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'Seamus is a superstar'






IN HIS day-job at Everton every day, Scotland's Steven Naismith is surrounded by some pretty talented men and players who cost millions of pounds, like £28m man Romelu Lukaku.

But as he prepares for tomorrow's clash with Ireland at Celtic Park, a reflective Naismith reckons that a lad who cost the club just sixty grand is now the best player in that position in the European game, a player who will be on the opposing side when Scots and Irish clash here in Glasgow tomorrow night.

Having played in the SPL and in the English Premier League, Naismith has a handle on various figures in the Irish set-up and even jokes that he scored against Roy Keane for Kilmarnock in a game which, as it turns out, was Keane's home debut for Celtic.

But stand-out players? That would have to be Coleman.

"For me, he's the best right back in Europe," said Naismith, speaking to the media in Glasgow yesterday at an event for his charity which helps provide housing and employment for former British servicemen.

"I have seen him when I first came to Everton, he was a player who would get nervous, he was doing stuff off the cuff but he thinks about his game a lot more now, and the way the manager has him playing he is a goal threat.

"He is probably the most down-to-earth guy I have ever met in football and it's great to see how he is going to be a superstar but nothing fazes him, he just goes about his business, he does everything the exact same since he was back at Sligo. And that's a fantastic quality to have.

"He gets everything he deserves because he is such a fantastic player and so humble, he's worked so hard to get where he is," added Naismith.

Tomorrow's game throws a lot of close relationships under the spotlight, with five players from Derby County spread across the two squads and John O'Shea possibly marking his Sunderland team-mate Steven Fletcher.

But the Everton battles offer the most intrigue, with Naismith possibly up against four fellow Toffees, depending on fitness and the team selection by Martin O'Neill: Coleman, Aiden McGeady, Darron Gibson and James McCarthy.

"I've not spoken to any of them since last week and normally we would text during the weeks, we're not friends for this week," says Naismith.

"Months ago we talked about it more and last month when Ireland came back from Germany we talked about it more. But then you're right back in with Everton and it loses its place.

"I want to win that bad, friendships go to one side until after the game and Ireland will be the same. It's a game where you know so many people that it's never nice to be on the losing end against somebody."

Naismith and McGeady were opponents in the SPL before things moved on, with McGeady's transfer to Russia but they're on the same side now. The Scottish camp this week has spoken a lot about the poor return of goals for the national side from Stevem Fletcher but McGeady knows all about that with his own poor strike rate (before that two-goal delivery in Georgia in September).

"I see Aiden more as an old-fashioned winger - which has gone out of the modern game - so I would look more at his assists," says Naismith.

"For us, he has set up a lot of chances. It's good to see that he wants to score more goals and he's critical of himself, I know Aiden is quite hard on himself, but to me he's more of a winger than a goal-scorer."


Naismith was just a five-month-old baby the last time Ireland visited Scotland for a competitive game so he obviously has no memories of Hampden '87, but this fixture tomorrow has been on his mind for some time.

"I remember when the draw was made, the game seemed a mile away and it's just crept up on us, now it's a fantastic game to be involved in," he says. "It's more like a club game. When you watch Georgia or Poland you might have a young lad who comes in to have a great game and make a name for himself when you don't know too much about him but I don't think that'll happen here with everyone knowing a great deal about each other.

"We have the ability of controlling games and I don't really see it as a derby-type game, it's just the next big game in the group. We were saying the Germany game was massive as they were world champions, after that we had Georgia at home, a game we had to win but the group is that tight there will be twists and turns all along the way. Ireland had a great result away to Georgia, that will be tough for us.

"We've shown in this campaign that no matter who we play against we create chances first of all and can dictate and control the play.

"The manager will highlight what Ireland's weaknesses and positives are but it's mainly what we want to do and that's the way it should be. It has to be like in our home games and that's what the manager is getting through to us," says the former Rangers man, eager to end Scotland's long wait for an appearance at a major finals - 1998 was their last outing.

He says there may be booing - something he's experienced in his own SPL days and there will be tackles but for this Scot, tomorrow is all about qualification. He says: "It's the hardest group there and we are capable of getting through it."