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Be A Nation Again
Published : 02 Sep 2011 12:17:49
Scottish football can do with a boost and Saturday is as good a time as possible for it to be delivered Steven Naismith and the rest of the national squad are looking forward to the full house getting right behind them when they walk out onto the Hampden turf tomorrow. The crowd will be just a small representation of the countries support for the EURO2012 qualifying games the Czech Republic and Lithuania. The reputation of the club game took a battering when Celtic, Rangers and Hearts all crashed out of the Europa League and there are some pundits suggesting that the national side has to perform to revitalise the footballing reputation of the country. Naismith was suspended for Rangers' play-off second leg which saw them exit at the hands of Slovenian outfit Maribor with a 3-2 aggregate defeat. As the national team prepares to face the Czech Republic and Lithuania in a crucial double-header at Hampden, the midfielder insists now is the time to back Scottish football as a whole. He said: "To be honest, no matter what state the football is in in Scotland, you need everybody to be pushing in the right direction. There are times when criticism is fair and it needs to be said but there are other times when, if we want to make it right, we all need to be pushing in the right way, we need to back everybody that's involved with Scottish football. There is no point slating the country's football when you are trying to get signings in and things like that. If you're giving the country a bad name, what chance have you got of bringing the better players to the country?" There has been suggestions that Craig Levein's men are required to repair Scottish football's reputation. That appears not to have impacted on the squad as they gathered at the team base outside Glasgow. Naismith went on: "It's not really been mentioned too much in the squad. Scottish football has taken a bit of a kicking over the last week or so but I think if you look at Rangers last year, we competed with Manchester United and Valencia in the games we played against them. There are things that need to change all the way through Scottish football but we have known that for more than the last week, to be honest. The players will just keep doing well and hopefully a few good results will start to change peoples' opinions." Naismith has established himself as a key player for both club and country, with Levein recently quoted as saying the player is now one of the first names on his team-sheet. But the Rangers man insists the omission of Celtic's Kris Commons from the squad has served as a reminder that no-one can take their involvement with Scotland for granted. He said: "I would be the first to know that with a bad game or a couple of bad games, you'll be out. That's another strength that Scotland has got at the moment, that we have got so many good players who want to fight and be here. Kris Commons has been unfortunate to miss out on this one. There is definitely competition there and that's good, that's what drives all the players on. You need to just perform in every training session and show in every match that the manager can rely on you." Scotland and the Czech Republic are both in the chase for second place behind Group I leaders Spain in a bid to secure the coveted play-off spot. The Czechs head into Saturday's clash with nine points, while the Scots sit on four having played a game less. Naismith said: "It's a massive game but I don't think you can say it's win or bust because there are more games to be played and you've got to respect every team that's in the group. I think at the start of the campaign if we were in this situation we would definitely be happy. Everybody wants to play and wants to be involved and we will have a full house on Saturday so I'm sure it will create a good occasion. It's definitely massive for everybody involved. It's the first time for a while that everybody has been excited about it and maybe think that we can go and do something. The players are definitely of that mindset that we can get full points in these two games. We know we will have to play well and be at our best but we are definitely capable of doing it."