Naismith and Norfolk – it just didn’t work out for City’s big-money signing
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Steven Naismith’s imminent return to Hearts is hardly surprising: Norwich clearly never did for him what it has done for countless other players – it never became his home.
The 31-year-old was seen by many as a quality signing when he arrived from Everton in January 2016 for a fee of around £8.5m and a goal on his debut in that memorable 5-4 home defeat by Liverpool suggested good things were to come.
This was the tetchy, niggly, argumentative, talented attacking midfielder City needed: a player with an edge, attitude, nastiness if you like.
But it never happened: Naismith scored just five more times – all in the following season – and it was clear when he joined Hearts on loan in January that it was where he actually wanted to be. He hadn’t played since August because of an injury picked up in training and his profile on social media was matched only by Russell Martin’s for unwarranted, often abusive and often ill-considered, criticism. There was a “I’ll drive him there myself” attitude for a player who, when he joined, would have been expected to make a bigger impact.
Who’s fault? Well, perhaps it is not right to judge too harshly. Naismith’s move to Norfolk was painstaking: he was worried about his family being unable to settle – a young child, another on the way. We do tend to forget that when a footballer moves to another club he is doing two of the most stressful things in life: changing job and moving home. We just assume they can do it all without showing any signs of actually being like the rest of us. Many top pros are rewarded very handsomely, but they lead a life which is alien to most of the rest of us. The money doesn’t make it easier.
The figures probably explain things: six goals in 44 league appearances (11 as sub) for Norwich. Four goals in 14 appearances (two as sub) for hearts.
Naismith will go down as an expensive failure, as City attempted to retain their place in the Premier League. In other circumstances it might have worked – that’s the thing with signing a footballer: you can scout them as many times as you like, but you can never truly be sure that they will so what it says on the tin.