Chris Lakey: Steven Naismith exit would be a huge blow to Norwich City... honestly

Steven Naismith's future will become much clearer in the January transfer window. Picture: Paul Ches

Steven Naismith's future will become much clearer in the January transfer window. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

This is a question posed inside this office to two colleagues: “Can you name Norwich City’s forgotten man?”

This is a question posed inside this office to two colleagues: “Can you name Norwich City’s forgotten man?”

After a while a clue was needed: “At the end of last season, a lot of fans were saying ‘he’ll be great for us next season, just what we need.”

A few guesses later and nothing: “He cost a lot of money, he hasn’t really delivered… and he is currently injured.”

The clues immediately hit home and, of course, Steven Naismith is that forgotten man.

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The Scot’s presence was almost forgotten as the expectancy levels rose ahead of the return of Alex Pritchard.

This is a player who also shone at the tail end of the last campaign when the shackles came off following the departure of Alex Neil in March. Instead of coming off the bench, or heading back to it without a full 90 under his belt, Pritchard was pushed centre stage. We liked what we saw: a young, influential player with a smile on his face and a bit of magic in his boots. A replacement for Wes one day, we thought. Can’t wait until we see him under a new manager in a new season. A new era.

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The fates, and a heavy challenge by Cambridge United defender Mark Roberts during what should have been a summer friendly, conspired to ruin those thoughts until recently.

Had Pritchard been available from day one, would fortunes have been very different? A million dollar question.

Naismith also began to show some of his colours as well – perhaps not as spectacularly, but enough to raise a few eyebrows.

The Scot became more regularly involved post-Neil, with caretaker Alan Irvine – an old pal from their time together at Everton – giving him an opportunity to shine.

“They changed the manager and, looking forward, it’s going to be really exciting,” said the 30-year-old in the summer.

The fans, too, were optimistic. They had a busy, experienced, noisy pest of a player who could affect games.

But then an ankle injury chose to intervene and his sum total this season has been two league starts and an EFL Cup appearance. His return to training has been followed by some Under-23 team appearances – and a highly-publicised visit to Scotland this week where Naismith was backing Loaves & Fishes, a charity working to provide meals, food parcels, clothes and toiletries for those in need.

Naismith is known for his charity work, and should be applauded for it, but when he spoke to reporters there was a clear message – he’d be happy to leave Norwich to get his career going again.

Shame that his words – and let’s face it, would you say anything different if you were in his shoes? – were met with such negativity. It is no fault of Naismith’s that he has been injured. It’s not really his fault that he earns a lot of money. Yet social media went into overdrive in criticising him.

I don’t recall Pritchard getting dog’s abuse when he was on the treatment table. Yet between the end of last season and today, Naismith has done nothing wrong, guilty only of a desire to play football. And if any of his detractors can actually point to how he has let the club down I’d be happy to hear from them.

It’s a shame we haven’t had the benefit of a fit Steven Naismith and a fit Alex Pritchard all season, because in those two there is a mix of youthful exuberance, experience, leadership, some extravagant skills, a bit of fire in the belly – and, when fit, a significant strengthening of a squad – not to mention goals.

I honestly think if Naismith goes, City will be the losers, not him – the only way they will gain will be financially and sadly, that appears to be the motivating factor.

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