SATURDAY INTERVIEW: Naismith keen to forget those bad Auld days

Lancashire Telegraph: Kal Naismith Kal Naismith

IT says something that Rangers’ relegation to the Scottish Third Division was not the most dramatic thing to happen to Accrington Stanley winger Kal Naismith during his time at Ibrox.

As it turned out, the very fact that Rangers were in turmoil allowed Naismith to play 23 times for the Gers, running out in front of 50,000 supporters to represent the club he supported as a boy.

But Naismith had hit the headlines even before that, although not of his own volition.

It was in September 2010, with Naismith still only 18, when he and his Rangers team-mate Kyle Hutton were abducted in Edinburgh city centre.

The duo were driven around the city in Hutton’s Audi A3 by two men, one a convicted drug dealer, who threatened to stab them before eventually dumping them in the suburbs.

They had cash, driving licences and mobile phones stolen, but thankfully they emerged unhurt.

“We’d driven to Edinburgh taking our mate home,” the 21-year-old reflects as he speaks at Blackburn Rugby Club, where the Accrington Stanley squad gather for breakfast each day before making their way to training.

“Kyle had just got a new car and you know what it’s like when you get a new car, you want to drive it all the time. It was his first car as well.

“We lived together in a flat, so I said I’d go with him.

“We dropped our mate off and then there were people we knew there, so we stopped to speak to them just outside this chip shop.

“After we spoke to them, we got back in the car and these guys just came up and opened the door.

“They drove us about, saying some stuff. It was crazy really, it was madness.

“I can laugh and joke about it now, but it was pretty scary at the time.”

By then Naismith had been capped by Scotland at under 16 and under 17 level, and he would go on to have loan spells with Cowdenbeath and Partick Thistle.

It was while he was at Partick in the second half of the 2011/12 season that his parent club imploded.

Previously Champions League regulars, Rangers were placed into administration before being relegated three divisions to Scotland’s bottom tier that summer.

It was a time of chaos at Ibrox, but Naismith admits that the drama helped him to realise an ambition that may otherwise have eluded him.

“It was a strange time,” he says.

“Sometimes it got a bit mad, like we were going to Portugal for pre-season, so you would tell your family that you’re going away.

“Then we were told the people we were playing in friendlies over there didn’t want to play us any more, so we’re not going.

“There was one stage in pre-season when it was all up in the air and no-one knew what was happening.

“Sometimes we wouldn’t train at the right times because the manager (Ally McCoist) was away sorting stuff out.

“But when the club went down, I’ll be honest and Rangers fans might not like it, I thought the more big players leave the better for me because I can get in.

“I’d never made any appearances in the SPL. From a selfish point of view I wanted to play for Rangers, no matter what level it was.

“It was mad going down to that level but nothing much changed apart from the away games at the smaller stadiums, with 22 of us in a tiny changing room.

“But apart from that it was good. I can say I’ve played at Ibrox for Rangers, and I’ve made 23 appearances for the club.”

Rangers won the Third Division but Naismith’s time at the club came to an end in the summer when he was told he was surplus to requirements.

Looking for a new club he phoned James Beattie, who he had met during the Stanley manager’s loan spell with Rangers during the 2010/11 campaign.

“At Rangers I was told even though I had two years left that I could leave,” he said.

“I was never one to say, ‘No, I’ll sit about and take my money’. If you’re not wanted somewhere then you go.

“I knew the gaffer here a little bit from when I trained a few times with the first team when I was young.

“I was in the gaffer’s team and I played really well and I remember him speaking to me afterwards.

“He spoke to me about football, asking what age I was, and I thought, ‘He must think I’m a decent player’.

“So as soon as I heard that I could leave Rangers and that he was the manager here, I phoned him straight away.

“I kind of had the feeling that maybe he’ll remember me and maybe he’ll be interested, and he was straight away.”

Beattie was so interested, in fact, that he took money out of his own pocket to actually sign Naismith.

After a successful trial, a transfer embargo was delaying Beattie’s attempts to sign the Scot in early August.

Beattie advanced the money to pay off a tax bill a few days earlier than planned and lift the embargo in order to sign Naismith for a home game with Portsmouth.

“I don’t know much about what happened with that, but I heard about it and it did mean a lot,” Naismith says.

“It makes you feel wanted. For him to want me enough to do that, you want to come here and not let him down.”

The wide man has been one of Stanley’s most influential players in recent weeks, as they have climbed out of the League Two relegation zone.

Even in the 3-2 home loss to Exeter last weekend, set up one goal and scored another.

“Even though I’ve scored a few goals, for the past few weeks I don’t feel I’ve been at my best, I’m hoping that’s still to come,” he said.

“The facilities here are a lot different to Rangers and even when I was at Cowdenbeath and Partick I always had it in my head that I was going back to Rangers.

“Now I’m here permanently but it’s strange, it’s probably the most I’ve ever enjoyed football.

“It’s just because I’m playing a lot. When you’re playing reserve games you’re trying to go out there and impress the manager.

“But this is a different pressure. We need to win, there are people’s jobs at stake and you don’t want to let people down.

“To be honest, I like that pressure.”

Comments (2)

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12:06pm Sat 21 Dec 13

brayrfc says...

All the best to you kal and big james
All the best to you kal and big james brayrfc

2:52pm Sat 21 Dec 13

mavrick says...

You should be playing at a much higher level, as a Stanley supporter I hope we can keep you here until we go up a league or two. It must have been an eye opener when you came but I have never heard you moan once about our set up. so good luck for the rest of the season. on Stanley on.
You should be playing at a much higher level, as a Stanley supporter I hope we can keep you here until we go up a league or two. It must have been an eye opener when you came but I have never heard you moan once about our set up. so good luck for the rest of the season. on Stanley on. mavrick

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