he’s signed a permanent deal.