Norwich manager Alex Neil was not surprised to see Steven Naismith given a great reception by Everton fans despite playing a major role in the Canaries’ 2-0 EFL Cup third-round victory at Goodison Park on Tuesday night.
Naismith left the Toffees for the Canaries in January after three and a half years on Merseyside and his old fans have certainly not forgotten the hard-working Scot.
The 30-year-old was applauded by all sides of the ground when his name was announced and, more unusually, it was the same after he finished off a counter-attack to give Norwich the lead against the run of play with a left-footed shot that flew into the top corner via a deflection off his right leg.
That came four minutes before the end of a first half Everton had dominated and it was the same story after the break until Josh Murphy made sure with a spectacular second in the 74th minute.
Norwich manager Neil said: “I think it speaks volumes of Steven as a lad. It doesn’t happen for every player when they go back, a lot of them get booed and get stick. They obviously hold him in high regard.
“He’s a really good lad, he works extremely hard, he’s honest and I think certainly most fans, if there’s an honesty about a player and you know that he’s going to give everything he’s got, then they appreciate that. I thought it was a great touch for him that he got that reception.”
Naismith had not featured in the squad for the last three league games but was given his chance in a team showing 10 changes from the one that beat Nottingham Forest in the Championship at the weekend.
“I’m delighted,” said Neil. “I thought the players that came in applied themselves extremely well. We sat behind the ball and made it difficult for them and tried to hit them on the counter attack. We managed to score two goals off the back of it and I thought it was a great performance from all the boys because a lot of them haven’t played a lot of football recently.”
The result meant a first defeat as Everton manager for Ronald Koeman, who has seen his team take 13 points from their opening five games in the Premier League.
The former Southampton boss said: “Of course I’m not happy about the final result. In cup football you don’t get a second chance but I can’t criticise my players because we did everything to score the goal.
“If you watch the first goal for Norwich, you need a little bit of luck, but okay. We go on. No problem. We don’t organise parties after 13 points out of five games and we don’t cry after tonight. It’s football and we have to accept it.”