Everton have completed the signing of Rangers forward Steven Naismith on a free transfer, with the Scot becoming the club’s first signing this summer.
The 25-year-old was one of a number of Gers players looking to leave the Glasweigan giants following the club’s extensive financial problems, which has led to an attempt to transfer all player contracts to Charles Green’s newco. Naismith’s transfer – coming just days after fellow forward Kyle Lafferty’s departure to Swiss side FC Sion – became inevitable, with several Premier League teams keen to secure his services.
As well as Everton’s interest, fellow top-flight sides Stoke City, West Ham United and Wigan Athletic are believed to have made contact with the former Kilmarnock forward, but Everton’s Scottish contingent, combined with having finished in the highest league position of the four clubs in 2011-12, is thought to have clinched the deal for the Toffees.
Manager David Moyes, a former Celtic and Dunfermline player himself, inherited a squad containing a number of Scottish players upon taking charge at Goodison in 2002, including Duncan Ferguson, David Weir, Gary Naysmith and Scott Gemmill. The club’s backroom staff also has a distinctly Scottish feel to it, with Moyes’ first-team coach Jimmy Lumsden, academy manager Alan Irvine and reserve team player-coach David Weir all hailing from north of the border.
Naismith with also link up with former Rangers team-mate Nikica Jelavic, who has made a terrific start to his Everton career: the Croat has netted 9 times in just 13 league games since joining in January, and Blues’ fans will be hoping the pair can rekindle their goalscoring partnership developed at Ibrox.
With Scottish international Naismith – who has played for his country from the age of 19 – being ruled out for much of the season due after damaging cruciate knee ligaments against Aberdeen in October, Everton unsurprisingly ran a series of thorough medicals before completing the deal.
Manager Moyes was clearly happy to have got his man, calling Naismith “an established international who can play in a number of positions. He has a flexibility we always like in our players and which will hopefully prove to be very useful for us.” Although primarily a forward, Naismith can also play behind the main striker or on the wing, a versatility likely to be key in Everton’s traditionally small squads.
The player himself was also pleased to have escaped Rangers’ nightmare preparations for the 2012-13 season – including just 13 players turning up for pre-season training – and to have joined a Premier League club. He told Everton’s website: “It is a great honour to be joining a club of Everton’s wonderful history and to have the chance to play with such a talented group of players in the world’s best league: the Barclays Premier League, in front of such a passionate group of fans”.
With Jelavic playing up front on his own for many of his games for the club, it remains to be seen whether Naismith will be thrust straight into Everton’s starting XI or used as an impact substitute as opposition defenders begin to tire, with his pace being used to get in behind defences or threaten from the wing.
Everton fans will also be hoping to secure the signature of popular playmaker Steven Pienaar, who enjoyed a successful loan spell at the club last season. Although contracted to Tottenham Hotspur, the Toffees will hope the London club’s new manager Andre Villas-Boas will be willing to allow the South African captain to rejoin Everton on a season-long loan for 2012-13.