Kal Naismith maps out how he will become answer to Bristol City’s problems
Bristol City’s ascension up the Championship table is being planned by a summer signing from Luton Town
The Robins’ issue last season was conceding goals, having shipped 77 goals with only Peterborough and Reading conceding more.
As a result, a new defender was a priority for Nigel Pearson and he quickly got his man, prizing him away from losing play-off semi-finalists Luton Town.
Naismith was a key figure in a defence that defied the odds by finishing in the top six last season.
But the 30-year-old’s route into what is likely to be City’s defence is an unconventional one given he started his career as a winger.
“It looks from the outside a little strange but for me it’s easy for me to piece it together,” said the Scotland international.
“I was always a winger but it pains me so badly to lose games in training. I always felt myself in small sided games they would be high scoring games as it’s such a small pitch.
“I used to get really frustrated at conceding goals even as a winger. I’d drop back into defence, I’d end up blocking shots and defending.
“I did that throughout my career progressively, it was Leeds United away where I was at left-back and we were 1-0 down and down to ten men, so the manager pushed me to the left of a back three.
“I ended up having a good game and it planted a seed in my head. I’ve got all the attributes there to progress and maybe I could have played at a higher level than I had done than playing on the wing.
“I made the decision after and said to my coach at Wigan at the time Anthony Barry who is at Chelsea, I see myself playing at centre-back.
After slotting in the Hatters defence and captaining them on a few occasions, a season as a centre-back has put him in good stead to be a success at Ashton Gate.
In what will be a position that is competitive for places but one that will likely offer three opportunities as Pearson sticks with a back three, the summer signing is well up to the task of staking a claim for the starting XI.
Asked what moving to centre-back has done for his career and what he would like to work on, he said: “It’s helped me read the game and now I’m in a good place.
“I feel I’ve really nailed down the centre half position and I’m comfortable there.
“As a centre-back, I’d like to work on everything. I’d pick out most if I want to get more goals from set pieces.
“Aggressively defending my box and heading, but trying to get that timing in attack and trying to head towards the goal I can definitely work on that.
“One versus one defending too, strikers are sharp and can be tricky in this league. My one-one-v-one defending I want to take that to the next level. Everything else I want to keep improving as I can.”
News of wanting to be a more attack minded centre-back will be music to the ears of Pearson and supporters, who’s main source of goals was from the attack last year.
Despite having players big in stature, they did not cause too many problems last year from attacking corners or free-kicks with Rob Atkinson’s two goals the most from a centre-back.
Timm Klose also found the back of the net but only once, but Tomas Kalas went the season without registering a goal.
Asked whether he could be the jigsaw to City’s problems, he responded: “It won’t just be me. Defending is like the full team. It’s easy to look at the defence.
“Where they have been helped in other areas, I don’t know, this is all the things I need to see when I start playing.
“It will be everyone who will be stepping up, communicating more and being desperate to defend, it should hurt so badly.
“I see the lads training and I can see it does hurt, I’m looking forward to it, it’s a massive challenge for me to try and help.
“There are experienced defenders but there are also young defenders who I can speak to and help as well.
“Looking at last season, it’s an area where we can improve.
It’s a relatively new dressing room for Naismith who is mingling with his new teammates and has so far built up a good friendship with midfielder Joe Williams, who was also at Wigan Athletic.
Naismith also has come across experienced Championship veteran Chris Martin, who will have been together whilst on international duty with Scotland.
“It feels like a really good dressing room. When I phoned my family and my mates, I said it’s got a really good feel. It’s got lads who look good and want to work hard.
“I know people think it should be like that at every club but sometimes it’s not.
“The boys love to be here, enjoy it and enjoy working hard. The new lads coming in as well seem to have a spring in their step.”
Naismith is currently residing in the city centre and is based in a hotel whilst he sources a more permanent home.
He is contracted for the next three years but currently plans for a house or apartment are on hold whilst he takes part in the warm weather training camp abroad.
Despite only being here for the first few weeks, he has already been impressed by what he has seen in the city and one thing of note was the Voi electric scooters, which are being trialled here and in neighbouring Bath.
He said: “It looks like a city that is on the go, with a lot of people which is what I like. It’s cool, people are flying around on skateboards and scooters.
“I walked to the shops the other day and I saw people in the park playing volleyball which is something I’ve never seen in any place I’ve lived.
“It seems like a cool city and I am happy to be here.”