STEVEN NAISMITH hopes his half-hour hat-trick against AEK Athens has proven his fitness – and earned a starting place in Everton’s Premier League opener against Manchester United.
Naismith netted a treble in Tuesday’s Tony Hibbert testimonial, his first outing at Goodison since the former Rangers striker’s summer arrival on a free transfer.
The 25-year-old has not played a competitive fixture since suffering a serious knee injury while playing for the Ibrox outfit last October.
But the Scotland international has been working hard on his recovery since his move south of the border and is now eyeing a place in the first XI on August 20.
“My appetite has been there since the day I signed,” said Naismith.
“I am coming to play in the best league in the world and with me coming back from injury and playing again I have probably enjoyed pre-season more than most players might.
“Hopefully I can do enough to get in the starting XI.”
Naismith opened the scoring on 39 seconds following fine build-up play between Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar.
And the Scottish forward added: “Steven got on the ball and I knew he would see my run and he hit a great pass which meant I didn’t have to break my stride and I was just able to lift it over the keeper.
“When you come to a club like this with real quality then you will get chances, and if I can take a few of them then I will be happy.
“I want to show everyone what I am capable of and getting in the box and scoring goals is part of my game. It’s nice to get a few early to help me settle in.”
Despite his hat-trick, Naismith had to play second fiddle on Tuesday to testimonial man Hibbert who, having not netted in 309 senior appearances for Everton, smashed home a 20-yard free-kick to cap a 4-1 home win.
And Hibbert’s moment to remember surprised even manager David Moyes, who said: “Maybe I've been picking the wrong man for 10 years to take the free-kicks. I'll need to re-look at it.
“You couldn't write the script. It wasn't as if we set it up, it wasn't a penalty kick.
“I'd love to say it was a free-kick we'd worked on, but it wasn't. But it was great that Tony scored.
“But it was a terrific night and for him to get the goal and us to cap it off with a decent team performance. Overall, we're pleased with that.”