Rangers: Steven Naismith regrets manner of departure in June 2012

Steven Naismith and Steven Whittaker
Steven Naismith and Steven Whittaker held a press conference to explain their Rangers departure

Steven Naismith says he "regrets" describing Rangers as a new club when he left Ibrox in 2012.

The attacker did not want to be part of the regime of Charles Green, who fronted the consortium that bought the business and assets of Rangers Football Club plc in liquidation.

He left in June 2012 and joined Everton as a free agent the following month.

"Nothing changed as a football club and that's where I was wrong," Norwich City's Naismith told BBC Scotland.

"At the time, I was panicking about the legal situation, 'If I say this, they can do that'. I was being guided on what to say.

"I can understand why [Rangers fans weren't happy]. Even some of my mates have chinned me about it.

"You were walking a tightrope, worried about what to say from a legal side of things. But, for me, the club was still the same, everything was still the same.

"It's one of the biggest regrets of my career. I still support Rangers and want them to get back challenging."

'I would have lost my international career'

Under corporate law, Rangers players had the option of transferring their contracts to the new company, but Naismith, along with several others - including Steven Whittaker, chose to leave.

Charles Green
Charles Green fronted the consortium that bought the business and assets of Rangers Football Club plc in liquidation

Naismith and Whittaker held a news conference at which the former said his "loyalty was with Rangers. I've never met anyone from Sevco [the company Green formed to buy the business and assets]".

"As players, we didn't come out of it the way that we wanted because we didn't have our squad the same and we weren't challenging for titles as we wanted," Naismith said.

"Rangers have suffered massively and the club was put into the hands of the wrong people. Everybody else has suffered for that and it's really sad.

"I was 25. To go back to the Third Division with [Green], who'd probably force me out the club to somewhere I probably wasn't keen on going, and I wasn't sure that money would help Rangers - I would have lost my international career.

"Ideally, I would have stayed, but when you take your whole family and everything about it [into account], I couldn't take that risk.

"Maybe if better people had said, 'this is what we're going to do to build this club back and we're going to be challenging', that makes the decision much easier.

"The one thing I can walk away from it and look at is all the people who had part-time jobs, to the tea ladies, who probably worked the hardest and are there, that security for them was the biggest thing that came out of it for us."

Naismith and other senior players took 75% pay cuts in February 2012 when Rangers went into administration, which allowed younger players on lower wages and other staff to take smaller pay cuts.

Scotland midfielder Steven Naismith
Steven Naismith has supported homeless charity initiatives in Glasgow and Liverpool

That process was long and drawn out, though, which left Naismith feeling on edge about events at the club.

"Sad, very sad," he said when asked how he feels about his departure.

"There are regrets on my part on some of the things that were said. As a group of players, from that day we got told we were going into administration, we couldn't have done any more.

"We thought we'd cracked it, take a 75% wage cut and things will recover. We wanted assurances [for the other staff] and what about an 18-year-old just in the squad?

"We were speaking to lawyers and Greegsy [goalkeeper Allan McGregor] came up with a way. But it boiled down to the administrators [Duff and Phelps] saying they didn't want to do it that way. We gave them a viable way to move forward and thought, 'this isn't right at all'.

"It got worse and worse. Things just kept coming out, which you were thinking, 'that isn't right'. Charles Green came in and it was the same thing: 'everything's going to be rosy, don't worry', but what went on from when he came in to when I left, I was thinking, 'I can't trust this guy with my career'.

"If I knew Rangers were going to get [transfer] money, I'd have stayed. Looking back, I'm glad I didn't trust that guy with my career."

Title win best memory

Naismith spent five years at Rangers, winning three league titles, two Scottish League Cups and one Scottish Cup.

He looks back on the day that the Ibrox side won the 2010-11 championship at the home of his former club, Kilmarnock, as one of the highlights of his career.

Naismith scored the second goal as Rangers raced into a three-goal lead after seven minutes in the final game of the season, one they needed to win to secure the title, in what was also Walter Smith's final game as manager.

Rangers striker Steven Naismith
Steven Naismith scored in the 5-1 win over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park that secured the 2010-11 title for Rangers

"The best day for me is winning the league on the last day at Kilmarnock, 3-0 up after seven minutes, because it's the perfect day," Naimsith said.

"You need to win, early kick-off, after a minute we're 1-0 up, 2-0 up after four minutes, 3-0 after seven minutes, then you know you've won the league and you can just enjoy the day.

"We won [the league] at Dundee United, Hibs and Kilmarnock, so the bus journey home was incredible. Playing in the Champions League, winning trophies, so many [memories]."

Naismith grew up in Ayrshire supporting Rangers and says he wants to spend the final years of his career in Scotland.

His preference would be to do that at Ibrox or Rugby Park, where his career started, but for now says there is unfinished business for him at Carrow Road.

"I would never say never, because if I was coming back to Scotland then personally I would love it [returning to Rangers]," the 30-year-old said.

"There's a lot of water under the bridge, they've moved forward under a new manager and, at the moment, I feel I still owe Norwich something.

"Last season wasn't a great season and I've probably not played my best football in that time. I want to repay what they've done for me.

"I'll definitely play [in Scotland] before I finish, I love the football, it's where I started. So I will come back and play in Scotland."

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