STEVEN NAISMITH has admitted helping Scotland to a major tournament would be his greatest achievement in dark blue.

The 32-year-old Hearts striker will reach the half-century of caps if he gets the nod from boss Steve Clarke to play against Russia in the Euro 2020 qualifier at Hampden tomorrow night.

Craig Brown was the last manager to lead the Scots to the top level of international football when the country played in the 1998 World Cup Finals in France.

Since the final whistle sounded following a 3-0 trouncing from Morocco in St Etienne on June 23, the national team has been out in the cold for TWENTY-ONE agonising years.

On the prospect of a 50th cap, the former Kilmarnock, Rangers, Everton and Norwich player, speaking to Sky Sports, said: “It would be a great honour. I don’t think that’s at the front of my mind in terms of where we are at and where I’m at personally.

“It would be something I would probably look back on and scratch my head to say: ‘How did I manage that?’ Even to get into your 40s in terms of caps, that was something I never really thought I could achieve.

“You get to 25 and kind of lose track of it and before you know it you are nearing 50. Personally, great achievement, but the biggest desire is for us to make a tournament. That would go way beyond the 50-cap mark.

“For me, having been through a fair few campaigns you feel as if you owe because we have underachieved in the previous campaigns, so you are desperate to do it.”

A WORD IN YOUR EAR…Steven Naismith has something to say in the 2-0 win over Albania in September 2018.

As Clarke prepared his team for tomorrow night’s encounter against the Russians with a meeting with Belgium looming on Monday, Naismith said: “I know how close we are, we have a very good pool of players who are playing at their peak in a great league, England and abroad.

“We just need to believe it and go out and show it on the park.

“It’s not been good enough, simple as. When I first came in we had Barry Ferguson, David Weir, Darren Fletcher, players like that. It needs to change.

“The competition for places is there, the manager has a clear plan and is meticulous, so we are taking the right steps.”

Naismith, who underwent two knee operations last season, declared himself fit despite playing only nine minutes for the Tynecastle outfit since suffering a hamstring injury against Ross County on August 10.

He added: “I’ve been cautious with some of the injuries I have had.

“But I have had a good couple of weeks’ training and I’m feeling good.”

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About Author


Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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