European Qualifiers
Republic of Ireland vs Scotland
Saturday 13th June 2015, 5pm kick-off
Aviva Stadium, Dublin

Scotland’s Steven Naismith reckons the key to success in Saturday’s European Qualifier against the Republic of Ireland is to treat the match in Dublin like any other.

Gordon Strachan’s side face their Irish counterparts at the Aviva Stadium this weekend in Group D, and with Scotland’s group arguably being the tightest in the continent, the Everton player believes the side need to concentrate on the task at hand. 

Speaking to the media at the team’s training camp today, Naismith said: “We’ve not seen this game as any different to the others to be honest. We know how quickly one performance can change the look of the group.

“What we’ve done so far in the first half of the campaign we have worked so hard for. We believe that going into every game we can get something from it, so this match is no different.”

Scotland defeated Martin O’Neill’s side at Celtic Park in November thanks to a Shaun Maloney effort. It was the second win out of two at home in the campaign, the other being a 1-0 victory over Georgia in October at Ibrox.  Winning at home, along with picking points on the road, is crucial to Scotland’s chances of reachin France next summer, according to the former Rangers and Kilmarnock player. 

“I’ve said all along that if you win your home games, have good performances and take points from the away matches then you have a great chance,” Naismith explained. “That’s what we have got to concentrate on.”

“With the first game (at home to the Republic of Ireland) we feel that we deserved to win and we did. I’m sure we will watch over clips of Ireland and put a game plan together that will mean we go into the game believing we can win.”

November’s clash was a tough affair, and with Everton teammates Seamus Coleman, Aidan McGeady and James McCarthy likely to start on Saturday, Naismith is expecting a tight game.

He said: “If you look at the previous game it was tight and cagey, and I’m pretty sure this game will be just as tight. Hopefully it’ll be entertaining, and that we come out on top.”

“It will be two teams who’ll give it their all to get the result. I know a few of the Irish boys from Everton, they’ll play the way for their country as they do for their club so it’ll be a tough test”.

Naismith reckons the resurgence in form and belief in the two years under Gordon Strachan at the national team has created a positive environment for the squad.  The optimistic mood around the camp, combined with a desire to reach major finals, has meant that there’s a focus amongst the team to return from Dublin with a good result.

The Everton player explained: “The manager and staff are good at creating a club feeling. Saturday is just another game in the process of where we want to be. So many players have had good season, we’re all vying for places, so we’re all doing what we can in training to be in the team this weekend.

“I think there’s an optimism around more than ever, that’s the feeling around the camp which comes from the competition for places being much higher. Results have picked up in the last two years, even when performances haven’t been at their best we’ve taken something from games. That builds confidence, as well.

“A lot of players are at a key part of their careers, where they want to be challenging to be going to these tournaments rather than watching them.”

While he may have been involved in the A-Squad for eight years and have 37 caps to his name, the feeling of pride hasn’t diminished for the player from Ayrshire. Although he admits competition for places is more competitive than ever,  the emotions of representing his country have not changed.

“You look at it and you think it is harder to get in the team now than it may have been in the past” he said.

“However, I wouldn’t say it feels different in terms of representing your country.  When I was growing up and going through the Scotland youth teams your aim was to play for Scotland and the feeling I had for my first cap to where I am now in my thirties is the same before every game. “

Naismith played in Scotland’s Qatar Airways Cup win on Friday at Easter Road in a match that he feels was ideal preparation for the forthcoming qualifier.

He explained: “Friday night was the end of the first week. It was quite tough; training was intense which is what the players needed. I think the performance showed that a lot of the time we were not as fluid as we have been during the campaign and (the match against Qatar) it was a well worthwhile exercise.”