Scotland’s Steven Naismith believes Fifa’s ‘granny rule’ should be tightened up, but the Everton star has defended the right of his Everton team-mates Aiden McGeady and James McCarthy to declare for Ireland under the current rules.
The 28-year-old has also admitted any criticisms of Ireland for playing players who were born outside the Republic were somewhat hypocritical given they are far from the only nation to have taken that route.
Gordon Strachan’s Scottish squad contains a number of players born in England, for example, and Naismith was open and honest in admitting the presence of those ‘Anglos’ has been beneficial for the national side.
“Everybody does it and that’s the rule. It has improved our team so we are happy for it, to be honest. Me, personally, I think there should be a cut off... If you have grown up in a county then you should have a chance to play for them if you feel you can.”
Both McGeady and McCarthy qualify to play for the Republic through a grandparent and Naismith admitted he would “tighten it up a bit” when asked to confirm he was against the use of such familial links.
“That’s my view, personally,” he said, “but who am I?”
He is, in fact, a Scotsman who could have played for England given one of his grandmothers was born south of the border.
Wales, too, came calling when he was younger and they discovered his father was born in the principality.
“Don’t get me wrong, everyone’s circumstances are different. If there’s a chance of an international career and maybe going to a major tournament, would you give that up just because you weren’t born in that country?
“Everybody is different and everybody’s circumstances are different. I was fortunate in that I played with Scotland from when I was 17 so there was no doubt about it. I knew if I did well with my club then everything would progress and I have done.”
Naismith is a footballer of some talent and one whose ability to engage in an interview, as well as with a number of charitable causes, make for an eminently likeable individual and one very different from the usual impression of professional players.
Yesterday saw him lend his time to an initiative which he established last year in conjunction with Glasgow’s Helping Heroes organisation whereby former military servicemen and women are aided in their return to Civvy Street.
It was prompted by a letter he received from a serving solider in Afghanistan wishing him a speedy recovery from injury and some of the city’s bigger employers have since come on board to offer employment, housing and other opportunities.
An ambassador for Dyslexia Scotland, he has also helped homeless projects in both Glasgow and Liverpool and he bought tickets for Everton home games last August and donated them to a job centre for unemployed job seekers.
His affection for Scotland shone though yesterday and it came as little surprise to hear him dismiss the suggestion made by FAI chief executive John Delaney earlier this week there was the risk of some “tension” in the stands tomorrow.
As for the growing hysteria over the type of reception which McGeady and McCarthy (if fit) might receive, that was given equally short thrift by a man who experienced the wrath of an impassioned Parkhead crowd himself in his former life as a Rangers player.
“If we are playing fantastic and taking chance after chance then I don’t think the fans are going to be thinking about the two on the other team,” he reasoned. “Again, it’s just an easy thing to jump on and talk about.
“Every away ground I go to play in the fans boo and shout at you. It’s just the norm so it’s not as if they’re going to think differently about this because it is Celtic Park.”
Naismith claims to have thrived on the catcalls when he wore blue in Paradise although it was suggested that perhaps a Scotland side looking to play a more European-type of game may struggle in a game that could mirror the pace of an Old Firm derby.
“No, I don’t think so because we have the ability of controlling games. Poland put us under a lot of pressure (in the 2-2 draw in Warsaw last month) and we dealt with that very well. I don’t really see it as a derby-type game.”
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