STEVEN Naismith admits he is still learning what it takes to be an Everton player – but at least he has got one painful lesson out of the way.
Surviving the unrestrained rage of David Moyes after his side have thrown victory away is an initiation for any player who has worn royal blue over the last decade.
And while the Blues boss might have mellowed of late, he is still eminently capable of reminding his squad robustly when they have fallen below the standards he expects.
Naismith’s arrival has coincided with a period when Everton’s players have largely been making their manager grin not grimace, but the 26-year-old completely understands why he caught a glimpse of Moyes’ infamous temper at the Madejski Stadium last Saturday.
“It’s his desire to win that drives that and it’s not surprising that his emotions run high at times like that,” says the summer signing, who scored his second Premier League goal during a first half against Reading which should have seen the Blues build an unassailable lead.
“We should have been three goals up at half-time at Reading and the game would have been far more comfortable. In the end it turned into a defeat which should never have happened.
“That was the angriest I've seen him along with Fulham, both times when we've had chances to win and come away with only one point from the two games. It’s not good enough if you want to challenge at the top.”
Naismith is a thoughtful, intelligent individual who is happy to bide his time as he acclimatises to the Premier League, but like his new boss he has high standards, and admits his frustration that he has so far been unable to show Everton supporters his best.
That, he quietly insists, will be only a matter of time, as the Scotland international continues to recapture full fitness following a serious knee injury last year.
“I’ve come to play in arguably the best league in the world and although I’ve probably not played my best football in my career since I’ve arrived it’s a learning process and I’m learning every day in training,” he says, speaking at an event to launch Liverpool Council’s major new anti-obesity public health drive.
“I’ve had some good moments in parts of games but overall I’m not back to my best. It will take time before I get my sharpness back but I’m happy I've been able to contribute to the team.
“It’s important that you at least show signs of what you can do when you move to a new club, because the manager has put faith in you to bring you there.
“Now it’s a case of me getting into the way of an Everton player and what the manager expects, and I’m getting into that.”
Everton host Norwich City tomorrow with the Blues staging a special retro day, but Naismith hopes old habits, certainly in terms of this season, do not continue.
“The amount of draws for a team that has the quality we have has not been good enough,” he says. “We should have picked up more points.
“In every game this season, apart probably from West Brom, we’ve looked as if we could win but we’ve not always taken our chances while we’ve lost sloppy goals at the other end.
“One positive we need to take is that we are creating a lot of chances per game, and I’m sure if we keep going it will eventually click and we’ll score a fair few in one game which will push us on and get us on a good run.
“If we play to our best we can roll a team over but it’s fine margins. The manager has definitely made his point and told us we need to kill teams off.
“We’re still confident about the top four. There have been a couple of games where if we’d just got the results it would have pushed us up even higher.
“It’s really tight and a lot of teams are going to take points off each other so we’re really in the mix and we’re going to carry on.”
The Canaries are on a high after toppling Manchester United last weekend – conceding just once in their last five games, and Naismith has paid them special attention since his close pal at Rangers, Steven Whittaker, signed on at Carrow Road in the summer.
“They are set up really well defensively and have got more than capable players going forward,” he says.
“(Wes) Houlahan has been one of their most creative players, and (Robert) Snodgrass who I’ve played with at international level is good going forward as well. We know it will be a tough game but one we should be confident about winning.
“It’s good for Steven that he has settled and is playing well, even though I hope he doesn’t have one of his better games on Saturday.”