COMMENT: Why Peterborough United have made a shrewd signing in Jason Naismith
On paper, a signing from a team relegated from the Ladbrokes Premiership in Scotland is not something which excites fans and suggests sufficient progress.
However, in the case of Jason Naismith that paper may as well be ripped in half and consigned to the rubbish bin.
Peterborough have recruited one of the more impressive players in the Scottish top tier last season, one who offers versatility and physicality to the back line and powerful drives to the attacking transition.
It appeared that Sunderland were favourites to sign the the 23-year-old, with Mackems boss Jack Ross having been at St Mirren as player and manager when Naismith was progressing through the academy at the club before becoming a prominent part of the first-team.
Loan spells at both Greenock Morton and Cowdenbeath gave him a grounding and first-hand experience of the demands of competitive Scottish football before making more than 100 appearances for the Paisley outfit.
When he made the step up to the St Mirren first-team, fans were just as likely to see him in the middle of the defence, as at right-back. Slowly but surely he made the latter position his own, especially at Ross County, for whom he signed in January 2017 as he sought a new challenge.
His arrival in the Highlands during the season saw the competent Marcus Fraser moved into the centre as Naismith took on his new lease of life with relish, with new-team-mates and new surroundings.
He wasn’t due to move to the Staggies until the summer of 2017, but Ross and St Mirren agreed it would be best for a mid-season transfer which netted the club money.
It is understandable that the player wanted a new challenge. Even in such a short career he had encountered a lot at the club, which seemed to be going through a transitional period ever since their League Cup win in 2013, until Ross steadied the ship..
Naismith was part of the team which suffered relegation from the top-flight, an ever present when the club went down in 2015. That was compounded by a serious cruciate ligament injury in the second league game of the following season, a game in which he wore the captain’s armband.
He didn’t return until April, and was then part of a team which was struggling at the bottom of the Championship when Ross took over in 2016.
The transfer to Ross County released the shackles that appeared to have been holding the player back. He seemed faster, stronger, more agile and more robust.
Over 18 months he became a key individual for Ross County in both the attacking and defensive phases. In part, that was one of the reasons for the club’s relegation, their most influential player was the right-back.
He would be wasted playing in the second tier of Scottish football again. To continue his progression he required a move.
At 6ft-plus, Naismith is a useful weapon in both boxes for set pieces and for any aerial bombardments. He is not too dissimilar to another Scottish full-back who moved to England last summer, Callum Paterson who helped Cardiff City into the Premier League.
While Paterson was eventually stationed in midfield by Bluebirds boss Neil Warnock, Naismith is very much a right-back.
Physically he will have no issues with the transition. He was one of the fittest full-backs in league, who relished the physical aspect of the game, whether it be bombing up and down the wing or doing the nitty gritty defending. He was one of the best in the league in terms of defensive duels won.
His biggest asset to County, however, was his drive going forward. Once he gets going he is a hard player to stop. As he powers forward, he is not the most aesthetically pleasing of full-backs, but opponents don’t want to get in his road. At times he’s like the boulder in Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark, barrelling opponents out his road.
When he gets forward he has an end product. He delivered the fourth most crosses in the entire league, with an impressive accuracy of 35.12 per cent - the league average was 30.27 per cent. He was also in the top 10 in the league for key passes (passes which lead to shots). More than Celtic duo James Forrest and Scott Sinclair.
Perhaps, what has been most impressive, is his consistency. Most weeks he delivers such performances.
Fit, energetic, dynamic and hungry, Peterborough have made a shrewd signing early in the transfer window and got one over League One rivals Sunderland in the process.