LEON OSMAN, Tony Hibbert, Victor Anichebe and even for a while Marouane Fellaini.
LEON OSMAN, Tony Hibbert, Victor Anichebe and even for a while Marouane Fellaini. At one time in their Everton careers all of them have shouldered the burden of scapegoat status. Perhaps each would admit they haven’t always performed as well as they currently do.
But all – aside perhaps from Anichebe whose overall redemption is continually undermined by injury – have gone on to win over the supporters.
Yet as one former scapegoat becomes a cult hero, another must don the sack cloth and learn to live with the cat-calls and jeers whenever they make a mistake. The latest unfortunate is Steven Naismith.
First a few admissions. The Scotland international has failed to impress since arriving on a free transfer from Rangers in the summer, and despite scoring three goals in just 14 starts he appears to be struggling in the Premier League. He has shown neither the pace nor flair which some hoped he would bring to David Moyes’ squad.
Compare the 26-year-old’s displays to his dynamic goal-scoring exploits at Rangers and at times you could be talking about a different player. Undoubtedly the higher standard of defending south of the border has figured in that disparity but there are other factors behind his struggles. It seems unfair that Naismith should have to deal with such opprobrium while he tries to adapt as part of a small squad where fringe players are forced into being deployed as game-changers when they are not ready or incapable of fulfilling that remit.
It’s true – the jury is out on whether he will ever make the grade.
But although patience is a rare quality among football fans, Naismith would benefit from some in the light of his continued recovery from his second knee cruciate ligament injury in October 2011. To fully recover from such an injury in the long-term a footballer needs to be playing 90 minutes regularly; rebuilding the robustness of his knee alongside confidence in his own body. Naismith has not been afforded that run of games, partly because of his own struggles to shine, but he could yet come good.
In the meantime a man who is desperate to be a success on Merseyside deserves better than the derision he has been subjected to in some quarters.